Expected weather for this month:

Fairly settled, but with below average temperatures. More persistent rain at times for the south of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

GloucesterRFC pitchAs we left fairly settled weather behind at the end of September, the Met Office are promising more of the same for October, but with more persistent rain for the south of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the middle of the month. Depending on where you are in the UK, temperature will be either around or a couple of degrees below average.

I trust everyone is enjoying the Rugby World Cup; already there have been some exciting encounters, in particular that Japan upset against the Springboks. The TV coverage is excellent, and should inspire us all to produce stunning pitch conditions.

Key Tasks for October


With the season in full swing, most groundsmen will now have a better understanding of how their pitch is performing.

Presentation is important. If it looks well presented, with bands, stripes and a consistent surface, it makes the game more enjoyable for the players. The Rugby World Cup will have highlighted the desire for good presentation – in the players’ minds, at least!

Most facilities will maintain a height of cut between 30-40mm.

Essential tasks in preparing pitches for play involve, mowing, marking out, divoting, brushing and carrying out aeration.

Training areas will be prone to damage from specific training regimes. Where possible, rotate the areas where these drills take place.

  • Continue cutting when necessary and ground conditions permit to encourage good sward density
  • Ensure that any equipment used is keenly set to cut
  • Regular brushing will keep the air circulating around the base of the plant
  • Deep spike to alleviate compaction as and when required
  • Continue shallow spiking when the conditions are right (this should only be carried out if the soil is suitably moist) to compliment your deep spiking.
  • Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting
  • Hand fork goalmouth and centre circle areas, if difficult to get onto the pitch with machinery

Try to keep the top 100mm free draining; this can be achieved by regular spiking with solid or slit tines to a depth of 150mm or more.

Divoting is crucial, so start as you mean to go on. At this stage of the season, the addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil will help to repair any deep scars. Repair damage using a fork to close up scars and make sure divots are replaced and firmed into surface to give roots a chance to take hold again.

Oversow sparse or bare areas. 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.

Marking out

  • Keep your linemarker clean
  • Keep string lines taut when marking out to avoid deviating from the straight
  • Ensure that right angles are correctly formed. Use the 3:4:5 triangle method. The bigger the triangle at the start, the more accurate the pitch will be

Before the match

  • Check that the pitch is level and safe for play
  • Check for and remove debris (glass, stones etc.)
  • Ensure the surface is firm and not saturated, correctly marked out, and that the posts are safe and secure

Post match

  • Replace divots, even if it’s just the worst affected areas - it will make a difference!
  • Dragmat/brush/harrow to restore playing surfaces
  • Remove debris from the playing surface with a rotary mower

Weekly checks:

  • Check goals and padding
  • Check team dugouts are stable and anchored securely. Make sure that they are tidy and free from litter
  • Repair and maintain fence lines
  • Sweep up/vacuum fallen leaves

Articles you may find helpful







low organic matter soil profilesPitchcare have recently launched a new independent Soil Testing Service that enable you to get specific results for the soils you manage. Soil analysis is a means to discover what levels of nutrients are available to plants. There is an optimum for each plant nutrient and, when coupled with other properties such as soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigorous your plants are. Different nutrients undertake different tasks within the plant.

Ideally, it is good practice to undertake at least an annual soil test to analyse the nutrient status of your soil. This will help ensure you only apply what is required and not waste money and time applying products you do not need.

The choice of materials and how well it works, however, can be dependant on many factors, including soil type and the weather, with moisture and warmer air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.

The typical types of diseases you may come across are:

  • Fusarium Patch
  • Red Thread
  • Fairy Rings
  • Anthracnose

Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php

Red thread spores  (2)

A number of diseases may appear at this time of year. Favourable temperatures for incubation, overcast conditions and moisture in the ground enables disease to spread quickly.

Treat as appropriate with a curative or eradicant fungicide, preferably with a systemic action, although this should be a last resort, as the costs of annual applications of fungicides to large areas are very high and may eventually lead to pathogen resistance.

Control should be a mixture of good sward management, good observation and use of cultural controls. Occasionally, the bottle (or box) needs to be reached for to keep your sanity and the sward alive.

Worms may well be more active this month. Treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. pH level, organic matter and your cultural practices may need to be assessed. Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for controlling worms.

Keep your machinery well serviced, sharp and clean. Take time to inspect cutting blades and ensure they are sharp, set at the correct HOC (Height of cut).

Line marking materials should have been ordered in time for the new season. There are plenty of marking compounds on the market, along with a wide range of markers. Keep your markers clean and use string lines to help keep your lines straight. 

Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Winter Sports Pitches. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of rugby and football pitch maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a winter sports surface throughout a 12 month period.

Delegates attending the Winter Sports Pitch Maintenance course and using the accompanying manual will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principles it sets out.

Details of our forthcoming autumn courses can be found on our website Groundsman Training

Our next course:

Wednesday 18 November, Finnimore Pavilion, Alton, Hampshire 

£140.00 + VAT

More details

Included in the Course Manual, there are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month. The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.

In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.

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