Expected weather for this month:

Cool and below average temperatures at start, warming up towards the end

As the clocks go forward we can look back on a fairly dry March for the majority of the UK, until rain set in over the past week. Moving into spring, there is an increased chance of below average temperatures and above average precipitation, until the end of April brings drier and warmer than average weather.

Early April will see most parts unsettled and rather cold at times. Showers or more persistent spells of rain are likely to affect all regions. It may still be cold enough at times for some wintry showers which could bring sleet or snow, especially in northern areas. Nightly frosts are likely at times but, as the month progresses, there may be an increasing chance of drier and warmer spells of weather developing in southern and central regions.

Whilst the weather in March was, for many, an improvement on the previous months, some areas of the UK continued to suffer from lengthy spells of rain and even snow, all falling on already sodden ground. This left groundsmen struggling to even get on their pitches, especially in the lower leagues.

This is the time of year when you should be thinking about what end of season renovations you intend to carry out. Make sure that you have the right tools, equipment and sundries by ordering well in advance to avoid delays.


Before we get down to the nitty gritty, we’d like to bring your attention to the following news story about a man who was seriously injured by part of a rugby goal falling on him whilst watching a game.


We would ask you to check all goals on your site to ensure that they meet health and safety requirements. If there are signs of rusting at the joints between crossbar and uprights, or as the posts enter the ground, they  need replacing – regardless of cost.

If goals are leaning from the perpendicular, the game should not be played as this indicates that the posts are not secure in the ground.

Homemade goals are not acceptable in this day and age. Goals made from wood, scaffolding or similar are illegal.

Please ensure that your committee and/or management are fully aware of their responsibilities.

Key Tasks for April

We have received some horrendous reports about games being played when the surface was simply not able to cope, which has left them unplayable weeks later.

If this is the case, stay off the pitch until such times as the surface is dry enough to run a dragmat or chain harrow over it to restore levels. Spiking will also help.

As the season reaches its climax, many of you will be hosting important games, whether that be promotion and relegation battles, cup games or even corporate requirements, so aim to achieve the best surface possible. It won’t be easy given the winter we have had, but presentation will go a long way – assuming you have some grass left to present!

Regular brushing will help to prevent disease outbreaks and also stand the grass up.

Always ensure that any disease is correctly identified prior to applying any plant protection product.

Maintain a height of cut between 30-40mm.

Continue with post match divoting and brushing and undertake aeration if conditions allow.

If training on the main pitch, ensure that regimes, such as shuffle drills and small sided games are rotated on the pitch to avoid excessive wear.

  • Continue cutting to encourage good sward density, ensuring that you do not over cut as this would thin out the sward due to the slowdown in growth
  • 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 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 high wear areas, if difficult to get onto the pitch with machinery
  • Use any downtime to overhaul/service 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.

Marking out

  • Keep your linemarker clean
  • Keep string lines taut
  • 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.


  • Keep your machinery in tip top condition
  • Grease where you find a grease nipple, oil where you see a metallic moving part, check the oil, check the water
  • Clean it when you've finished

Pre and post match routines

Before the match

  • Check that the pitch is fit and safe for play
  • Check post protectors and flags
  • Check for debris (glass, stones etc.)
  • Clear away leaves – a thankless task, but one that needs doing
  • Ensure the surface is firm and not saturated, correctly marked out and flagged, 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 and remove worm casts
  • Clean up the playing surface with a rotary mower

Additionally ...

  • Dragmat, harrow and groom rake surface, as required, to maintain levels, remove early morning dew, control disease and generally get air in and around the plant
  • Spike/verticut as often as possible

April is a good time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis, thus enabling you to get them back in time to start your new year's maintenance Ideally, if you have not had one done before you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis done to tell you the actual make up of your soil profile. 

Soil is made up of percentages of clay, silt and sand. The PSD Analysis will identify the ratio of these and confirm soil type, thus giving you a better understanding of what soil you are dealing with. Also, you can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content as well as soil nutrient status and soil pH. With this information you will be able to identify the needs of your soil. 

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. 

