For many, the football season will have already started, with pitches up and in use, some experiencing a flurry of pre-season friendlies. 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 followed by surge in growth following the recent rainfall.
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. 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.
Key Tasks for September
Continue cutting regularly at 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 equipment used is keenly set to cut without tearing.
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 good circulation of air around the base of the plant.
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.
Of course, your ground may be very hard at the moment, so you may wish to wait for suitable moisture in the soil profile before commencing a spiking programme. Start with surface spiking and work up to deep spiking. Choose a thin tine for your vertidrain as this will get into the ground enough to open it up for taking a thicker tine later.
Divoting is crucial, so start as you mean to go on. At this stage of the season, the addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil will help to repair any deep scars.
Seeding of sparse or bare areas can be carried out. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for disease. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.
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 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 equipment going when you need it and save you money in costly down time.
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. 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 mark out correctly, it is important that string lines are kept taut 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. 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.
Pitchcare have recently launched a new independent Soil Anaylsis 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.
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.
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.
It's now getting late into the season for applying selective herbicides; soil and air temperatures are not ideal for effective responses from these herbicide products. Hand weeding will be the most effective method of weed control during the winter months.
Inspect and check your mowers regulary to insure you have set the correct Height of Cut (HOC) and the blades are sharp and cut cleanly.
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.
Carry out regular litter picking of the facility, keeps areas around the pitches tidy and maintained.
Keep equipment shed/ storage areas clean and tidy.
Secure and store Pesticides and Chemicals in safe storage areas that conform to COSHH regulations.
Check floodlights, enusre they have had an annual electrical inspection and certified for use.
Check gates and fences, ensure your equipment is stored safely and secured.