For some, the football season will have already started, with pitches up and in use, some experiencing a flurry of pre-season friendlies, others may yet to be starting their season. Most of your pre season work should have been finalised with your pitches looking hopefully at their best about now.

Of course, the weather this summer has thrown us a challenge, the prolonged dry spell for many parts of the country will have inevitably dried out many grounds, resulting in dry hard pitches with little top growth. It will be more evident at clubs who have little no watering facilities for their pitches. It will then be a case of waiting for some much needed rain.

Autumn traditionally sees the last opportunity to put some fertiliser down. The application of a good balanced feed, with perhaps a seaweed tonic, may help to fill your grass out, but bear in mind the need to apply it in line with your feeding programme. Don't be tempted to apply too much nitrogen, as you may find yourself struggling to keep up with the flush of grass growth.

The seaweed tonic will help your grass get over the stresses of the summer. If you managed to hold some of your seed back from your earlier renovations, then you can use it to help fill out the wear prone areas on your pitches. Bear in mind also that the window of opportunity for spraying a selective weed killer is nearing a close, and you will need to factor this in before the end of the month.

Early in the Month 1st - 15th September

This is going to be the last opportunity to apply any selective weed killer, if you are still experiencing problem weeds (make sure you match the weeds you have to those stated on the label as providing good control).

An application of fertiliser beforehand, and in line with your fertliser programme, will help to ensure that the weeds respond well to any application of a selective weed killer. It may be a good idea for you to have another analysis done to see how your nutrient reserves are doing.

A soil analysis once a year is good practice, though some will carry out two, which cannot be argued with. Continue with your programme of wetting agents that will help you to manage an even soil moisture profile.

The addition of a liquid iron product will help to harden the grass against disease.

Later in the Month 16th September - onwards

Make sure you have enough line marking material to hand and enough to get you through your season. Inspect your marker and ensure it is in good working order.

A clean transfer wheel marker is less likely to leave drips behind when lifted at the end of a line. Similarly, a well maintained spray line marker will give a better even crisp line without drips.

Keep an eye out for disease as the damp dewy mornings start to appear, and treat as soon as possible.

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 manufacturer'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.

Key Tasks for September
Initial setting out and marking
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Some of you will be on your final pitch preparations now, including setting out and initial marking your pitches. Always best at this stage to double check your measurements before committing to a white line, as this will show up badly if it is not straight and has to be corrected.

Setting Out and Marking Out

With the pitch prepared and in readiness for the start of the season the final job is to set out and put in the pitch markings. It may be that there are already goal sockets in the ground from which you have to marry up with, but for now we'll take it that you are starting from scratch.

It is important that you take care to get the measurements right when setting out. A few millimetres out at one end can lead to the pitch being a metre or more out of square at the far end of the pitch. To do this it is important that string lines are kept taught and that the right angles created are correctly formed.

So to get the 90 degree right angle we fall back on Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician who discovered that to get a right angled triangle, the square distance of the two short sides would be equal to the square distance of the longer side. In other words a² + b² = c².

These days the equation is more commonly known as the 3:4:5 triangle and is the method that nearly all Groundsmen use to set out a square or rectangle. The reason for this is that 3² + 4² = 5² or 9+16=25. The great thing is that this equation works in multiples of those numbers and for Groundsmen this is usually 30, 40 and 50 feet-this works fine on 1 x 100 metre tape. You could also use 15, 20 and 25 metres. Remember that the bigger the triangle at the start, the more accurate the pitch will be.

345 tri 345 tri2

Useful Information for Initial setting out and marking

Articles Products
I walk the line! Line Marking Paints
Goal posts and nets
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Check that your goal sockets are aligned with the goal line and the posts are upright. Correct this now to ensure a professional look, particularly with newly painted goal posts and nets ready to be put into place.

Try to keep casual play out of goalmouth 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 socketed goals, then your task may be a little more difficult, requiring you to be pro-active in cordoning off the area when not in use.

Ensure you only buy approved goal posts from reputable suppliers.

Useful Information for Goal posts and nets

Articles Products
Magpies - two for sorrow! Full Size Football Goals
Mowing / dragmatting / verticutting
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Cutting: Continue cutting regularly 25 -37mm to ensure good sward density. It may be helpful sometimes with newly sown grasses to lightly roll the surface before cutting. This will ensure that the young seedlings do not get pulled out. 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.

Useful Information for Mowing / dragmatting / verticutting

Articles Products
Looking after a cylinder mower Football Pitch / Rugby Pitch Grass Seed
Aeration
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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. A very good regime would be to:

Deep spike monthly (vertidrain or Wiedenmann)
Medium spike every other week (turf slitter such as Sisis maxislit)
Surface spike weekly (Sisis quadraplay)

Of course, your ground may be very hard at the moment, so you may wish to wait for suitable moisture in the ground before commencing a spiking programme. Start with surface spiking and work up to deep spiking. Choose a thin tine for your vertidrain as this may get into the ground enough to open it up for taking a thicker tine later.

Useful Information for Aeration

Articles Products
Why Aeration? Granular Turf Fertilisers
Other Tasks for the Month
  • Marking out: Take your time when marking out as a rushed line will invariably wander. This can create a false impression, lowering the overall standard and vision of an otherwise perfect surface. An accurate line makes such a difference.

  • Divoting: This is an obvious, but start as you mean to go on. At this part of the season, a little addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil will soon germinate and help to repair any deep scars.

  • Equipment Checks: weekly, check 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.

  • Pitchcare run Lantra Awards accredited courses for groundsmen on the maintenance of winter sports pitches. To find out more, visit the Pitchcare training website - Pitchcare Training