If you have managed to get your pitch renovations completed before the start of this month, then you have done well. This month is likely to be very busy particularly with the very wet weather most every one experienced in the last week of May. Together with the increase in temperatures, grass growth is starting to romp away big time. This will undoubtedly place a strain on completing renovation works while faced with ongoing summer maintenance regimes.
If you are still to carry out your renovations then now is the time to get serious. With the summer maintenance regimes picking up you may find it difficult to complete the work but it is important that you give your pitch(es) as much time as possible to establish, develop good roots and to harden off before your first game next season.
Relieving compaction is important and deep spiking will need to be carried out. There are several ways this can be achieved and to a depth of 250 - 300mm. Some clubs may have a vertidrain or Weidemann which will carry out this work well, providing that the model is matched to the tractor size. Other aerators include an air injection system that will help to fracture compacted soils. Remember to check the depth of existing under soil drainage or soil heating before carrying out deep spiking.
Surface cleaning and preparation: However you achieve it, you will need to clean out the surface and get rid of the build up of dead organic matter that will have built up, and the remnants of old divots etc. Thatch can build up particularly on the wings of the pitch away from the more intensively played areas in the centre and goalmouth areas. A tractor drawn rake followed by a box mower is probably the most traditional method, and most likely within the means of most clubs and schools.
You may also have use of a pick up flail mower, in which case you may find that scarifying tines can be fitted and the job will be completed in one operation. This method can be advantageous as the scarifying tines may leave a grooved surface ideal for ensuring oversown grass seed is buried just beneath the soil surface and in contact with the soil. Whichever method you use you will be aiming to achieve a surface that is short and clean with a finished mown height of 20mm to 25mm.
An operation that is becoming popular to those that can afford it (mainly Premiership clubs fall into this bracket), Koro topping is extremely efficient at removing the top organic layer of the pitch, however, you will effectively be starting again with a newly sown surface, so your seeding rates will need to be higher.
Oversowing: Obtain a good quality rye grass seed mixture for your renovation. Fresh seed is important as old seed will not germinate as well as new. Look at the STRI list for the list of recommended cultivars. Oversow at the rate of 20 to 35g/m2. Personally, I like to oversow with some in hand in case I need to oversow any thin areas later on.
The important thing is to get good seed to soil contact to ensure good seed germination. This can be achieved in a number of ways depending on the equipment that you have or the finances forn hiring in equipment. If you have a quadraplay you could start by surface spiking, oversowing and then continue to work the seed into the surface using the surface spiking unit and brush unit.
Traverse the pitch in as many different directions as possible to work the seed into the surface. The roller can be lowered on the final run to firm the surface and ensure good soil to seed contact. Alternatively the use of seed drills will help to bury the seed into the surface and at a depth where it won't be subject to drying out. This will produce a linear seeding pattern and it is best to complete two passes or more at a slight angle to the first.
Fertiliser: A good pre-seeding fertiliser, typically a 6:9:6 to provide the young seedling with the essential nutrients that will be deficient in a soil washed through by winter rains.
Topdressing: chosen wisely for compatibility with your current root zone is an essential ingredient to ensuring good surface levels. If you employ the services of an agronomist then he will have advised you of the best topdressing for your situation.
This may typically have been a medium to fine sand and of a quantity of 60 to 80 tonnes per pitch. If you are using a general topdressing of say 70:30 you should be aware that this could have a high clay content despite the high percentage of sand, and could give you some problems later. It would be wise to ensure you know what is being supplied. If you cannot afford to topdress you may consider hollow coring, recycling them by breaking them up and dragmatting them back into the surface. If the construction of your pitch is a sand slit system then topdressing regularly will be required to ensure that the slits do not become capped over.
Turf treatments: Some turf treatments work well, and there are a number of them to choose from, such as organic based micronutrients, seaweed treatments, clay flocculants, amino acids and plant growth regulators such as Primo Maxx. It can sometimes be difficult to assess the benefits of such treatments but most managers will notice if it has been effective or not. If you are unsure then ask your supplier for a trial amount and test it for yourself. I'm sure they would be pleased to accommodate you.
Early This Month
As we enter into this month we leave May on a wet note with some very wet weather experienced by most. If you have managed to complete your pitch renovations, it is critical that you do not allow seedlings to dry out. Keep your seeded areas watered and, if possible and you have them to hand, make use of your germination sheets to encourage the rapid establishment of your seeded areas.
Later This Month
Monitor the progress/success of your renovations and oversow any thin areas to ensure that you have the best opportunity for the grass to be strong with good coverage for the start of the next season. A slow release fertiliser can be applied late in the month to take the grass through July and into August. The analysis applied should be in line with your programme that will take into account the type of soil you have and the prevailing weather.
June is when soils can dry out quickly as we move later into the month. Make sure that your irrigation systems are functioning, as once soils become hydrophobic and dry patch sets in, it becomes very difficult to get water back into the surface. If you follow a programme of using wetting agents to ensure a uniform wetting this will help, particularly on soils prone to dry patch.
Dragmatting and brushing: Continue the work of brushing to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant, particularly important for removing early morning dew and controlling disease. Following a pitch renovation, suspend this operation for a period to allow for the germination of the new seedlings to take place, particularly on oversown thin areas.
Cutting: Continue cutting regularly 25 -37mm to ensure a good sward density. It may be sometimes be helpful with newly sown grasses to lightly roll the surface before cutting to ensure that the weakly held grasses in the surface do not get pulled out. Also ensure that any cutting equipment used is keenly set to cut without tearing.
Spiking: Continue spiking when the conditions are right to augment your deep spiking carried out to alleviate built up compaction. Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting.
By Malcolm Gardner