A very mild February coming into March, with air temperatures rising into double figures, helped along with some very warm sunny days has not surprisingly led to some favourable conditions for maintaining football pitches.

Many of the Premier League pitches are looking very good on TV with plenty of grass cover and even colour.

For many local authorities, and lower league clubs, early March is a good time to get the dragmats, brushes and harrows out onto the pitches, to help clean up, stand the grass up and present their pitches.

Some deep aeration will help oxygenate the soil profile and restore levels, also the surfaces will be dry enough to get on and achieve your first cut of the season. Rotary mowers are becoming a popular choice for mowing pitches, many of the modern types are able to cut to 15mm and leave a nice stripe with the rear roller.

Pitch presentation at this time of the year remains important. Well striped pitches with lines that are both bright and straight, and goalposts that are both upright with nets that are tidy, will help to take the eye off some of the thinner areas of grass.

Keep a look out for the visible signs of nutrient deficiency and compaction, which may lead to the ingress of redthread, and which in most cases will disappear very quickly, especially after a dose of fertiliser.

Early in the Month 1st - 15th March

Plenty of aeration while time permits, many pitches will be in need of a feed a low nitrogen input with some iron would be beneficial, just giving the grass plant a kick to get going and the Iron (Fe) will help colour up the sward and kill off any moss spores.

Getting your soil test carried out is now a priority to ensure that your nutrient programme can be mapped out for the summer leading into the start of your next season.

Hopefully, you will be well under way with your planning and material acquisitions for your pitch renovation programme, and equally giving thought to how you may be tackling the possibility of an extended season over the need to get onto the pitches to carry out the work.

Later in the Month 16th March - onwards

Later this month, you will need to start seriously thinking about and gearing up for you renovation programme, and tying up any loose ends to ensure that you programme runs smoothly.

No doubt budgets will be tight, so plan your renovations carefully, obtain a couple of quotations from reputable companies and ensure they can delivery on time. Sometimes money can be saved by offering to help the contractors.

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

Try and ensure all matches are completed in time for your renovation window and allow enough time for the seed to germinate and establish before allowing the next bout of fixtures onto the pitch.

Key Tasks for March
Planning your Renovation

Some thoughts on planning your Renovation Programme:

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, 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 weiderman 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.

Topdressing: Get it ordered. 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: 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 Planning your renovation

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Dragmatting / Brushing
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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.

Useful Information for Dragmatting / Brushing

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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 every one 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.

Useful Information for Divoting

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Mowing / As required :- Cut at a height between 25mm-45mm. Continue to mow on a regular basis, although frequency of mowing will be dependant on growth, ground conditions and presentation requirements.

Cutting grass in very wet conditions can be detrimental to the playing surface. Mower vibration can cause the finer particles in the soil/rootzone to migrate to the surface, allowing air pores to become blocked. This will inevitably help seal the surface, making it difficult for water and air to enter the ground. The mower will also smear and damage the surface especially when turning. Quality of cut can be affected if the grass is very wet.

Quality of cut will be dependent on what type of mower is used. Cylinder mowers can offer different cutting qualities, which are governed by the amount of blades on the cylinder. A five bladed cylinder will give you a fine quality cut on ryegrasses.

Pre and Post match renovations
Ryan Golding marking out

Post match renovation:-

Replace divots ( tread and fork).
Repair worn areas (goalmouths / linesman runs).
Topdress to restore levels (localised).
Harrow / roll to restore levels; however the term roll is generally deemed to be using your pedestrian or ride on mowers to restore surface levels.
Aerate to improve prorosity.

Pre match inspections / As required:-

Inspect pitch surface and line markings.
Check post safety.
Keep goalmouths roped off to stop unwanted early use - in an ideal world the pitch should be completely out of bounds.
Tidy up the edges of the pitch, strim around advertising signs and crowd barriers.

Presentation on the pitch will be let down by unkempt edges.

Useful Information for Pre and Post match renovations

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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: Football Pitch Maintenance Training Courses are available from Pitchcare - for more information visit www.groundsmantraining.co.uk/courses