Soil and air temperatures in April should be rising into double figures, promoting some much needed growth and recovery. Apply a fertiliser dressing on the results of a soil analysis, however, applying something like a 12 :6 :6  NPK will help initiate some colour and vigour.

An application of spring fertiliser will also help reduce the incidence of red thread disease, that can often be seen on winter sports pitches due to the plant being under stress and lacking food.



Disease: Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Early morning dew on playing surfaces often promotes the chance of disease attack. Regular brushing off the dew will help prevent an attack of turf disease.

Red thread can be quite prolific on ryegrass swards especially when the soil has been leached of nutrients; topping up with a dose of spring fertiliser will help control Red thread. If it persists, then you may have to apply a fungicide.

Red thread is an extremely common turfgrass disease that can develop at any time of the year during cool, wet weather, but frequently appears most severely during late spring and autumn. It can develop on most turfgrasses but ryegrasses, meadowgrasses and fescues appear to be more commonly affected. This disease is often referred to as an indicator of low fertility and symptoms will often develop more severely if nitrogen or potassium is limited.

Red thread is caused by the fungus Laetisaria fuciformis. The initial symptoms of infection are water-soaked areas of leaf tissue, but these often go unnoticed. As the infection progresses, the infected leaves rapidly dry, become straw-coloured and appear as irregular patches across the sward. Patches can range in size from 5 to 50 cm in diameter and will often develop characteristic red needles (sclerotia) throughout the damaged area.

The sclerotia are aggregations of countless strands of very pale pink fungal mycelium which grow out of the infected leaf tissue and become wound tightly together appearing pink or red when complete.

The development of these 'needles of mycelium' allows the infection to progress by enabling the fungal mycelium to spread over the turf under humid conditions. Once the sward is dry or the relative humidity around the turf is reduced, the needles become desiccated and brittle. They then become dislodged from the infected plants and fall to the base of the sward where they will remain until favourable conditions return.

Fungus spores can remain viable for up to 2 years, survive temperature as low -20°C or high 32°C, This fungus is capable of growth at pH 3.5 -7.5 this means that the disease can occur on almost any amenity turf rootzone.

The disease can be spread by infected clippings and direct movement of the sclerotia but the fungus also produces arthroconidia (fragmented mycelial strands) that can be windblown over long distances.

Red thread is almost invariably a foliar disease and although the causal fungus has the ability to enter and damage the crown tissues, it very seldom does. Because of this, the symptoms of the disease can frequently be reduced by light nutrient applications and removal of the diseased tissue by boxing off the clippings.

However, there are increasing reports of this disease developing on turf that has been maintained under adequate nutrition and in such instances, symptoms will not be satisfactorily reduced by nutrient application alone. Where red thread regularly causes damaging symptoms, it would be worth considering over-seeding with grass cultivars that have been bred with reduced susceptibility to the disease.

Red fescues: slender and strong creeping red fescues (Festuca spp.), Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) are the main susceptible species affected by red thread other grasses which can be affected are bentgrasses (Agrostis spp.) and (Poa sp.) The above grasses are used in most sport turf situations including Golf, Bowls, Cricket, and winter game pitches.

Keeping the sward healthy and using resistant turf grass species will reduce the incidence and severity of disease attacks. Apply a balanced fertiliser programme with emphasis on nitrogen input.

  • Keep your machinery in tip top condition
  • Grease where you find a grease nipple, oil where you see a metallic moving part, check the oil, check the water
  • Clean it when you've finished

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 20 April 2016, Finnimore Pavilion, Alton, Hampshiree

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.

Remember – the more that club members, players and officials understand what you role involves, the better. You could use any spare time to provide a members newsletter/blog detailing what problems you are experiencing (training regimes, waterlogging etc.) and to seek additional help as required.

Weekly checks:

  • Check posts are secure
  • 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

And finally ... Campey Turf Care, in association with an number of leading industry suppliers, including Pitchcare, will undertake a nationwide Pitch Renovation tour in April and May. We recommend that you try and get yourself along to one near you - https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/pitchcare-to-join-campey-turf-care-and-other-leading-companies-in-uk-and-ireland-grassroots-pitch-renovation-tour-in-early-spring-2016.html

Articles you may find helpful