The weather for the most part has settled down with a reasonable mixture of rain, sunshine, cold and warmth. Last week I was sure that there was some movement in the grass, which was good to see.

Down in the south, though, you would expect temperatures to be better than average for the whole country with average temperatures lower the further north you go. This may not always be the case, as it all depends on which direction the weather comes from (off the continent, from the Arctic or up from the warmer Mediterranean regions).

Predicting the weather can be difficult, but it helps to look at as many resources as possible, and we certainly have those available to help us. The Met office is a good place to start with the various pages of the pressure charts, rainfall radar and satellite images etc. This is a free service though of course you could look to getting a subscription to a site that tailors the prediction to your location, with access to a meteorologist should you need it.

Malcolm Gardner
Grounds Manager
BA Clubs

Early in the Month 1st - 15th February

With the weather as it is, you could take the opportunity to apply a turf tonic to ease the stress on your grass.

Apply as directed on the label. Look also for the visible signs of nutrient deficiency. Though the grass has not gone into full growth, with the amount of rain recently experienced, nutrients may well have washed through on some of the more free draining pitches with sand based rootzones.

Start thinking about your end of season renovations, and how you may be tackling the possibility of an extended season and the need to get onto the pitches to carry out the work. Start to build your strategy and get it down on paper. Look at what resources you will need - manpower, materials and what machinery. With reference to your machinery needs; if it's part of your inventory, drag it out, dust it off and fire it up to make sure it will work for you when you need it.

If you don't have it in your inventory, but you know someone that has, a neighboring club or school perhaps, particularly if you are on good terms with them, you may come to some arrangement to borrow it when they are not using it. Alternatively, look at the option of hiring.

There are a growing number of hire companies these days that are now specialising in the hire of sports ground equipment. With reference to your material needs, get them ordered now so that they are on hand when you need them.

Later in the Month 16th February - onwards

Think about getting you soil tested so that you can get a fertiliser plan in place for the spring and summer.

If you have irrigation reels or equipment, then look at them and check that they are working ok and complete any service requirements.

Key Tasks for February
Some thoughts on planning your Renovation Programme
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Surface cleaning: However you achieve it, you will need to clean out the surface and get rid of the dead organic matter that will have built up, particularly on the wings of the pitch, and the remnants of old divots etc.

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 on 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.

An operation that is becoming popular to those that can afford it (mostly Premiership clubs fall into this bracket), fraise mowing 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 be higher.

Useful Information for Some thoughts on planning your Renovation Programme

Articles Products
Renovation under Lights Grass Seeds
Spiking/Oversowng
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To relieve compaction and get air back into the soil is important. If you have a spiker that will allow some heave, such as a vertidrain or Weidenmann etc. you may find this beneficial, otherwise you may do well to hire one in or employ the services of a local sports ground contractor.

Over sowing: Get a good quality grass seed for your renovation, and also fresh seed is important as old seed will not germinate as greatly or as well as new. Look at the STRI list for the recommended cultivars.

Useful Information for Spiking/Oversowng

Articles Products
Why Aeration? Sand and Soils
Topdressing and Fertilising
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Topdressing: Get it ordered and ready. Choose wisely for compatibility with your current rootzone. If you employ the services of an agronomist, then he will advise you of the best topdressing for your situation. If you cannot afford to topdress, you may consider hollow coring, recycling them by breaking them up and dragmatting them back into the surface.

Raising/restoring surface levels and getting rid of those compacted areas in front of the goal is obvious to everyone, but don't forget the linesman's run-up. Sometimes forgotten, but easily incorporated into your programme and, whilst you're about it, the area beside the pitch that everyone stands to watch the game will need attention.

Fertilising: A good pre-seeding fertiliser, low in nitrogen and high in phosphate and potash (P:K), to provide the young seedling with the essential nutrients that will be deficient in a soil washed through by winter rains.

Useful Information for Topdressing and Fertilising

Articles Products
Interesting Reading! Turf Chemicals
Turf treatments
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Some turf treatments work well for some, 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 you supplier for a trial amount and test it for yourself. I'm sure they would be pleased to accommodate you.

Useful Information for Turf treatments

Articles Products
Soil - biology or chemistry? Turf Fertilisers
Ongoing maintenance
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February is the month when everyone's thoughts are full of ways and means to ease their pitches through the rest of the season. Particularly in the north of the country, where the temperatures struggle a bit more than in the south, where grass growth responds better to slightly warmer average temperatures.

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. Pay particular attention also to the goalmouth areas and centre circles post match, to lift the grass back up out of muddy areas. This is also important in keeping surface levels.

Divoting: This is important work and should be completed after each match. Arm yourself with a border fork and a bucket of topdressing with a little seed mixed in. Not everyone can afford the necessary time to go divoting on the scale of some of the Premiership grounds, but even if you could afford just a couple of hours post match divoting sorting out some of the worst, I can guarantee that you will notice the difference over time. If you cannot afford a full divoting programme, then you could equally tackle the worst and clean the rest off with a mower or pick up sweeper.

Cutting: If required. You may find along with a lot of grounds that there has been little movement in grass growth compared to previous years. If you find the need to cut, keep your height of cut as near as possible to the high end of a winter cutting height. This will ensure the grass has the optimum leaf area for photosynthesis.

Spiking: Continue spiking when the conditions are right. Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting. Hand fork goal mouth and centre circle areas if difficult to get onto with machinery.

Useful Information for Ongoing maintenance

Articles Products
Irrigation Auditing Irrigation
Other Tasks for the Month
  • Goal nets and posts: Check these after each game. Make sure they are upright and the nets are tidy and tied in properly.

  • Marking Out: Keep you lines looking bright by over marking before each match and string them when you start to see them wander.

TRAINING - start getting ready for your end of season renovations. Consider getting yourself or one of your team on one of our Lantra Awards accredited 1-day Winter Sports Maintenance Training Course. More details www.groundsmantraining.co.uk