Key Tasks for February
- 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
- In the event of frost, keep off the pitch until it has lifted. 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.
If conditions allow, maintain a height of cut between 24-30mm.
- 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
- Take the opportunity to plan ahead for end of season renovations; particularly important if you have been affected by flooding
- You could also consider booking in your machinery for its annual service/repair, ensuring you get the time slot that suits you
- 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
- 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
January seems to have come and gone in a flash, in what has felt like a busy period. The heavy rainfall and freezing temperatures earlier in the month seem to have subsided and it has allowed many to be full steam ahead with projects and continued turf maintenance. It’s always nice to hit the ground running at the start of the year and make good progress, to set things up for the year ahead.
The long-term forecast looks favourable at the beginning of the February, but then towards the back end of the month things look likely to change, with much wetter conditions and low temperatures still no higher than 4°C. Suggesting that there won’t be any significant growth potential for most of the month, which is as expected. Although, in recent years there has been known to be almost a ‘false’ spring in February, which has allowed for more maintenance to be carried out and some recovery from winter wear. If this is to be planned in this year, tracking the forecast will be key to ensure the right window of opportunity is found, to get the best possible outcomes.
There is a significant difference in the amount of daylight available at the beginning of February compared to the end of the month, with approximately two hours more daylight and above 50% increase in the height of the sun (Mid-day). This can mean a turning point for areas of turf that have been cast in shade for long periods, which comes at the end of the month, and so will now benefit from this increase in light, improving the overall health of the turf. The increase in sunlight provides more opportunity for photosynthesis and the turf can begin to ‘wake up’, however this is not an immediate shift, given it’s following on from the colder winter weather from January and early February. Unless you are fortunate enough to have resources, such as undersoil heating and growth promoting lights, its’s best not to hastily try to force growth into action. This can lead to needless wastage of products and potential impacts on the environment from leaching of nutrients that can’t be taken up by the plant. Therefore, unnecessary applications should be avoided.
Monitoring current soil temperatures will give a good indication of when suitable and worthwhile applications can be made. Once soil temperatures start to reach 8-10°C, the rhizosphere will start to have sufficient warmth to support biological activity and influence soil respiration by increasing enzyme activity. At this point, you can start to encourage winter recovery and stimulate some early season growth; an application of a low % nitrogen granular fertiliser with a readily available source of nitrogen such as ammonium could be applied. Soil samples, if already carried out will provide useful information for planning future nutrient inputs. Supplementary applications of biostimulants such as seaweed, humic acids and sugars will start to stimulate soil activity and provide a much-needed carbon source as activity starts to increase.
Protecting the plant in February against potential oncoming stresses can maintain good plant health and will lessen any potential damage. The use of silicon and calcium will assist in strengthening cell walls; amino acids and harpin protein can help protect against cold weather damage. Where conditions may not be suitable for granular fertiliser applications, turf hardener type products, in the form of liquid applications, can also strengthen the plant ahead of these stressful situations.
Gains can be made in February, but nutrient applications should only be made to provide the plant with what it needs or what it can use. Applying excess amounts that can’t be utilised by the grass plant will only be wasted. The possibility then is to make further applications to try and encourage growth, and with a change in conditions there can be bountiful amounts of nitrogen in the soil which could lead to an undesired growth response later in the year.
Low temperatures should continue to assist in keeping disease pressure low. As ever, monitoring weather conditions is key, and any applications should ideally be made preventatively ahead of disease development. If required, an anti-sporulant fungicide such as fludioxonil is suitable for when growth is minimal.
There is still no chemical available to provide control, therefore continue your cultural practices to minimise their impact as much as possible. As conditions improve and surfaces dry out, brushing ahead of mowing may help clear the surface to keep the effect of smearing minimal.
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