June Rugby Union Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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Hopefully for most clubs end of season renovation works should now be completed. It is, with the weather improving, important to avoid the seed/seedlings from drying out. Once the seed has established, the ongoing summer maintenance regimes of grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding and watering will ensue.

The recent poor weather may have stalled some renovations and indeed slowed down seed germination, Groundsmen will be hoping for plenty of warm sunny weather to promote some rapid growth and recovery. If the man upstairs can arrange some night time rainfall that would be even better!june-2006-dry-fibre-sand.jpg

Any major resurfacing or drainage works are usually programmed to coincide with end of season renovations works. In general these works and the renovations are completed by competent sports turf contractors, who have the correct equipment for these operations.

The extent and nature of the works undertaken will be dependant on a number of factors:-

  • Type of pitch profile system, natural soil, rootzone, fibre re-inforced sand constructed pitch

  • Level of wear

  • Budgets available

  • Time for completion and establishment

Ideally the minimum level of renovation should involve the following operations:-

  • Scarifying

  • Aerating using a vertical or linear aerator.

  • Topdressing 40-80 tonnes of approved sand/rootzone materials

  • Overseeding sowing at a rate of 20-35g/m2

  • Brushing in of topdressing materials

  • Fertilising with pre-seeding or spring/summer, applying at a rate of 25-35g/m2

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Once the seed has germinated it is important to keep it watered. Irrigation is essential, many grounds are beginning to show signs of stress resulting from the lack of rain we have had in recent days. However with hose pipe bans in force in some parts of the country, you can only do what you can do.

Try not to waste your water resources, keep an eye out for leaks, check the sprinklers are working properly. It is best to water during the evening to prevent excessive water loss from evaporation.

Many rugby clubs seem to have a notion that once the season has finished they do not need to cut the grass until the new season starts. I see far too many grounds managed in this way, not cutting the grass, leads to a poor sward density and winter playability problems. The summer is the prime time to retain the cutting height and increase the frequency of mowing.

Mowing should be continued throughout the summer period, maintaining a cutting height of around 30-40mm to encourage the grass to tiller. 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. These operations are completed in conjunction with your mowing regimes.

Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic 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 ground staff will be applying a summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something with higher nitrogen that will help maintain grass colour and vigour. A slow release fertiliser could be applied to see you through June, July and August. 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.

Seeding of sparse or bare areas can be carried out, this rise in temperatures will speed up germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets 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.

Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.

Don't neglect the other facilities once the playing season has finished. Remember to check posts and sockets to ensure they are safe and secure as well has giving them a well earned coat of paint to keep them presentable.