To be fair we have had a really good growing period this summer, with plenty of sunshine, warm weather and plenty of rain to promote grass growth. Regular mowing, at least weekly, is essential to improve the condition of the pitch.
Too many clubs tend to leave the grass to grow far too long, often in excess of 100mm in length, before cutting. So, when it finally gets cut, you are left with a pitch resembling a farmer's field ready for bailing. This, in turn, causes more problems in that these arisings have a detrimental affect on grass growth and the aesthetics of the pitch.
Regular cutting and feeding will encourage the grasses to tiller and thicken at the base, giving you a better quality sward for play.
Continue to cut the grass; do not be afraid to invest in some fertiliser. Yes, it will make the grass grow and it comes at a cost, the more growth you can get the better, regular cutting will thicken the sward and help produce a better pitch.
Generally, August sees the start of pre-season matches. The focus will be on mowing and preparing the turf surfaces for play. Grass heights will vary depending on the type of mowers used, however most will be looking to maintain a height of cut between 25mm and 75mm.
Line marking; check your stock of materials, do you have enough paint / marking fluid to initial mark your pitches? Also, check your line marking machine is fit for purpose, give it a good clean and check all working parts and ensure the nozzles are clean on spray jet markers.
Irrigation:- To date most parts of the country have received regularly downpours of rain, thus negating the need to use irrigation systems this year, however, there may be a need to water if the weather changes, and we have some dry weather in the latter part of the month. Irrigation will be a priority, especially if maintaining newly sown or turfed areas. It is important that these areas do not dry out and die.
It is important to ensure that the water gets down 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, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality.
Fertilising:- There may be a need to fertilise your pitch, especially after having so much rainfall. 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.
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 August and September.
The choice of materials and how well they work will dependent on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.
Useful Information for Fertilising
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Marking:- Pre-season training will be well underway, with club coaches demanding marked out areas for practices. Ensure you have enough marking materials and an efficient, quality line marker for carrying out these tasks.
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.
There will be a need to mark out a number of small sided areas to accommodate some of the new coaching / playing requirements for rugby clubs youth teams .
The RFU's new Shaping the Game pilot scheme is being implemented in a number of counties to encourage greater emphasis on small sided games, enabling players to have more time on the ball and the chance to enhance their skills.
There are a number of marking machines available on the market, wheel to wheel, spray jet, dry liners and aerosol markers. The choice will be dependent on cost, area to be marked and the type of line you want. The following four points are essential requirements to help achieve accurate line marking:
A reliable, accurate line marking machine
Appropriate, approved marking fluid
Careful planning and preparation (setting out lines)
Time and care
Aeration:- is a key task to alleviate compacted soils; there are a number of different aerators out on the market to suit your needs. In recent years, we have seen the introduction of linear aerators that offer an alternative method of aeration to the traditional solid tine spiker and hollow core spiker, which can install a continuous slit 10mm wide, 200mm deep at 200mm centres.
The machine has also been upgraded to infill with kiln dried sand.
Sisis offer a wide range of outfield spikers that can be towedby a tractor; they also offer the Quadraplay system, a unique multi task unit that offers a brush, aerator, roller and spring tine to help restore pitches after play.
Mowing:- Maintain sward height at 25mm-75mm; the top height will cushion heavy falls on any hard ground. Frequency of mowing will increase to maintain sward height as soil and air temperatures initiate grass growth.
The choice of mower will generally be dependent on budgets available, coupled with your particular requirements. Most stadium pitches tend to keep to ride-on triples and pedestrian, Dennis or Ransomes 30"-36" type mowers. However, for most clubs, the rotary deck mowers are becoming the most popular and cheaper means of mowing their pitches.
Brushing:- To remove dew and remove surface debris. Using a brush or a SISIS quadraplay will restore levels and produce striping or banding aesthetics.
Pre match inspections: To include pitch surface, line markings and posts. Keep heavy wear areas roped off to stop unwanted early use. In an ideal world, the pitch should be completely out of bounds. Tidy up the edges of the pitch, strim around advertising signs and crowd barriers. Presentation on the pitch will be let down badly by unkempt edges.
Post match renovation: To include replacing divots and repairing worn areas (scrummage/lineout areas). Aeration will relieve compaction and brushing will help keep the sward standing up right. Apply some topdressing materials to restore levels if required.