Key Tasks for January
With any frost forecast, keep off the pitch until it has lifted or it becomes absolutely necessary. This will avoid damage to the grass plant/leaf. You will have to use your local knowledge and expertise deciding when to venture onto the pitch and wnat operations can be undertaken. Should any mild spells occur, the following can be considered:
- 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
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.
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
- January and February provide the opportunity to plan ahead for end of season renovations, if your depleted funds can accommodate
- 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
Remember – the more that club members, players and officials understand what you role involves, the better. You could use any spare time to provide a members newsletter/blog detailing what problems you are experiencing (training regimes, waterlogging etc.) and to seek additional help as required.
I would like to think that everyone has had a great Christmas and new year, and that you are now looking forward to what 2022 has to offer. Let’s hope that the effects of festive gatherings do not lead to a large increase in reported Covid cases, which end up increasing hospital admissions, and we can avoid any further restrictions being brought into play again.
Those lucky enough to have had some decent time away from work over the Christmas holidays will, all being well, be rested and now refreshed at the start of a new year. Having the time to ‘switch off’ can be so important, to give yourself and your mind some TLC, which can help avoid burnout and that feeling of not really being on holiday at all.
The weather forecast for early January is predictably wet and cold, which carries on until midway through the month and then there is a change to more favourable drier and sunnier spells with increased temperatures. The temperatures early in the month will keep growth potential to a minimum, which will then slowly start to increase towards the end of the month as temperatures gradually get a little warmer.
At the start of a new year, attentions are typically focused on planning the year ahead. For some it will involve a full 12 month plan; plan is the key word here, in that the best plans can be laid out; however, there still needs to be a degree of flexibility to make changes and adapt to weather and environmental variables throughout the year. When considering a nutritional plan, an integrated approach will provide the most effective programme. Where all the elements of the plan are there as a consequence of another element, which all contribute to the overall success of the plan, rather than any standout single application.
Recovery of turf surfaces may also be a key focus for many throughout January, following a busy festive period and potentially a busy month ahead. A congested fixture list through this period can have serious implications in terms of the condition on the playing surface, particularly if games are played in less than ideal ground conditions. When targeting recovery at this point in the season, it is essential that the fertiliser type is carefully selected. A predominantly slow release nitrogen source is going to provide little effect in the way of an immediate response to promote growth and recovery, compared to a readily available nitrogen source.
Soil samples are a useful way gaining an understanding of what is going on within your soil profile. There are many different options available of what to test for, however a basic soil analysis is a good starting point if one hasn’t been carried out before. This provides data which can be monitored over time and, together with a soil’s physical properties, the chemical/nutrient balance within the soil provides the basis of recommendations for putting together an informed fertiliser programme. These recommendations are based on the sufficiency level of available nutrients (SLAN) (other methods are available). The level of nutrients present in the soil are measured through analysis and are compared to an optimal or guideline level. Adjustments to nutrient inputs can be made following the concentrations in the soil analysis.
Typical requirements for nutrition will be low this month, as growth is restricted by the low temperatures. However, those looking to encourage recovery on winter sports may apply low amounts of nutrition to stimulate some growth, if conditions are suitable.
The rate of photosynthesis is affected by temperature, therefore at lower temperatures the rate of photosynthesis is obviously limited by the reduced number of molecular collisions between enzymes. If temperatures are mild, there may continue to be small amounts of growth and therefore applications of a suitable fertiliser may be applied in small amounts to support the requirements of the plant.
Calcium and Silicon may be applied to try help the plant withstand stresses from cold temperatures and harsh winds by strengthening the primary and secondary cell walls. Chelated iron, or where avoiding using iron-based products, a pigment product could be used to provide colour and will not contribute to the accumulation of problematic iron deposits in the soil over time. Pigments not only provide a natural healthy green appearance to turf but also improve turf quality and have been shown to increase surface and soil temperatures by small amounts.
When piecing together an integrated nutrition plan, ensure that the products included have been evaluated for their suitability. Many products can appear similar, however, when researched, there are differences in source, formulation etc…. which can be the difference in the overall results. Safety Data Sheets are a good source of information and will sometimes list ingredients if they are contained at concentrations which must be declared in the interests of environmental and human health. If not readily available, suppliers should also be able to provide you with the information you require to understand what is in the products you are considering using.
Colder temperatures should assist in minimising disease pressure. If required, an anti-sporulant fungicide such as fludioxonil is suitable for the time of year when growth is minimal. As ever, monitoring weather conditions is key, and any applications should ideally be made preventatively ahead of disease development. Continuing with applications of penetrant wetting agents and dew dispersants will continue to assist in keeping surfaces dry.
There is still no chemical available to provide control, therefore continue your cultural practices to minimise their impact as much as possible. If soil temperatures are low, then worms will be avoiding colder regions at the surface.
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