October Rugby Union Diary
By Laurence Gale MSc
With the season now well under way most groundstaff will now have a better understanding of how their pitch is performing. Recent downpours of rain will have certainly helped to soften up the ground, much to the relief of both the Groundsmen and players.
Grass heights will vary depending on type of mowers used, however, most will be looking to maintain a height of cut between 25-75mm. Particular attention should be made when mowing and marking out, presentation of the pitch is important. A quality, well presented pitch inspires players to play well.
Check with the sports governing body (RFU) for any amendments to the laws and markings of the pitch. Care should be taken when initially marking out new lines, ensuring that they are true, straight and measured correctly, using the 3,4,5 method to achieve accurate angles.
There are a number of machines available for marking out lines, wheel to wheel, spray jet, dry liners and aerosol markers. The choice will be dependent on cost, efficiency and the type of line you want. See link for marking materials and equipment
Keeping your marking equipment in good order and clean will help you produce better quality lines, dirty and unkept markers tend to malfunction, drip and leak.
Regular brushing/ sweeping will help keep the sward in good condition, particularly when done in the early mornings to remove the dew from the surface, thus reducing the ideal climatic conditions for disease to take hold.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results. Generally, autumn fertilisers will have now been applied but, because of the continuing mild weather, there is still time. The next opportunity to fertilise, will come next spring when the soil and air temperatures rise.
Ideally you should be considering a NPK fertliser product that is low in N something like a Rigby Taylors Autumn / Winter Outfield 3:12:12. fertiliser, Vitax Marathon Autumn 7:0:21 or Scotts Sportsmaster Standfard 4:12:12.
Hand or machine aeration aids surface drainage, at varying depths of penetration to prevent the development of a soil pan. As last month, if there is opportunity to aerate, then do it. Regular autumn aeration provides air space for the roots to expand into and allows the plant to breathe. Achieving an improved root system will stand you in good stead for the coming winter months.
Harrowing/raking, especially after games, will help restore levels and keep surfaces open.
Some facilities have irrigation equipment, pop up systems/self traveling sprinklers. Always keep an eye out for leaks and broken parts, unwanted leaks can lead to costly problems, surface playability can be compromised let alone having to pay a hefty water bill in the process. Water is a valuable resource and should be treated as such.
Worn, sparse or bare areas can still be seeded in October. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove them regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.
Inspect and clean machinery after use; service and repair damaged machinery.