DSCF2674Another year over and the end of a decade to boot, and may I extend my good wishes to you all for the coming year. We still have a long way to go to the end of the season and though the days will now start to get longer, we still appear in the grip of some very cold swings of weather. As we arrive into January, some of us are experiencing a respite from the extreme winter weather and, with the disappearance of the snow, are now looking forward to getting back onto the ground.

The long term forecast is for the cold period to continue for much of the month of January with some brief milder interludes, so we may not as yet be out of the woods, so to speak. There are a number of things that we need to assess following a covering of snow.

The first thing to look out for is the possibility of disease and, depending on the composition of the grass species cultivated and how it has been managed, may relate to the degree of infestation or lack of it. Poa dominated grass turf is more susceptible to disease, as is a sward with thatch layers that harbor the pathogens, so if you want to reduce the incidence in future you will need to look at how you manage your turf and how this relates to the composition of species that you whish to cultivate.

It cannot be emphasised enough that you need to pay particular attention to ensuring that you have a soil profile that is free draining, and that you keep air circulating around the base of the grass through a regular programme of spiking and brushing. This will help to keep your grass surfaces dry and disease free.

By Malcolm Gardner
Grounds Manager
BA Clubs

Early in the Month 1st - 15th January

Applications of tonics, such as seaweed based products can be applied in accordance with your annual programme to help your grass get over the stress of the cold weather, but apply when the conditions are correct and your grass will get the most benefit from it. Always read the label and consult the manufacturers if unsure. Brush regularly to keep the grass upright and air circulating around the base of the plant.

Keep an eye out for disease and treat at the early signs .

January and February are good months to formulate and set your plans for your end of season renovations and your maintenance strategy for ensuring that next year your turf surface is better than ever.

Later in the Month 16th January - onwards

Hopefully, your machinery service requirements are well under way. Some urgent attention is required of what your machinery service requirements are needed.

List which are urgent and make a start now and you will be rewarded by machinery ready and able to help you carry out your renovations when you require them, and in the long run to avoid nuisance breakdowns.

Look at the overall condition and check for extra requirements needed to keep it compliant with current health and safety legislation. (Correctly functioning safety cut out switches, Belt/chain guards in place etc.)

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.

Key Tasks for January
Pre / Post match routines
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Divoting. This is an obvious, continue this essential work and it will pay you dividends later in the season. Brush to bring the grass back upright.

Cut with a box to clean surface debris. Keep casual play out of goal mouth areas if you can.

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 requiring erecting and dismantling rope and pins.


Pitch set-ups:- Continue your pre match preparations: brushing, spiking, cutting, marking out, not forgetting your post and net inspections.

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.

Useful Information for Pre / Post match routines

Articles Products
Movers and Shakers Posts
Mowing
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Cutting Continue cutting regularly 25 -37mm to ensure a good sward density. Check the cutting action of your cylinder regularly to ensure that the units are cutting and not tearing the grass.

Useful Information for Mowing

Articles Products
Facts about mowing
Mowers
Dragmatting /Brushing
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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.

Brushing during the right conditions has benefits, but I have seen some pitches where the grass has become smeared with mud through brushing or dragmatting while the grass is still damp and particularly in the presence of worm casts. Of course the rain will wash it off the plant eventually, but it will rob the grass plant of valuable light. Much better to leave it until the right conditions are available to carry out the task.

Useful Information for Drag matting /Brushing

Articles Products
Preston press on! Drag Mats
Aeration
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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.

Useful Information for Aeration

Articles Products
Why Aeration? Machinery Spares, Blades, Cylinders & Tines
Marking Out
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Take your time when marking out as rushed lines will invariably wander and will no doubt look messy. This creates a false impression, lowering the overall standard and vision of an otherwise perfect surface.

An accurate line will make such a difference; you should always be prepared to run a line out to aid you in this particularly if you already have a crooked line.

Useful Information for Marking

Articles Products
I walk the line! Line Marking Paints
Other Tasks for the Month
  • Servicing of machinery:- ensure you get your machinery checked over/ serviced for the new season, take the opportunity to get it done early.

  • Service Irrigation systems / equipment, especially after the recent frosts.

  • Check goal posts:- ensure they are safe for use and have the appropriate safety approvals.