End of season renovations, ideally, should have been completed by now to make the most of the time you have left before the onset of the new season in late August.
The concept of the renovations is to de-compact the pitch, increase the air space in the soil profile which will encourage root growth, restore levels by topdressing and re-populate the sward with new grasses and encourage the new sward with some timely feeds.
Then, it is a case of mowing on a regular basis, ideally weekly, to encourage the sward to tiller (thicken up) and increase in density. I see far too many clubs which only mow on a monthly frequency. It is simply not helping, you usually end up with a lot of top growth, sward remains weak and, when you do cut it, you are left with lots of grass clippings lying on top of the pitch, which is smothering the grass.
I cannot stress enough, invest in your pitch! It will then provide you with a good playing surface the following season. 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.
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.
Useful Information for Mowing
|"End of Season Renovation and Pitch Maintenance Programmes for winter sports pitches"||Football Pitch / Rugby Pitch Grass Seed|
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.
Useful Information for Feeding
|Back to basics for fertiliser||Granular Turf Fertilisers|
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 daylight hours are getting longer, increasing the likelihood of the ground drying out.
It is important to ensure that the water gets down deep into the rootzone 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.
I hear too many clubs moaning they have no money or cannot afford to do the relevant maintenance work on their pitches.
Looking after a rugby pitch is not easy and needs a lot of planning, resources and, more importantly, knowledge.
Clubs need to decided whether they carry out the work themselves, getting geared up with the appropriate equipment, or pay someone to come in and do the work. Whichever way, there is a cost involved.
So, my point is that clubs should recognise these costs and budget accordingly. In many cases, rugby clubs do not charge their players anywhere near enough subs to cover these costs.
In a lot of cases, clubs are paying substantial amounts on players and coaches, with little left for the provision of pitch maintenance.
Clubs should charge an across the board grounds maintenance fee for all playing members, juniors included. One pound a week from every member who uses the facilites will raise in excess of £150 per week at most clubs. That's £600 a month, £7200 a year - a considerable chunk of money to help maintain your pitches.
Add to that a couple of pig roasts/ disco/ bonfire events and you could be looking to bring in around £10K a year. This money, if invested in pitches, would make all the difference, ensuring a decent playing surface which, in turn, could attract new members to your club.
Useful Information for Fundraising
|Twickenham helps clubs win their pitch battles||Machinery|
Service mowers and equipment
Inspect and check line marking equipment