It is important that clubs invest some money in end of season renovations; they, at least, should be doing some deep aeration work, seeding bare areas and feeding to promote grass growth and, more importantly, cutting the grass on a weekly regime to help produce a denser sward.
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 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 groundstaff 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 depend 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.
It is important rugby clubs keep themselves informed of any financial funding schemes that may be available for them to improve pitch facilities. The RFU website should be your first port of call followed by Sport England. Also, keep an eye out for information being posted by your Local Authority websites, they may also have some funding initiatives going on.
End of season renovations
Most clubs have finished their domestic season and should now be getting on with their end of season renovations. The success of these renovations will dictate the future performance of the pitches.
Any major resurfacing or drainage works are usually programmed to coincide with end of season renovation. 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 dependent 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, an end of season of renovation should involve the following operations:-
* 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
The cost of these operations will be dependent on a few factors, number of pitches to be completed, types of materials used, scope of works and haulage costs for material delivery of machinery and materials. Budget around £3-£5,000 for a basic renovation and up to around £25,000 for resurfacing (costs based on industry contractor rates for a single pitch area (7000m2)).
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 weeks.
Try not to waste your water resources, keep an eye open for leaks, check the sprinklers are working properly. It is best to water during the evening to prevent excessive water loss from evaporation.