This month is likely to prove very tough, particularly for those of us in the South East of the country in the grip of the current wave of very hot weather. It is likely that your turf will be suffering from heat stress, and it is important that we should try and do as much as we can to help relieve this stress.
If you have a number of pitches to look after, the chances are you may not have the irrigation resources available to replace the moisture lost through evaporation quickly enough. There are a number of options that you can do to help relieve drought stress in grass.
First and foremost, lift the height of grass you are cutting at, and also avoid mowing during the middle of the day when temperatures are at their highest. Secondly, if you regularly box your clippings, consider the option of allowing the clippings to fly as this will help reduce evaporation from the soil surface. Avoid the use of fertilisers with a high salt content, as this will exacerbate the stress factors in the grass as it draws moisture from the grass plant.
Consider, as an alternative, applications of seaweed or amino bio stimulants which have proved beneficial in helping grass through stressful periods. Another consideration is the use of calcium, an important ingredient for giving the plant rigidity and regulating root and shoot growth. There are a couple of products out there in the market that combine all these, specifically for incorporating into stress relieving programmes.
The use of turf wetters will help to optimise water usage. If you are fortunate enough to be able to water, then try to water in the evening, as during the day not only will most of what you put down evaporate quickly but you could add cold stress to the grass too.
The dry weather appears to be confined to the south east while the rest of you are still experiencing the broken periods of sunshine and showers, but it would be a good idea to get a contingency plan together so that you, too, could help your grass through any drought period should the rest of the country follow the south east.
Hopefully, by now, your pitch renovations will be starting to become established and, with the ongoing maintenance, you will be ensuring a healthy, strong grass cover to lead you into the first match of your season. Include in your maintenance regular checks to those areas of your pitch that suffer from early stress, to ensure that the grass is not suffering from a thin establishment.
If this is the case, then it would be wise to pay some urgent attention to correcting the situation, with a further over-sowing of a good hardy seed mix. Make sure you get good seed to soil contact for better germination rates and do not allow seedlings to dry out as they will not recover.
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 June with some periods of dry weather. If you have had to oversow any thin areas, it is critical that you do not allow seedlings to dry out. Keep your seeded areas watered and, if possible and if you have them to hand, make use of your germination sheets to encourage the rapid establishment of your seeded areas. If using germination sheets, check underneath them regularly for disease.
Make sure your goal posts are painted and ready for deployment. Also ensure your nets are checked for repairs or replacements are on hand if you haven't already done so.
Make sure you have enough line marking material to hand and enough to get you through your season. This is probably a good time to inspect your marker and ensure that it is in good working order for when you need it.
Later This Month
Continue to monitor the progress/success of your thin oversown 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. An application of fertiliser can be applied late in the month to take the grass through the rest of 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, the prevailing weather conditions and/or if you are able to irrigate. You may also consider an application of a turf tonic to complement the fertiliser programme to help your grass in situations where it is showing signs of stress.
If you are unable to provide irrigation to the whole pitch then at least you should try and ensure adequate watering of the goalmouth and centre circle areas. If you follow a programme of using wetting agents to ensure a uniform wetting, this will help. Such a programme will need to have been initiated from April onwards and will usually follow a monthly application. This is particularly useful on soils prone to dry patch.
Drag matting 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 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 (this should only be carried out if the soil is suitably moist.) 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