June gave us some of the most torrential summer rainfall in living memory, with some areas receiving well over 200mm.
Many soil profiles are now in a state of saturation and, indeed, flooded as a result of the downpours; a complete contrast to last year when many clubs were suffering from drought conditions.
Once soils become saturated they are prone to damage, it is best to refrain from carrying out any work whilst pitches are in this condition. However, once conditions improve and we get some much awaited sunshine and increased soil temperatures, we will soon see some significant grass growth and recovery.
Surface water run off may have caused some damage to newly sown or renovated pitches. Local repair work may be required to reset levels and overseed these damaged areas.
The rain, or other work, may have delayed end season renovations, such as topdressing. This needs to be done as soon as possible, using sand or a 70/30, 80/20 material. The purpose of this operation is to improve surface drainage, provide a medium for the seed to germinate and restore levels. The amount applied often varies, generally anything between 40-100 tonne per (6000m2) size pitch. It is important to ensure this material is well brushed in and not left in large deposits that may hinder grass growth. The use of a set of drag mats or chains will help brush the material into the pitch.
Bare areas will also soon begin to crack and open up, old pitch marking lines are good examples of this. The bare soil has no root structure to hold it together, hence, once the soils begin to dry out, they crack open.
July sees the start of pre-season preparations of pitches and training areas as players return for training and conditioning.
Focus will now be on mowing and preparing the surfaces for play. Grass heights will vary depending on type of mowers used, however, most will be looking to maintain a height of cut between 50-75mm. Common problems with regard to mowing are either insufficient cutting frequencies or trying to take too much off in one go. The grass should be mowed a minimum of once a week or, ideally, twice a week during the growing season (May-September). This will ensure that sward is stimulated and promotes an increase in tillering.
In most cases the clippings are allowed to fly, thus returning plant debris into the sward, which helps re feed the plant. However, too many of these clippings can also be detrimental, they will suffocate the plant. Keep an eye on the thatch levels to gauge what to do.
July tasks for Rugby
Aeration/ When conditions allow :-
Hand or machine aeration to aid surface drainage, varying depths of penetration to prevent the development of a soil pan.
Brushing/ sweeping/When required :-
To remove dew and remove surface debris. Using a brush or a SISIS quadraplay will restore levels and produce striping or banding aesthetics.
Disease/As required :
- Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Drainage / Weekly :
- Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure they are working.
Fertiliser programme / As required :-
If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured). 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 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 July and August. The choice of materials and how well they work will depend on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.
Goal posts :
- Inspect goal posts and sockets to check they are safe and secure.
Grooming/ verticutting /As required :-
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.
Harrowing/ raking / When conditions allow :-
Helps to restore levels and keep surfaces open.
Irrigation equipment /As required :
- Irrigation will be a priority, especially if maintaining newly sown seed or turf areas. It is important that these areas do not dry out and die. Inspect installations for leaks. There may be a need to irrigate during any renovation programmes, as air temperatures and day light hours are getting longer, increasing the likelihood of the ground drying out. It's important to ensure that the water gets down deep 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 and thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality.
- Inspect and remove debris from playing surface litter or any wind blown tree debris, litter, twigs and leaves.
Machinery (Repairs and maintenance) :-
Inspect and clean machinery after use; service and repair damaged machinery.
Marking out /As Required :-
New pitch lines and training grids will require marking out. 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 345 method to achieve accurate angles.
There are a number of marking 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. Ensure the machine is clean and ready for use,
Mowing/As required :-
To maintain sward height 50-75mm. Frequency of mowing will increase to maintain sward height as soil and air temperatures begin to rise initiating grass growth.
Seed bare and worn areas / When conditions allow :-
Seeding of sparse or bare areas can be carried out, the rise in temperatures will help 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.
Soil tests / Ideally once or twice a year, or as required :-
Soil sampling is an important part of groundmanship. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf. There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main tests to consider are:
Particle Size Distribution (PSD) this will give you accurate information on the soil type and it's particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.
Soil pH, it is important to keep the soil at a pH of 5.5-6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants.
Organic matter content, it is important to keep a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile. Nutrient Levels. Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth. Once you have this information you will be in a better position to plan your season's feeding and maintenance programmes.