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 complement 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
- 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
As we leave October behind, we are hopefully saying goodbye to the wet weather we have seen towards the end of the month. Early November looks forecast to be fairly settled, which will be much welcomed as we now move into late Autumn. The clocks have gone back and over the coming month there is a significant shortening of day length, which has a large impact for turf managers trying to maintain surfaces to the best possible condition. The effect of climate change on our seasons means that the run-in to the end of the year needs careful management. The absence of regular, very cold temperatures in late autumn/early winter means that we now experience effectively, a prolonged Autumn.
It is a time that tips the balance in favour of the undesirable factors and away from the grass plant; mainly because there is less available sunlight for photosynthesis, lower temperatures creating a reduction in growth rates and prolonged leaf wetness because of less dry down time throughout the day. These factors play right into the hands of mosses, algae and fungal diseases. One of the main fungal diseases throughout this period is Microdochium nivale (previously known as Fusarium patch).
Understanding the conditions which suit these undesirable factors is the best way of ensuring management practices are carried out to minimise them. Poor drainage characteristics, in particular surface drainage, often in conjunction with a build of thatch in the upper profile and spoon-feeding nutrition onto the surface, are all advantageous factors for the development of moss and algae. Therefore, it is key to ensure turf surfaces are managed, so that the balance of influential factors is weighted towards the grass plant so is kept as healthy as possible. This helps to minimise moss, algae and fungal pathogens ability to capitalise on a weakened sward and take over large surface areas of the sward. For example, where possible, reducing shade by effective tree management (pruning or removal) which ensures maximum use of the available light throughout the day at this time of year.
Undoubtedly, disease management is key throughout this month. Newer fungicide chemistry means that applications, if needed, should be made preventatively (not prophylactically) through close monitoring of disease pressure and the likelihood of disease occurrence. Essentially, pre-empting when all three factors of the disease triangle are likely to coincide for an outbreak of disease. The climatic and environmental conditions present in the UK mean that through November there is a high probability of disease pressure and outbreaks, which means being aware of what can influence the severity of an outbreak is critical to minimising the impact of one occurring. There are numerous factors to consider, but nutrition and water management are two of the main elements to address.
The aim being to promote steady, hardy shoot and leaf growth, avoiding excessive applications where flushes of growth become more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens. The demand for year-round play on quality sports surfaces increases plant stress and the requirement for recovery, putting an increased emphasis on ensuring the right choice of nitrogen source as well as the amount applied.
Micronutrients and biostimulants are not to be overlooked, with Iron traditionally used to enhance turf colour with fewer of the negative aspects associated with excessive nitrogen fertilisation, such as outbreaks of certain diseases. Applications of seaweed will elicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant.
Water plays a major role in the development of fungal turf diseases, so it is as important to have a water management strategy for the autumn/winter period as it is for dealing with drought stress in the summer, albeit potentially different chemistries. Maintaining appropriate water/air ratio is a key factor in reducing turf stress during periods of the year when rainfall increases, and drying opportunities are reduced. Aeration timing and methods can make all the difference, sarel rolling can aid water infiltration and help surface drying with minimal disruption, with slitting giving contact to a large surface area within the soil for maximum gaseous exchange, again with minimal disruption to the surface. More heavy-duty aeration such as verti-draining can also be carried out as needed. The use of penetrant wetting agents and dew dispersants are now commonplace in a bid to keep surfaces as dry as possible and restrict the occurrence of disease outbreaks. When using a penetrant wetting agent, it enhances the draining of the soil profile, ensuring that the water has a route out of the upper rootzone; something which is essential to getting effective use out of the products. It is important that growth should be minimal when using dew dispersant products. This increases the longevity of the product which would otherwise be removed with the mowing clippings.
Worms continue to be a focus for turf managers with the increased soil moisture levels. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally.
Continue with cultural management practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts. Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent but it is worth considering that over application may lead to an accumulation of iron in the soil and reduction of pH, causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout the rest of the year.
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.