As the clocks go forward we can look back on a fairly dry March for the majority of the UK, until rain set in over the past week. Moving into spring, there is an increased chance of below average temperatures and above average precipitation, until the end of April brings drier and warmer than average weather.
Early April will see most parts unsettled and rather cold at times. Showers or more persistent spells of rain are likely to affect all regions. It may still be cold enough at times for some wintry showers which could bring sleet or snow, especially in northern areas. Nightly frosts are likely at times but, as the month progresses, there may be an increasing chance of drier and warmer spells of weather developing in southern and central regions.
Whilst the weather in March was, for many, an improvement on the previous months, some areas of the UK continued to suffer from lengthy spells of rain and even snow, all falling on already sodden ground. This left groundsmen struggling to even get on their pitches, especially in the lower leagues.
This is the time of year when you should be thinking about what end of season renovations you intend to carry out. Make sure that you have the right tools, equipment and sundries by ordering well in advance to avoid delays.
Key Tasks for April
We have received some horrendous reports about games being played when the surface was simply not able to cope, which has left them unplayable weeks later.
If this is the case, stay off the pitch until such times as the surface is dry enough to run a dragmat or chain harrow over it to restore levels. Spiking will also help.
As the season reaches its climax, many of you will be hosting important games, whether that be promotion and relegation battles, cup games or even corporate requirements, so aim to achieve the best surface possible. It won’t be easy given the winter we have had, but presentation will go a long way – assuming you have some grass left to present!
Regular brushing will help to prevent disease outbreaks and also stand the grass up.
Always ensure that any disease is correctly identified prior to applying any plant protection product.
Maintain a height of cut between 24-30mm.
Ensure that regimes such as goalkeeping drills and small sided games are rotated on the pitch to avoid excessive wear.
- Continue cutting to encourage good sward density.
- Ensure that any equipment used is keenly set to cut
- Regular brushing will keep the air circulating around the base of the plant
- Deep spike to alleviate compaction when conditions allow
- Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting
- Hand fork goalmouth and centre circle areas, if difficult to get onto the pitch with machinery
- Use any downtime to overhaul/service machinery
- Try to keep the top 100mm free draining; this can be achieved by regular spiking with solid or slit tines to a depth of 150mm or more.
- Keep your linemarker clean
- Keep string lines taut
- Ensure that right angles are correctly formed. Use the 3:4:5 triangle method. The bigger the triangle at the start, the more accurate the pitch will be.
Pre and post match routines
Before the match
- Check that the pitch is fit and safe for play
- Check for debris (glass, stones etc.)
- Clear away leaves – a thankless task, but one that needs doing
- Ensure the surface is firm and not saturated, correctly marked out and flagged, and that the posts are safe and secure
- Replace divots, even if it’s just the worst affected areas - it will make a difference!
- Dragmat/brush/harrow to restore playing surfaces and remove worm casts
- Clean up the playing surface with a rotary mower
- If you have not already done so, you should consider booking in your machinery for its annual service/repair, ensuring you get the time slot that suits you
- Dragmat, harrow and groom rake surface, as required, to maintain levels, remove any dampness, control disease and generally get air in and around the plant
- Spike/verticut as often as possible
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.
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.
Fertilising - An early starter fertiliser can be applied now, which may typically provide for good grass recovery and help the establishment of young grass seedlings. Something like a 9-7-7 would be ideal, but should be In line with your soil analysis.
A slow release fertiliser can be applied late in the month to take the grass through May /June Lebanon Proscape 25+0+5+1%Fe 51% MESA 22.7kg is an ideal product lasting several weeks
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.
Keep and eye open for fungal disease, and use approved fungicides to treat any infected areas. Early morning dew on playing surfaces often promotes the chance of a disease attack; regular brushing off the dew will help prevent this.
Leaf spot can be quite damaging, especially in stadium environments; keep the leaf blade relative dry by regular brushing, and apply an approved fungicide to prevent further outbreaks
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.
Usually, a dose of fertiliser will help control and outbreak of Red thread, howerver, it it persists, 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. Always ensure that the disease is correctly identified prior to the application of any plant protection product.
More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
- 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
- Clean it when you've finished
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.
Details of our forthcoming autumn courses can be found on our website Groundsman Training
Our next course:
Wednesday 20 April 2016, Finnimore Pavilion, Alton, Hampshiree
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.
Remember – the more that club members, players and officials understand what you role involves, the better. You could use any spare time to provide a members newsletter/blog detailing what problems you are experiencing (training regimes, waterlogging etc.) and to seek additional help as required.
- Check goals for loose bolts and tighten as necessary
- Check nets - make sure they are properly supported at the back of the goal and aren't sagging
- Check team dugouts are stable and anchored securely. Make sure that they are tidy and free from litter
- Repair and maintain fence lines
- Sweep up/vacuum fallen leaves
And finally ... Campey Turf Care, in association with an number of leading industry suppliers, including Pitchcare, will undertake a nationwide Pitch Renovation tour in April and May. We recommend that you try and get yourself along to one near you - https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/pitchcare-to-join-campey-turf-care-and-other-leading-companies-in-uk-and-ireland-grassroots-pitch-renovation-tour-in-early-spring-2016.html
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