To be fair, we have had a really good growing period this summer, with plenty of sunshine and warm weather and, more recently, 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 baling. 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.
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 30mm and 75mm.
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. Check your stock of materials, do you have enough paint/marking fluid to initial mark your pitches?
Key Tasks for August
Maintain sward height at 30mm-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.
There is also a need to keep up with other forms of mowing to control the grass around obstructions and fencelines.
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, but the more growth you can get the better; regular cutting will thicken the sward and help produce a better pitch coming into the playing season.
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.
Particular attention should be made to irrigation regimes, for those who have access to water, ensuring that all areas are watered uniformly to promote healthy growth. 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.
New linear aerators now offer alternative methods 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.
Brush to remove dew and remove surface debris. Using a brush or a SISIS quadraplay will restore levels and produce striping or banding aesthetics.
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 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
Pre and post match regimes
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.
Pitchcare 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.
With this warmer weather, there may be a need to keep an eye out for disease; temperature changes can bring on disease attacks, particularly when the turf is undernourished. Red thread can often be a threat to sports turf when the sward is in a stressed state. An application of a spring/summer fertiliser will help the plant to become more resistant to disease attack.
Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Red thread may be prevalent during the summer months, it is usually a sign that the sward needs a feed.
A dose of selective herbicide will help control any broad leaf weeds such as daisies, dandelions, clover, plantains and buttercups that may be populating your pitch. It may be cheaper and more economic to call in a specialist spray contractor who is licensed to appply selective herbicides.
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.
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.
- Inspect goal posts and sockets to check they are safe and secure.
- Harrowing/raking, when conditions allow, helps to restore levels and keep surfaces open.
- Inspect and remove debris from playing surface litter or any wind blown tree debris, twigs and leaves.
- Inspect and clean machinery after use; service and repair damaged machinery.
- Inspect and get floodlights checked out.