October tends to be a month that can swing either way from prolonged dry spells and resultant dry patch to distinctly autumnal wetter days. Key things to keep an eye on will be night time temperatures, relative humidity and periods of leaf blade wetness.
Warmth and available moisture are the keys to both grass and fungal pathogenic growth. If night time temperatures fall, growth rates will start to drop off, however lower night time temperatures will lead to heavier morning dews, prolonged periods of leaf blade wetness and increased risk of attack from fungi.
If your local conditions are at the drier end of the spectrum, water stress can quickly creep in, especially on windy days when evapotranspiration rates are higher. This is something which represents a particular risk to newly sown seed which may be in the initial stages of early germination and establishment.
Nutrition and Disease Management
Nitrogen applications will still be required but favouring products with more slowly available forms such as the methylene urea contained with the Lebanon range is both sensible and a cost effective way of feeding. Ammonium sources should be applied with care so as not to force too much soft growth which is susceptible to disease.
However, readily available ammonium is useful in maximising establishment of sown areas ahead of the winter, but be sure to really keep on top of mowing and remove dews whenever possible so to avoid rapid spread of fungal diseases.
Ensure you take the time to look at the break down of the nitrogen component of any fertilisers you buy and don’t just simply make a judgement based upon the overall headline figure.
In terms of protecting soft young growth, then an application of a preventative systemic fungicide such as Bayer’s Interface® or Dedicate® and Syngenta’s Instrata® will help to guard the plant against infection during times of high susceptibility.
Potassium is required in a higher proportion as we enter the autumn winter period. Magnesium is the element at the centre of the chlorophyll molecule and applications of this secondary macro element as the days draw in will help the plant to maximise photosynthesis efficiency.
For anyone looking to be in fine control of nutrition, the combining little and often applications of a soluble or liquid fertiliser with a straight liquid nutrient is a key tactic in marinating plant health. Phosphite is particularly useful at this time of the year when it comes to providing the plant with an easily accessible form of phosphorous which also helps to resist the spread of fungal diseases. Calcium and Chelated Iron are also vital nutrients when it comes to toughening up the plant and increasing cell wall thickness. Different elements don’t always mix cleanly together, so it is worthwhile performing jug mixing tests and then alternating little and often applications either every two weeks or once per month depending on disease pressure arising from environmental factors.
Finally; a tonic of trace elements will help to sustain levels that may have reduced over the growing season and facilitate the plant with abroad spectrum diet moving inot the winter period.
Key Tasks for October
With the season well underway, most groundsmen will now have a better understanding of how their pitch is performing.
Presentation is important. If it looks well presented, with bands, stripes and a consistent surface, it makes the game more enjoyable for the players.
Most facilities will maintain a height of cut between 24-30mm.
Essential tasks in preparing pitches for play involve, mowing, marking out, divoting, brushing and carrying out aeration.
Training areas will be prone to damage from specific training regimes, such as goalkeeping drills and small sided games. Where possible, rotate the areas where these drills take place.
- 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 as and when required
- Continue spiking when the conditions are right (this should only be carried out if the soil is suitably moist) to compliment your deep spiking
- 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
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.
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.
Overseed sparse or bare areas. 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.
- 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.
- 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
Pre and post match routines
Before the match
- Check that the pitch is fit and safe for play
- Check for debris (glass, stones etc.)
- 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
- Clean up the playing surface with a rotary mower
Pitchcare have an 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.
Particularly fusarium, are often prevalent during the autumn, mainly due to the heavy dews that are present at this time of the year. Moisture on the leaf will allow diseases to move and spread easily.
The typical types of diseases you may come across are:
- Fusarium Patch
- Red Thread
- Fairy Rings
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
As soil moisture increases worm casting will become a problem on surfaces. With some sports the relative period where worm casts coincide with the playing season is relatively short, in such cases where casting density is not too severe then the best options are cultural controls such as brushing or switching prior to play and maintenance operations. Longer term forms of discouragement include lowering of soil pH if it is on the high side or sand top dressings which serve to discourage the worms in the soil as well as help the castings to dry out faster and disperse more easily.
The only legally approved and properly researched control of worms is Carbendazim. Using a pH buffer can improve results if your water is compromising the efficiency of this active ingredient.
October represents the last chance for you to be Pro-active not Re-active in regards to the control of both leatherjackets (end of the month) and chafer grubs (middle of the month) with entomopathogenic nematodes. If you fail to treat this year’s grubs when they are young and instead choose to let them grow over the winter there will be NO Way to control them in the spring once the crows and badgers start digging them up, as the now mature larvae rise to the surface with the warming soil temperatures to pupate.
As long as soil temperatures are warm then turf weeds will still be actively growing. As a result, the early part of the month represents the last opportunity to control weeds going into the winter; something which will not only improve presentation now but give facilities a head start with this issue next spring.
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.
Details of our forthcoming autumn courses can be found on our website Grounds Training
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.
- Check goals for loose bolts and tighten as necessary
- Check nets - make sure the net is properly supported at the back of the goal and isn'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
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