The recent poor weather and freak snow storms have decimated many local football fixtures in recent weeks, and left many pitches in a poor condition. This time last year, we were bathed in bright warm sunshine which helped promote some much needed grass growth. However, this year we have seen temperatures remain well below five degrees C, resulting in little or no grass growth coming into the spring.
It is imperative we get some warmer weather to promote some grass growth prior to any planned spring renovations. It is important you invest in a robust renovation; ideally you should be looking to scarify, aerate, topdress and overseed your pitch. As always, budgets will dictate what you can afford.
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.
As for ongoing maintenance, it is important you keep up your pre and post match maintenance regimes particularly after matches; you should look to replace divots and scars and try and spend time brushing, harrowing and dragmatting 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.
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
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. 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 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 everyone's obvious, 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.
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.
Useful Information for Renovations
|A young man at the grassroots of Leeds United||Football Accessories|
Pre and post match maintenance
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 Pre and post match maintenance
|A trail of trials at Ipswich Town FC||Football Pitch / Rugby Pitch Grass Seed|
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 control
|Sprayer servicing and calibration||Professional Selective Weed Killers For Weeds In Turf|
April is a good time to take soil samples, especially prior to end of season renovations and get them sent off for analysis, thus enabling you to get them back in time to start your new year's maintenance
Ideally, if you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis done to tell you the actual make up of your soil profile.
Soil is made up of percentages of clay, silt and sand. The PSD Analysis will identify the ratio of these and confirm soil type, thus giving you a better understanding of what soil you are dealing with. Also, you can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content as well as soil nutrient status and soil Ph. With this information, you will be able to identify the needs of your soil.
Pitchcare have recently launched a new independent Soil Anaylsis service that enables you to get specific results for the soils you manage,Soil analysis is a means to discover what levels of nutrients are available to plants. There is an optimum for each plant nutrient and, when coupled with other properties such as soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigorous your plants are. Different nutrients undertake different tasks within the plant.
Useful Information for Soil Testing
|Why sandy soils don't drain||Top Dressing & Soils|
Weeds, Pest and Diseases
Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Early morning dew on playing surfaces often promotes the chance of disease attack. Regular brushing off the dew will help prevent an attack of turf disease.
For moss control, ensure water volumes are high to ensure good coverage and enable the fluid to move over the leaf surface by capillary action. It is advisable to rinse out the sprayer thoroughly as soon as spraying is complete, as the iron will degrade any metal surfaces it comes into contact with. Iron does not mix well with many products, and it is advisable to 'jug mix' any products before attempting to apply them.
Once the moss has died - yellow/brown with herbicide or black and breaking up if treated with iron - it should be thoroughly scarified out of the surface. In areas that have been neglected for a while, moss can be the dominant species and, in these situations, the amount of moss that is pulled out of turf can be staggering. It is then important to stimulate the grass with fertiliser so that it can respond and fill in the area that was occupied by moss. It may be necessary to overseed grass seed into the sward to provide vigour and assist in the recovery of the sward. Topdressing may also be required to make certain that the seed is in good contact with soil.
Soluble iron is the most economic way of blackening the moss in order to then scarify out, but this should only be undertaken if sufficiently vigorous conditions exist for the grass to compete against the moss potentially re-infesting.
Another alternative is to give the grass a little encouragement, with a low analysis fertiliser that also contains the sulphate of iron required for moss control: Iron Universal or Greenmaster Pro Lite Iron.
Once the grass is growing vigorously, it should continue to out-compete the moss, providing a regular maintenance programme is followed.
Useful Information for Weeds, Pest and Diseases
|Red Thread Disease||Professional Fungicides|
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.