It would seem many parts of the country are experiencing another dry spring, one similar to last year, which has been exacerbated by a spell of sunny weather raising soil and air temperatures into double figures during March. Those with watering systems (professional football clubs) have prospered with plenty of grass growth aiding the recovery of their pitches after the winter period.

This exceptional warm March has stimulated some early seasonal growth. Some clubs are even experiencing drought conditions - parts of the country have only had 3-4mm of rainfall compared to their normal average of 30mm plus for the month.

However, the recent hosepipe ban imposed by several water companies, which comes into force on the 5th of April, may have a detrimental effect on many football facilities if they cannot water their pitches. You may need to consult with your Local Water Authority to check what these restrictions mean to your club.

Also, early April weather forecasts are now predicting a drop in air temperatures, with some snow expected in northern parts of the country, so it's likely we will see a slowdown in grass growth until favourable weather returns.

Hopefully, providing you manage to get your renovations timed to perfection, you may still be able to take advantage of some traditional April weather of warmer, sunny days interspersed with some of nature's watering in the form of rain.

With reference to your winter pitch renovation programme, the earlier you can get on to them the better. Early establishment will help you to create a good strong healthy sward and root system that will bring your grass through the summer, providing you have the ability to water as required during periods of excessive or prolonged dry weather.

If you are unable to water, then you could hedge your bets against a dry summer and at least establish you goal mouth and centre circle repairs, and carry out a short renovation again in the early autumn.

Early in the Month 1st - 15th April

Very importantly, brushing and harrowing and dragmatting should continue regularly to maintain surface levels and air circulating around the grass plant.

Continue with your spiking to help relieve compaction levels and to ensure there is plenty of oxygen getting into the ground.

If drought conditions continue, it may be prevalent to raise the height of cut to reduce drought stress.

Later in the Month 16th April - onwards

Your renovations should be kicking in later this month. Give some consideration to how you will achieve your objectives i.e. what are your problem areas?

How are you going to solve the problems and what methods are you going to use to carry out the tasks effectively (often dependant on what you can afford and what equipment you have available to carry out the work)? Work out timescales for each step of your renovation programme.

Quite often there are lots of things to think about, so writing it out in a plan is not a bad idea.

Key Tasks for April
Renovations
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Surface cleaning: However you achieve it, you will need to clean out the surface and get rid of the build up of 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 one 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 to be higher.

Spiking: Spiking to relieve compaction and getting 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.

Oversowing: 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 list of recommended cultivars. Ensure that you achieve good seed to soil contact slightly below the surface, as seed laying on the surface will not germinate as well as seed that has been worked into the surface. There are a number of ways to achieve this, by means of tractor mounted or pedestrian dimple/sarrel roller based seeders or disc seeders. Other ways to achieve this would be through surface spiking the area, brushing and then topdressing.

Topdressing: Get it ordered 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 everyone's obvious, but don't forget the linesman's run-up; sometimes forgotten, but easily incorporated into your programme and, while your 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.

Turf treatments: 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.

Ongoing maintenance
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Continue with your general maintenance of cutting, marking, spiking and brushing to keep your surfaces looking good. This is the time of year when some of you will be hosting your most important matches, particularly if your team/s have made it to your regional semi and cup finals, and good surfaces and good presentation can make all the difference, often putting you into the spotlight.

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 even at this late stage in the season, 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 it is an important part of keeping a surface in good condition. If you cannot afford a full divoting programme, then you could tackle the worst and clean the rest off with a mower or pick up sweeper.

Cutting: Cutting will become very much a part of your daily routine this month. Make sure that you keep your mowing equipment cutting keenly. If you are expecting to carry out your renovations earlier in April, then you might want to think about reducing the height of your grass, but this should be a gradual process if your grass is high.

Not only will this ensure your emergent grass sowing will not have to compete for light amongst taller established grasses, it also means that you will not need to be on the grass with heavy machinery whilst it is trying to establish.

Spiking: Continue spiking when the conditions are right. This is another important operation process.

Goal nets and posts. Check these after each game. Make sure they are upright and the nets are tidy and tied in properly. If you are taking goalposts down for storage, make sure you note any problem areas - broken bolts that need replacing/greasing etc. Paint them before storing away and also make a note of any new net requirements.

Marking out: Keep your lines looking bright by overmarking before each match and string them when you start to see them wander. A good bright straight line is like a frame for a beautiful painting. Giving some thought and taking some time with a string line would help give a better impression of a Groundsman's skills, particularly as this is one of the visible facets of what we do.

Useful Information for Ongoing maintenance

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Weed treatments
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Weed treatment programme: co-ordinate your weed treatment programme to ensure that when you spray, you will not damage emergent grasses in newly sown areas. Most selective weed killers will persist in the ground for up to six weeks.

Always check the label for advice about the correct time to spray. If your priority is to spray treat your weeds prior to your renovation programme, then you will need to you delay you renovations for up to six weeks. Similarly if your priority is to complete you renovations first, then you will need to ensure that your newly sown grass is well established (referred sometimes on the label as being at the two leaf stage) before your application.

Useful Information for Weed treatments

Articles Products
Weed of the week-Broadleaf Plantain Professional Selective Weed Killers For Weeds In Turf
Other Tasks for the Month
  • Irrigation:- Water is essential for seed to germinate, make provision for watering newly sown areas. If you have access to water (mains/ borehole) you should have the ability to use a self travelling sprinkler or static sprinkler heads to water your turf.

  • Equipment (nets, goals, training aids). Regularly inspect equipment for damage, keep them in good order and store away when not in use.

  • Goals:- Ensure they are kite marked and safe for use.