With the season now well under way most groundstaff will now have a better understanding of how their pitch is performing. The recent warm weather spells will have stimulated grass growth, ensure you keep on top of this growth, leaving it to grow long will cause you problems, and when you do finally cut it you will be left with a lot of arisings (grass) on the playing surface, which not only looks a mess but can affect your ability to mark the pitch properly.
Ideally, you should be mowing on a weekly or ten day frequency, especially while the grass is still growing. Grass will not effectively slow down until we reach temperatures below 5 degrees C.
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.
Some club are still using creosote or similar type products to burn the lines in. This is not permitted; only approved marking products should be used. As for adding weed killers to line marking fluid again this is not recommended. You will end up with bare soil lines, which are difficult to overmark.
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.
Keeping your marking equipment in good order and clean will help you produce better quality lines; dirty and unkempt markers tend to malfunction, drip and leak.
Particularly attention must be paid to the new breed of spray-jet markers, it is important you flush the spray jets through with clean water after use. Also ensure you keep all electrical contacts clean, a spray of WD 40 always helps protect these contacts and switches.
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.
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 travelling sprinklers. It is important you inspect these systems and ensure they are working efficiently.
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.
Aeration / When conditions allow:- Hand or machine aeration to aid surface drainage, at varying depths of penetration to prevent the development of a soil pan and provide adequate air space for roots to colonise. Depth of aeration between 100-225mm
Brushing/Sweeping/ Weekly:- To remove dew and remove surface debris. Using a brush or a SISIS quadraplay will restore levels and produce striping or banding aesthetics.
Disease/ Daily:- Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Fairy rings and Red Thread can often be widespread during October. Regular brushing to remove dew will help reduce disease attack, coupled with keeping the grass plant fed with appropriate required nutrients.
Divoting/ After matches and training:- Repairing and replacing divots after matches is an important part of the maintenance programme to restore playing surfaces.
Posts/ Weekly:- Inspect posts and sockets to check they are safe and secure.
Harrowing/ raking/ When conditions allow:- Helps to restore levels and keep surfaces open. Ideally carry out after matches.
Irrigation/ As required:- October can often be a dry month so irrigation will be a priority, especially when surfaces begin to dry out. It is important to irrigate uniformly, ensuring the right amount of water is applied. Ensure the water gets deep into the root-zone to encourage deep rooting. Allowing areas to dry out can lead to dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality.
Marking out/ As required:- Use approved marking compounds/materials and ensure all line markings comply with RFU rules and regulations.
Machinery (Repairs and maintenance)/ Daily:- Inspect and clean machinery after use; service and repair damaged machinery.
Mowing/ As required:- Remember to check the height of cut; at this time of year the pitch can be cut between 35-100mm. Continue to mow the on a regular basis, ideally weekly while grass is still growing.
Pre and Post match inspections and renovations/ As required:- Replace divots. Repair worn areas, topdress to restore levels (localised). Inspect pitch surface and line markings. Check post safety and fit post protection covers for matches.
Seed bare & worn areas/ When conditions allow:- Seeding of sparse or bare areas can be carried out. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for disease. 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.
Weeds/ As required:- It's now getting late into the season for applying selective herbicides; soil and air temperatures are not ideal for effective responses from these herbicide products. Hand weeding will be the most effective method of weed control during the winter months.