Key Tasks for August
- Continue brushing to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant, removing early morning dew and controlling disease
- Mow regularly at your preferred cutting height to ensure a good sward density - 30 to 35mm; dropping it to around 25mm for matches.
- Verticut to clean out lateral growth and aid air circulation
- Continue spiking when the conditions are right - alternating between surface and deep with occasional slitting
- Linemarking; "measure twice: mark once" is a good tip to take on board when marking out new pitches. Make sure you have enough linemarking material for the season
- Applying a summer N P K fertiliser - perhaps 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 August
- Do not apply fertiliser during drought periods, unless you have the means to water in
- Avoid the use of fertilisers with a high salt content, as this 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 option is calcium; an important ingredient for giving the plant rigidity and regulating root and shoot growth
- 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
After many weeks of unbroken sunshine across the country turf surfaces in all regions have suffered from abiotic stress brought about by heat and drought. As we enter in to August the first vestiges of recovery following localised rain fall are in some areas, beginning to show through. However we are not yet out of this period of stress and dormant turf surfaces and back to business as usual. Grass of course goes into either partial or complete dormancy when subjected to water stress in an effort to conserve the vital crown and roots. Once the weather does break the plant will restart leaf production and swards will return, however turf managers should consider what is returning and how useful those returning species are. Moss and Poa annua will be quick to take advantage of a situation they are evolved to excel in. It is very much the case that the quality of surfaces in 2019 will be dictated by the quality of the autumn renovation in 2018.
Soil which is baked hard will be hydrophobic meaning that early post drought rain fall will not be fully optimised. A penetrant wetting agent will break the surface tension meaning that more of the water which does fall is able to effectively soak into the soil where it is needed to drive fast and efficient recovery. Multi action wetting agents which combine a penetrant with the retention properties of a block copolymer will hold and suspend water which does penetrate into the soil at a depth where plant roots can access it.
Once growth does return regenerating a sward in as short a period of time will maintain surface integrity and stability. Turf managers would be wise to minimise high nitrogen inputs at this time, opting instead for a gentle all round feed which includes secondary macronutrients and micro nutrients with a moderate quantity of nitrogen and phosphorus. It is worth considering that calcium availability becomes limited in dry soils, calcium of course being a driver of cell division and growth throughout all regions of the plant.
Ideally initial feeds would consist of a foliar liquid application to reduce the risk of scorch if soils are still relatively dry. Foliar feeds are also absorbed directly into the plant via leaf absorption. This will encourage steady consistent recovery without forcing excessive growth in September as dew's start to get heavy. Partnering a feed with the restorative powers of plant phytohormones in seaweed bolstered by the energy source of carbon sugars will underpin the plant soil ecosystem. Humic acid acts to facilitate enhanced nutrient absorption into the roots via the soil water solution pathway, so utilising this ability once soil water levels are returning will help to make nutrition in the soil readily available.
Allowing the soil to breath via aeration is a cornerstone of turf management practices throughout the year. Where surfaces are hard then sarel tine aeration will help to increase the surface area as well as break capping, both of which will facilitate improved penetration of irrigation and rainfall. Areas where soils begin to rehydrate and soften will benefit from deeper aeration with solid tines. This will allow accumulated gasses to escape.
Renovation Considerations - Scarification, Overseeding and Topdressing
If conditions remain dry then aggressive maintenance operations will have to wait until strong and consistent recovery growth returns. However following prolonged dry weather the renovation practices of previous years will not necessarily be adequate and due consideration ahead of time needs to be factored into club meetings and budgets.
The main consideration should be that areas which do not recover well post drought will need to be seeded and baked organic matter will need to be broken up. The survival rate of grass seed which germinates within a thatch layer is significantly reduced compared to seed which germinates in contact with the soil. Aggressive scarification of surface organic matter opens up spaces for seeds to contact the soil as well as allowing water and oxygen to better penetrate into the soil.
Where recovery is patchy or slow providing an adequate supply of seed from desirable species will be important to keep surfaces clean. If there is space in the profile weeds, Poa annua and moss will fill them first ahead of the desirable perennial grasses. Overseeding rates may well need to be increased to compensate for dead and slowly recovering desirable species. Sown seed requires protection, to maximise germination, as a result establishment rates for uncovered grass seed on the surface are significantly reduced.
Once scarification and seeding has been completed top dressing introduces vital mineral matter into the surface thereby diluting dead organic matter and thatch with mineral material. This mineral matter harbours moisture and nutrients as well as creating pores for air. All of which help microorganisms to decompose organic material.
Grass seed requires a light covering of mineral matter to promote effective germination and establishment. Application of top dressing compatible with the underlying soil surface is important. A medium to heavy dressing in during the autumn renovation helps to protect seedlings and return surface levels post scarification and aeration.
Once moisture returns so does relative humidity, when humidity combines with stressed turf and warm temperatures, conditions are conducive to the growth of fungi. Consequently a host of turf diseases can expect to be witnessed through August and into September.
However 2018 is the first year without the curative activity of the fungicide iprodione, the active ingredient in Chipco and Interface. The only chemical options for turf disease are preventative systemic substances. Application prior to the observation of symptoms is vital in ensuring their success.
Diseases to be on guard for during August if conditions become increasingly warm and wet include; Anthracnose, Dollar Spot, Brown Patch, Rusts, Red Thread, Leaf Spot.
It is worth consulting the Turf Disease Triangle below and giving due consideration to what circumstances, conditions, maintenance practices and inputs on your site may influence each of the three factors.
Away from Plant Protection Products such as fungicides, which directly target a virulent pathogen, thriving in a favourable environment. One of the most effective tactics available to the turf manager is to reducing the susceptibility of the host. In this regard, adequate water availability combined with appropriate and balanced base nutrition are further bolstered by the benefits of cell wall boosting and plant system enhancing calcium, phosphite and silicon.
August is the start of the Entomopathogenic nematode application window for the control of Chafer grubs and Leatherjackets. Be sure to apply when soil moisture levels are adequate and where levels can be maintained with irrigation in the absence of rain for best results
Start thinking about your end of season renovations, and how you may be tackling the possibility of an extended season and the need to get onto the pitches to carry out the work. Start to build your strategy and get it down on paper. Look at what resources you will need - manpower, materials and machinery.
With reference to your machinery needs; if it's part of your inventory, drag it out, dust it off and fire it up to make sure it will work for you when you need it. If you don't have it in your inventory, but you know someone who has, a neighbouring club or school perhaps, particularly if you are on good terms with them; you may come to some arrangement to borrow it when they are not using it.
Alternatively, look at the option of hiring. There are a growing number of hire companies these days that are now specialising in the hire of sports ground equipment. With reference to your material needs, get them ordered now so that they are on hand when you need them.
Our Lantra Accredited Winter Sports Pitch Maintenance Course is now available as an online course.
Now you can learn about how to maintain a football pitch in the comfort of your own home and in your own time.
The course consists of a number of videos with assessment questions, along with an accompanying hard copy course manual. The online course is Lantra accredited and provides you with all the basic knowledge required to maintain a football pitch over a 12 month period stated.
Grounds training is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of football pitches.
This course is also available to be delivered onsite for groups of 6 - 10 people. Email Carol Smith for information
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.