It is probably safe to say that whatever part of the country you live and work in you will have experienced your first frost towards the end of October. For those who haven't yet had the joys of arriving to work to find your fields of green covered in a white crispy coating, November will no doubt provide you with the experience.
The current met office long term forecast is for temperatures to be slightly above average and for rainfall to be slightly below average to around average for the month.
Frosty mornings are a good time to catch up on some machinery maintenance while you wait for the frost to work its way out of the grass. Check to ensure that the frost has fully lifted before venturing out with machinery to avoid stress and damage to the grass.
Already we have experienced the appearance of some regular heavy dewy mornings that will bring with it the increased chance of fungal outbreaks. Though some outbreaks will need treatment with a fungicide, prevention is better than the cure and this can be aided by the reduction of stress on your turf through good cultural practices.
The important thing is to keep the air circulating around the grass plant with a combination of regular brushing, drag matting and spiking to a variety of depths
Early This Month
Applications of autumn/winter fertilisers, low in nitrogen, that would suppress the production of soft, sappy top growth susceptible to fungal diseases, and high in phosphate and potash that will help the grass to maintain a healthy root structure and ensuring the overall health of the grass plant. The choice of fertiliser will be largely based around your soil tests, but may be influenced by whether you choose to use a conventional type fertiliser or a slow release product that will release the nutrients over a period of time based on soil temperature and moisture.
Applications of tonics can also be applied in accordance with your annual programme to help harden your turf against damage and the ingress of turf diseases.
Keep an eye out for disease and treat at the early signs
Worm activity is starting to become noticeable and brushing the surface when dry will help to dissipate the casts, reducing the problem of smearing. In some circumstances the use of a casting worm suppressant may be required, in which case always follow the manufacturer's recommendations regarding timing, PPE, dose and volume rates and, just as important, what adjuvants can be used in the mix. Keep to the recommendations. For the record, an adjuvant can be defined as a substance other than water which is not in itself a pesticide that enhances or is intended to enhance the effectiveness of the pesticide with which it is used.
Later This Month
Some areas may require some topdressing to restore surface levels, such as goalmouths. Use a fork and work it well into the ground and ensure that the topdressing is worked fully into the holes.
Continue your pre match preparations: brushing, spiking, cutting, marking out, not forgetting your post and net inspections.
and post match repairs
If you haven't already turned some thought to your machinery service programme, start formulating a plan of what service requirements are needed for which machine, and a time when you will be sending your mowers out for sharpening etc., so they are not all sent out at once. Look at the overall condition and check for any extra requirements needed to keep it compliant with current health and safety legislation. Check also for things that may cause a problem in the future such as fatigue fractures on handle bars or on grass box carriers etc.
Keep your machinery in tip top condition. Grease where you find a grease nipple, oil where you see a metallic moving part, check the oil, check the water. If in doubt consult the owner's manual. Clean it when you've finished. All this may seem mundane but will keep your mower going when you need it, and save you money in costly down time.
Keep casual play out of goal mouth areas. This can be easily achieved if you have a set of portable goals that can be moved around to different parts of your field or pitch. However, if you have socket goals then your task may be a little more difficult.
Cutting: Continue cutting regularly 25-37mm to ensure a good sward density. Grass growth may slow some towards the end of the month, which makes cutting at the correct time essential to avoid thinning a sward that will be slow to recover by mowing in the wet and smearing worm casts etc. Also ensure that any cutting equipment used is keenly set to cut without tearing.
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. This will also help to reinforce the presentation of the pitch.
Verticutting: Will help to ensure that the sward is kept clean of lateral growth that may be appearing and also help to ensure that good circulation of air around the base of the plant.
Spiking: Continue spiking when the conditions are right (this should only be carried out if the soil is suitably moist.) to augment your deep spiking carried out to alleviate built up of compaction. Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting.
Marking out: Take your time over this as rushed lines will invariably wander. This creates a false impression, lowering the overall standard and vision of an otherwise perfect surface. An accurate line makes such a difference. Always be prepared to run a line out to aid you in this.
Divoting: This is an obvious, but continue this essential work and it will pay you dividends later in the season. At this part of the season a little addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil may still germinate providing the conditions are right.
Harrowing and light raking (with a grooming rake) when conditions are right will help to maintain surface levels.
Check weekly - goals for loose bolts, and tighten as necessary.
Check nets - make sure the net is properly supported at the back of the goal and isn't sagging.
Check team dugouts are stable and anchored securely. Make sure that they are tidy and free from litter
By Malcolm Gardner