Key Tasks for November
Grass growth might be slowing down, but you should be able to present your pitch with bands, stripes and a consistent surface and maintain a height of cut between 24-30mm.
Continue with post match divoting and brushing and undertake aeration if conditions allow.
At this time of the year, it is advised that training routines, such as goalkeeping 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 goalmouth and centre circle areas, if difficult to get onto the pitch with machinery
- Use any downtime to overhaul/service machinery
- If it’s frosty, keep off the pitch until the frost has lifted or it becomes absolutely necessary. This will avoid damage to the grass plant/leaf
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.
At this stage of the season, the addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil may help to repair any deep scars. Ensure good seed to soil contact, otherwise the operation is pointless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not germinate.
- 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.
- Apply a low nitrogen, high phosphate and potassium autumn/winter fertiliser to aid grass recovery
- 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
With the sun now lower in the sky, shade problems tend to increase. Shadows remain on the ground for longer periods and these areas tend to take longer to warm up and dry out which, in turn, may affect maintenance operations and playability.
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
A generally mild October with good growing conditions has provided opportunity for continued recovery across many areas of the country, especially in the north and west of the British isles. Speaking to turf managers across the south and east, comparably lower rainfall in some areas has resulted in stalled recovery from summer drought stress. Maximising any rainfall via the use of penetrant wetting agents and aeration will assist the rehydration process; something which needs to be encouraged before cold temperatures eliminate opportunities for growth.
With that in mind, the forecast for November is for periods of stormy and wet weather interspersed with drier spells and crucially, with respects to turf management, below average temperatures.
As always then, prior preparation with a mindset to wards proactively making use of favourable windows are key considerations.
TURF DISEASE TRIANGLE
Disease incidence can be correlated with the factors in the disease triangle. All three factors are required to coincide for an outbreak of disease. The major pathogen on turf surfaces throughout November will be Microdochium nivale.
Consideration of the contributing factors
- Susceptible host – excess leaf growth and stress will lead to the grass plant (host) becoming more susceptible to fungal pathogens. The key phrase here is appropriate nutrition. In practice this means the Goldilocks zone of nitrogen, just enough to keep the plant healthy but not too much to cause a flush of soft growth which allows the disease to attack more successfully.
Providing the plant with calcium, silicon and phosphite strengthens the cell walls and helps the plant to resist attack without resorting to chemicals. Applying plant beneficial biostimulants such as seaweed and carbon energy when conditions favour the plant primes its metabolic defence responses and assist’s beneficial microorganism’s to help repel the disease.
- Virulent pathogen – Is the pathogen being provided with the resources it needs to thrive? In the case of fungal pathogens this would be prolonged periods of leaf blade wetness and nutrition. Manage this situation by removing dews, reducing humidity within the thatch layer via aeration and the application of penetrant wetting agents. Also avoid applying biostimulants such as seaweed and carbon energy at times when the pathogenic activity is actively on the rise.
- Favourable Environment – prolonged humidity as a result of overcast days and nights, rainfall, cool temperatures which slow grass growth and low wind speeds which extend drying times are the factors which when they align drive the arms race between host and pathogen away from the grass plant and towards the disease. Monitoring forecasts and historic patterns facilitates prediction of high disease pressure. Allowing turf managers to act appropriately.
Nutritional requirements will be aligned with growth, put simply the more growth the more nutrition required. Typically fertilisers applied during renovation operations should see the majority of surfaces through November and into December. As a result NPK applications will be limited however, targeted application of secondary macronutrients and micronutrients to elicit plant responses such as those outlined above with calcium will bring tangible benefits.
Maintaining appropriate water air ration is a key factor in reducing turf stress during periods of the year where rainfall increases and drying opportunities are reduced. Little and often aeration via methods such as star tineing and sarel rolling facilitate diffusion of oxygen into the profile and carbon dioxide out. This allows the plant roots and beneficial soil microorganisms to breath which reduces plant stress and sustains their population numbers respectively.
Maintaining water percolation into deeper aeration channels and drainage systems via the application of penetrant wetting agents reduces the tendency of water to be held at the surface where it acts as a barrier to gas exchange and increases localised relative humidity. Something which helps fungal diseases to grow and spread.
Regular applications of products containing sulphur will acidify the local soil surface environment and discourage worms from casting. Avoid regular products containing iron which is not in a liquid chelated form as this will quickly oxidize and build up in the soil chemistry causing numerous problems such as reduced pH, iron panning, nutrient lock up and inhibition of microorganisms.
Inspect and check your mowers regulary to ensure you have set the correct Height of Cut (HOC) and the blades are sharp and cut cleanly.
Make sure that goal posts are clean. Check for damage to nets.
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 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
- 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
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