August Rugby Union Diary
By Laurence Gale MSc
For the majority of rugby clubs, particularly those with no watering facilities, the recent dry weather will have hampered grass growth and recovery.
Grounds are becoming increasingly hard now they are drying out, especially heavy clay soils. In fact, some clubs have already postponed some pre season friendly matches because the grounds are so hard.
Many clubs simply do not have the watering systems to cope with such dry conditions, therefore are reliant on the weather.
Generally, August sees the start of pre season matches. The focus will be on mowing and preparing the turf surfaces for play. Grass heights will vary depending on the type of mowers used, however, most will be looking to maintain a height of cut between 25-75mm. Particular attention should be made to irrigation regimes, those who have them, ensuring that all areas are watered uniformly to promote healthy growth. Make sure that divotting takes place straight after play finishes, because divots will dry and die very quickly in the hot weather.
Pre season training will be well under way, with club coaches demanding marked out training areas for practices. Ensure you have enough marking materials and an efficient, quality line marker for carrying out these tasks.
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 marking machines available on the market, wheel to wheel, spray jet, dry liners and aerosol markers. The choice will be dependent on cost, area to be marked and the type of line you want.
The following four points are essential requirements to help achieve accurate line marking:
A reliable, accurate line marking machine
Appropriate approved marking fluid
Careful planning and preparation (setting out lines)
Time and care
New linear aerators now offer alternative methods of aeration from the traditional solid tine spiker or hollow core spiker, which install a continuous slit 10mm wide 200mm deep at 200mm centres. The machine has also been upgraded to infill with kiln dried sand.
Grooming and verticutting are operations that remove unwanted side growth and reduce the amount of debris in the sward. These operations are carried out on a regular basis often weekly or fortnightly, and are completed in conjunction with your mowing regimes. Brushing the pitch in the opposite direction prior to cut will produce a cleaner finish and a healthier sward when used in partnership with verti-cutting.
Irrigation will be a priority, especially if maintaining newly sown seed or turfed areas. It is important that these areas do not dry out and die.
Inspect installations for leaks. It is important to ensure that the water gets down into the root zone to encourage deep rooting. Allowing areas to dry out can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality. Further information about irrigation of sports surfaces can be see on link - Irrigation
Maintain sward height at 25mm-75mm; the top height will cushion heavy falls on hard baked ground. Frequency of mowing will increase to maintain sward height as soil and air temperatures initiate grass growth.
The choice of mower will generally be dependant on budgets available, coupled with your particular requirements. Most stadium pitches tend to keep to ride on triples and pedestrian Dennis or Ransomes 30-36" type mowers.
There is also a need to keep up with other forms of mowing to control the grass around obstructions and fencelines.
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.
Most grounds staff will be applying a summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 12/0/9 to maintain grass colour and vigour. A slow release fertiliser could be applied to see you through August and September. The choice of materials and how well they work will dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.
To remove dew and remove surface debris. Using a brush or a SISIS quadraplay will restore levels and produce striping or banding aesthetics.
Pre match inspections:
To include pitch surface, line markings and posts. Keep heavy wear areas roped off to stop unwanted early use. In an ideal world the pitch should be completely out of bounds. Tidy up the edges of the pitch, strim around advertising signs and crowd barriers. Presentation on the pitch will be let down badly by unkempt edges.
Post match renovation:
To include replacing divots and repairing worn areas (scrummage/lineout areas). Aeration and brushing will help relieve compaction, and brushing will help keep the sward standing up right. Apply some top dressing materials to restore levels if required.