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
After mild October temperatures and a number of days filled with sunlight, which has been good for grass growth, we end October with a period of wet, dingy, cool weather, which sees us transition from the tail end of summer and autumn into the winter period. Looking ahead, November is forecast to be a month of mixed weather, with the usual rainfall for this time of year but also some clear days too. The temperatures are set to start the month in the low teens and then shift towards the back end of the month to high single figures. Any clear nights at this point potentially introducing some morning frosts with the low night-time temperatures.
As days become gloomier and nights become longer, the obvious result of this is a decrease in the amount of opportunity the grass plant has to photosynthesise. Less photosynthesis in conjunction with a decrease in temperature means less growth and recovery. The mild start to the month should mean a gradual decrease in soil temperatures rather than a sharp drop off, which will mean growth decreases steadily, meaning that mowing and other practices will still be required. Whilst this is happening, it gives the turf manager opportunity to apply products to promote any recovery needed and improve plant health. As shade and damp environments become more of the norm, it plays straight into the hands of mosses, algae and fungal diseases. One of the main fungal diseases through this period in the UK is still Microdochium nivale (Fusarium patch).
Predicting when these disease outbreaks may occur is challenging. Understanding what contributes to disease pressure and completes the disease triangle on your own site allows better informed decisions when selecting and timing applications aimed at counteracting disease pressure. These may be fungicides, nutrition or plant response applications. Previous applications may have already been made as part of a disease prevention strategy or an autumn IPM programme which is being followed. It is important to ensure, where possible, that active ingredients are being rotated to avoid any resistance establishing with the pathogen. It is also essential to follow label recommendations for application rates to minimise any risk of resistance. More information on fungicide groups can be found via the Fungicide Resistance Action Committee.
With the changes in weather outlined above, the mild temperatures in early November will continue to provide opportunities for growth and recovery. This is best visualised using growth potential (GP). GP is a concept to express the relative growth rate of turfgrass at a given temperature. GP should be matched with the appropriate amount of nutrition and a suitable nitrogen source. Essentially, there is going to be very little activity in a low growth potential period for slow release fertiliser or any fertiliser source that relies on microbial breakdown to release plant available nitrogen. Therefore, choosing the most suitable source is key when considering the results you are aiming to achieve.
Maintaining an 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. 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. Using a penetrant wetting agent enhances the infiltration of water into the profile, ensuring the water has a route into the upper rootzone. It is important to note that this water needs somewhere to go, and therefore using such technology is most effective when there is an element of drainage within the profile, so the water can flow through the rootzone. If this is not in place, then essentially more water is just taken into the rootzone with no effective escape route, leading to more water being held in the profile. Something which is essential to getting effective use out of dew dispersant products is that it’s important growth should be minimal when they are applied, this will ensure the product is not removed from regular mowing. The plant should also be as dry as possible to ensure the product remains on the leaf surface.
A further reminder that the emergency authorisation for applications of Acelepryn for the control of leatherjackets is still available, with an end date for sale and application being 29th November. There are still reports of late hatching and Syngenta have released new research findings indicating applications can be made up to one month after peak flight. Acelepryn is most active on the 1st and 2nd instar larval stages. As with an integrated approach to disease management, monitoring, record keeping and understanding of the pests organisms life cycle are key factors for success.
The rise in moisture levels means that earthworm casts are now a serious issue again for many, with them being a major factor in the ‘damage’ to turf playing surfaces, which can affect playability and visual presentation greatly. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally. Cultural management is the only route currently available. Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent, but it is worth using with caution to avoid over application which may lead to 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.