Expected weather for this month:

It should be a pretty average May: part-dry, part-rain, and mid-teen temperatures.

Key Tasks for May

As the football season reaches its climax, many of you will be hosting important games, whether that be promotion and relegation battles, cup games or even corporate events, so aim to achieve the best surface possible. It won’t be easy given the number of games, but presentation will go a long way.

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 30-40mm.

Continue with post match divoting and brushing and undertake aeration if conditions allow.

If training on the main pitch, ensure that regimes, such as shuffle drills and small sided games are rotated on the pitch to avoid excessive wear.

  • Continue cutting to encourage good sward density, ensuring that you do not over cut as this would thin out the sward due to the slowdown in growth
  • 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 high wear 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.

Marking out

  • 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 post protectors and flags
  • 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

Post match

  • 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

Additionally ...

  • Dragmat, harrow and groom rake surface, as required, to maintain levels, remove early morning dew, control disease and generally get air in and around the plant

Spike/verticut as often as possible

It has been a challenging spring for everyone in the turf industry. With weather patterns causing prolonged periods of cold temperatures which have restricted growth. Unseasonably warm period at the end of April encouraged much needed winter recovery growth across the country which helped with the start of summer sporting seasons, some of which had been delayed a week or two.


The long range forecast for May is rather more typical with indications of temperatures around average for the time of year and projections of warmer and drier spells towards the end of the month. However the old English proverb of 'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out' should be kept in mind as colder and wetter spells with low nighttime temperatures are likely to crop up.


As a result it is likely we will experience peaks and troughs in growth and consideration towards the timing of inputs for maximum uptake and effect when soil temperatures and moisture are suitable will produce the best results. 





Growth will generate plant demand for nutrition. Nitrate and ammonia have been good nitrogen sources in the colder temperatures. Out of the two ammonia remains a constant favorite throughout the spring and summer but as soil temperatures consistently warm into double figures urea and the controlled release source methylene urea will come into play.

As a foliar application Urea is very effectively absorbed into leaf tissue over a period of 48 hours where it is then metabolized into free nitrogen by the plant very effectively. As a soil source of nitrogen urea first needs to be broken apart by the enzyme urease before then being converted into the plant available form of nitrogen ammonium and nitrate.  This process is dependent on the presence and activity of soil microorganisms. Consequently urea makes nitrogen less available to the plant in colder soils with its availability increasing as soil temperatures rise. The full concersion process in good growing conditions can take between 7-10 days.


A similar process is at work with organic fertilisers as microbiology goes to work on degrading and mineralizing the nutritional contents of the organic matter. So an application of organics during the month is a good option for steady sustained results.



It seems like every month  is a good month for biostimulants and in many respects this is true. The three key components are summarized below.


Seaweed –          contains hormones (Gibberellic acids) which accelerate germination of seed and seedling maturity. Also acts as a chelate and growth  

promotor and elicitor of plant protection mechanisms in response to heat, drough and cold (abiotic) stress

Humates –          Chelation and enhanced root absorption of nutrients, improved nutrient retention in soils and bacterial habitat as well as stable carbon source.

Sugar -                  Provide carbon energy which is the base foundation of energy processing in all plants an soil life. Consequently supports greater soil biodiversity and efficiency of fertiliser use.


By understanding the numerous benefits of the key biostulants turf mangers can utilize them to support specific desired responses from other work.


For example:     Overseeding?


Apply liquid seaweed over the seed to enhance germination before adding humates and carbon into the mix at the first feed 5 days post germination with the aim of driving and accelerate growth thanks to better response from fertilisers driven by increased availability and energy in the system.




As winter sport seasons reach their conclusion the pitch renovation season begins.


When over seeding opting for the best cultivars you can afford is a wise investment in the base foundation of your surface.


Taking a broad spectrum soil analysis prior to renovation allows the identification of deficient secondary macronutrients and micronutrients. All nutrients share equal importance and by identifying the weakest link in the chain you can maximise health and performance throughout a growing in period and beyond.


One trap which can occur is to apply vast quantities of phosphorous to drive establishment regardless of the soil sample result. This is questionable wisdom because a soil sample result details plant available nutrient. Where phosphorous is high it will inhibit the availability of copper, calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc and adding more P in to the system will not encourage the plant to uptake a greater quantity. The plant will take what it needs and no more, something which is true of all nutrients.


The same can be said of nitrogen, young seedlings cannot absorb large quantities of nitrogen, a base foundation of granular fertiliser is essential as a reserve once roots develop but, wherever possible little and often foliar applications accompanied by biostimulants will support their needs much more responsibly.


Water management


As a master variable water is the key ingredient to the successful health and performance of any turf surface. Residual polymer wetting agent programs hopefully started in March to give the chemistry time to build up in the soil ahead of likely drier periods and heat stress from the end of May into June.


Monitoring of literal hotspots and considered application of water onto these areas helps to keep consistency. Where irrigation is installed ensure you are aware of the liter per minute rates for your sprinklers (speak to manufacturers and installers if unsure) and monitor weather forecasts for local information on evapotranspiration rates. When irrigating during hot periods aim to replace 50% of daily ET loss in the form of millimeters of water applied rather than minutes of water applied. There are many resources to assist with this approach which is much more beneficial and accurate towards the plants needs rather than an arbitrary amount of sprinkler time. 



Weeds, Pests and Diseases


Disease pressure is likely to be low throughout May with the plant being able to outgrow any pathogen attacks which do occur. Be mindful of any longer spells of cold damp weather which do occur but only apply fungicides if deemed absolutely necessary.


Active growth is the perfect time to apply herbicides, whether it be total weed killers to paths and paving or selective herbicides to turf areas. In the case of the latter consult label recommendations with regards to timing this around any seeding operations.


May would usually be a little late to treat mature leather jackets with Entomopathogenic nematodes however, with such a delayed spring applications may still be successful. Be aware that Steinernema feltiae is the preferential spring species being more active at colder temperatures of 10°C and upwards. That being said the primary window for control is August through to October. Spring applications require a double dose rate of nematodes and even then control is likely to be reduced from what would be expected later in the year.


There is no effective spring control for chafer grubs however chafer grub pheromone traps will collect adult males on the wing and form the basis of an integrated management plan of monitoring and recording the pest life cycle so you can better time nematode applications later in the year.

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.

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.

Initial Sports Line Marking Course: Thursday 17 May 2018, Allscott, Telford TF6 5DY.

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 new 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 Carol Smith for information.

Other courses available include:

Safe Use of Pesticides (PA courses)
Pedestrian operated mowers
Toolbox Training
Manual Handling

More details

On the Pitchcare website, there are a number of articles/features on pitch maintenance and end of season renovations.

View the  Pitchcare Football Section