With the Brazil World Cup in full swing, there will many groundsmen interested to see how the World Cup Pitches perform during the tournament. These pitches have being specially constructed to cope with the extreme Brazilain weather.
Back home, UK Groundsmen have also been trying to cope with frequent down pours and fluctuations in temperature. The combination of moisture, warmth and plenty of sunshine will stimulate some much needed re-growth, particularly for those who carried out end of season renovation work.
Regular mowing of the pitch will help the grass plant tiller and increase density of the sward. Ideally, you should be mowing the pitch two to three times a week or, at the worst on a weekly basis, to help the sward tiller. Whilst air and soil temperatures remain high, there will still be a lot of water loss through evaportranspiration. No surprise really that, at this time of year, you would be looking to replace an evaporation rate of 5mm per day, which represents quite a loss of moisture in the ground.
Replacing this moisture can be quite a task if you are lugging around hose pipes or, worse still, have nothing at all in place to supplement any rain you are fortunate to receive.
If you are faced with having no resources to water, you may need to develop a strategy to reduce plant stress. This can be achieved by reducing the frequency of cutting (chances are your grass will be slipping into dormancy, in any case), secondly by letting your grass grow a little higher (raise the height of cut on you mower).
If you normally cut with a box on, you could try letting the clippings fly to help reduce evaporation from the soil surface.
If you have had to oversow any thin areas, it is critical that you do not allow seedlings to dry out. Keep your seeded areas watered. If possible and if you have them to hand, make use of your germination sheets to encourage the rapid establishment of your seeded areas. If using germination sheets, check underneath them regularly for disease.
With the new football season less than four weeks away, make sure your goal posts are painted and ready for deployment. Also, ensure your nets are checked for repairs or replacements are on hand if you haven't already done so.
Check you have enough line marking material to hand and enough to get you through your season. This is probably a good time to inspect your line marker and ensure that it is in good working order for when you need it.
Key Tasks for July
Continue cutting regularly at 25-37mm to ensure a good sward density. It may be helpful, sometimes, with newly sown grasses to lightly roll the surface before cutting to ensure that the weakly held grasses in the surface do not get pulled out. Ensure that any equipment used is keenly set to cut without tearing.
Continue spiking when the conditions allow, alleviating built up compaction. Keep your spiking regime flexible. Surface spiking at this time of year and heading into a dry spell will help what rain you receive to move quickly down into the surface where it will be of benefit to your grass plants.
If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured), fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
Most groundstaff will be applying a summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 12:0:9 or 9:7:7 to maintain grass colour and vigour. A slow release fertiliser could be applied to see you through July and August. The choice of materials and how well they work will depend on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.
Do not apply fertiliser during drought periods, unless you have the means to water in.
An application of fertiliser can be applied late in the month to take the grass through the rest of July and into August. Avoid the use of fertilisers with a high salt content, as this will exacerbate the stress factors in the grass as it draws moisture from the plant. Use of liquid fertilisers are less likely to scorch grass, but may still need to be watered in.
Consider, as an alternative, applications of seaweed or amino bio stimulants which have proved beneficial in helping grass through stressful periods. Another consideration is the use of calcium, an important ingredient for giving the plant rigidity and regulating root and shoot growth. Please clink on the following link to read an interesting article on understanding NPK fertilisers by James Brierley
If you are unable to provide irrigation to the whole pitch, then at least you should try and ensure adequate watering of the goalmouth and centre circle areas. If you follow a programme of using wetting agents to ensure a uniform wetting, this will help. Such a programme will need to have been initiated from April onwards and will usually follow a monthly application. This is particularly useful on soils prone to dry patch.
Red thread is an extremely common turfgrass disease that can develop at any time of the year during cool, wet weather, but frequently appears most severely during late spring and autumn.
It can develop on most turfgrasses but ryegrasses, meadowgrasses and fescues appear to be more commonly affected. This disease is often referred to as an indicator of low fertility and symptoms will often develop more severely if nitrogen or potassium is limited.
Applications of tonics can also be applied in accordance with your annual programme to help harden your turf against damage and the ingress of turf diseases.
Many of the fungicides that are currently available for use on managed amenity turf have shown efficacy against this turf disease and, where necessary, can be used as part of an integrated programme to manage red thread. In most cases, a dose of fertiliser will help reduce the incidence of this disease in amenity turf.
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 on watered areas.
Leaf Spot disease can often raise its head during the summer months, leaf spot is often prevelent in stadium environments where high humidity and restricted air-flow makes stadium turf especially vulnerable to Leaf Spot attack, with the combination of irrigation, under-soil heating and the use of lighting rigs creating high risk conditions throughout the year. Once air tempratures reach around 20ºC the grass plant can be susceptible to this disease.
Removal of excess thatch and raising mowing height can reduce occurrence of Leaf Spot infection, preventative fungicide treatments are another method of control along with regular brushing to remove dew and keep a good air flow around the grass plant. Manage fertiliser inputs to encourage moderate, strong turf growth and employ regular aeration to relieve compaction and maintain drainage rates.
Selective weed control can be carried out later in the season once any newly sown seed has matured and established itself.
Make sure that goal posts are cleaned and painted. There's nothing worse than rushing at the beginning of a season to get this job done, when you have a thousand and one other things to do before your first game. Check for replacement nets and spare parts; order them in, so they are on hand when needed.
Ensure you have checked your line markers and that they are fit for purpose, especially the spray jet markers, you may need to replace the nozzles and check the battery and water pump.
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Winter Sports Pitches. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of rugby and football pitch maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a winter sports surface throughout a 12 month period.
Delegates attending the Winter Sports Pitch Maintenance course and using the accompanying manual will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principles it sets out.
Included in the Course Manual, there are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month. The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
Pitchcare have recently launched a new independent Soil Anaylsis that enable 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.
July is also a good month for applying summer fertiliser products. Ideally, it is good practice to undertake at least an annual soil test to analyse the nutrient status of your soil. This will help ensure you only apply what is required and not waste money and time applying products you do not need.
The choice of materials and how well it works can be dependant on many factors, including soil type and the weather, with moisture and warmer air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.
With the onset of warmer weather, there may be a need to keep an eye out for disease; temperature changes can bring on disease attacks, particularly when the turf is undernourished. Red thread can often be a threat to sports turf when the sward is in a stressed state. An application of a spring/summer fertiliser will help the plant to become more resistant to disease attack.