Key Tasks for December
Maintain a winter height of cut between 24-30mm.
Continue with post match divoting and brushing and undertake aeration if conditions allow. A lot of pitches will be very soft or waterlogged after all the rain in November, so stay off the pitch with heavy equipment if your ground is holding water – a hand fork might be your best friend!
If snow does make an appearance, training will either head indoors or on the main pitch. If the latter, ensure that regimes, 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 when conditions allow
- 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.
- 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.
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
- Now is the time to check and repair covers!
- 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
Remember – that the sun is at its lowest in December and daylight hours are at their shortest, so any shade problems you have will be exacerbated. These areas tend to take longer to warm up and dry out which, in turn, may affect maintenance operations and playability.
- 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 head into the festive period, we can hopefully look forward to spending quality time with friends and family, resting and taking stock ahead of 2022. It has been a tough year for many as we continue to navigate through the pandemic and try to overcome the challenges we all face. Whether we ever return to ‘normal’ or what the new normal is, we will get there, wherever ‘there is’, in time.
Early December is forecast to remain cold, with daily temperature lows consistently below 4 degrees Celsius. This is amongst a mixture of clear days and forecasted rain, which could also lead to snow showers and overnight frosts as low temperatures drop around freezing, which is set to continue through to the end of the month. The decrease in temperatures has meant that growth potential has now decreased, and growth will be limited. Consequently, this will inform any decisions around what inputs to apply to the plant. The low temperatures should minimise the probability of disease outbreaks, notably Microdochium nivale (Fusarium patch). However, that shouldn’t mean that this turf disease is forgotten about. Also, as light becomes less available to the plant, a low sun trajectory means shade and damp environments become more of the norm, which is ideal for the development of mosses and algae, not only on turf surfaces but hard surfaces too, which can require careful management.
The rain which is forecast in the middle of the month may lead to surfaces becoming saturated, therefore it is essential to try and maintain an aerobic soil for as long as possible. This is best achieved by carrying out aeration practices at the appropriate time and in the most suitable ground conditions. Taking machinery over surfaces when conditions aren’t suitable will cause more damage than bringing benefits, and sometimes the hardest decision is to stay off the turf. Subsequently, poorly timed operations can lead to surfaces being wetter, through water being held in the soil profile rather than being allowed to drain away. Where fertilisers containing sulphur have previously been applied, ensuring aeration work has been carried out will avoid ground conditions sitting too wet for a period of time, which can lead to anaerobic conditions and the formation of black layer, which will have a negative impact on turf conditions and health.
With soil temperatures dropping lower, there may be a limited requirement for plant nutrition, unless in an environment where you can create more artificial growing conditions with extra light and soil temperatures. Nitrogen applied should only be to encourage recovery from wear, and should contain the correct nitrogen source, which will be plant available. Biostimulants, seaweed, fulvic acid and amino acids may still be used to elicit a beneficial defence and stress response from the grass plant, although when temperatures are low, soil applications should be evaluated for their effectiveness, and consideration for foliar application for more efficient uptake.
The recent increase in soil moisture, after a relatively dry November, means that worm casts continue to be one of the most damaging issues for turf managers. The mild weather has meant growth has continued, but areas have been uncut for concerns over creating what could only be described as a mud bath. Activity may slow as temperatures decrease which would provide some relief; however, with still no legal controls for earthworms this is hopeful thinking. Any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally. The advice continues to be, to carry on with cultural management where possible.
2021 has been a year of getting back on track, adjusting to new ways of working and pressing on. 2022 will throw more challenges at us, particularly with expected price increases across the board, not only in our industry but also in our lives, alongside continued supply and delivery constraints. But as we have seen it 2021, we will as an industry and individuals meet these challenges head on and continue to provide excellent playing surfaces for the sports industry.
Enjoy the Christmas period, and a well-deserved break where possible. Take time to reflect on moments from the last year and what’s ahead in 2022.
Have a great Christmas and New Year!
B.Sc (Hons) | BASIS | FACTS
- 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