Expected weather for this month:

A cold and showery start to February is expected, followed by rain and strong winds

Many sports facilities in the north of England, north Wales, the Borders and Scotland will have been affected by flooding. Stay off your ground if it is waterlogged. If you are one of those affected, then flood advice can be found here - https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/flood-advice.html

The met office are reporting that the start of February looks likely to remain changeable with unsettled, milder spells interspersed with colder, showery interludes. The windiest and most unsettled weather is likely to occur in the north and northwest, whilst the south and southeast should see somewhat drier conditions overall, though even here some rain and strong winds are likely at times. Despite relatively mild conditions prevailing, some overnight frost and fog is quite probable in any quieter intervals.

As we move into the second half of February there are signs that pressure may build in the mid Atlantic bringing a more north to north-westerly airflow to the British Isles, thereby increasing the risk of colder conditions developing.

Key Tasks for February

The first thing to note is that, if your pitch is waterlogged, stay off it; you will do far more harm than good. Given the extreme weather, individual circumstances will determine whether a pitch is playable. If it is deemed fit, then ensure that heavy wear areas are well spiked. This may be best done with a hand fork rather than machinery.

The mild temperatures and wet weather will promote fungal disease. Use approved fungicides to treat any infected areas.

Leaf spot can be quite damaging, especially in stadium environments; keep the leaf blade relatively dry by regular brushing, and apply an approved fungicide to prevent further outbreaks

Red thread can develop at any time during cool, wet weather. It can develop on most turfgrasses, but ryegrasses, meadow grasses 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.

Usually a dose of fertiliser will help control an outbreak of red thread.

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

Pitches that are not cut on a regular basis will often exceed 125mm - far too long. The plant becomes weak, straggly and often flattened after play or training.

Most professional and semi-professional clubs 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
  • If it’s frosty, keep off the pitch until the frost has lifted or it becomes absolutely necessary. This will avoid damage to the grass plant/leaf

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.

The extreme waterlogging is causing some problems. If you managed to undertake a decent renovation at the end of last year, the mild temperatures have been kind and this will have grown well. The moist surface and low light levels is leading to high levels of moss, mainly Bryum argenteum, Silver Thread-moss, a tufted acrocarpous moss which is equally at home on tarmac, so maybe an indication that surfaces are compacted but, with little opportunity to get on the pitch with a machine, this is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Aerating when ground conditions are unsuitable will lead to smearing the sides of the hole; lateral compaction means that the water is unable to percolate away from the hole.

Toadrush is also a problem as well as increased levels of thatch and black layer as anaerobic conditions continue to prevail.

Tough it out and aerate as much as possible as soon as conditions allow and, critically, NOT BEFORE. In the intervening time, be vigilant for Microdochium Patch and treat at the very first symptoms. As conditions improve, provide some much needed TLC and a good quality fertiliser to help the turf recover. In the long term, use biostimulants such as SeaAction liquid Seaweed and BioMass Sugar throughout the early part of the year to help the soil food web recover.

As  stated previously, the mild temperatures and wet weather will promote fungal disease. Use approved fungicides to treat any infected areas.

Leaf spot can be quite damaging, especially in stadium environments; keep the leaf blade relatively dry by regular brushing, and apply an approved fungicide to prevent further outbreaks

Red thread can develop at any time during cool, wet weather. It can develop on most turfgrasses, but ryegrasses, meadow grasses 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.

Usually a dose of fertiliser will help control an outbreak of red thread.

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

More information on disease identification and treatment can be found here - https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php

  • 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:

Tuesday 16 February, Stamford, Lincolnshire

£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.

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

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

Articles you may find helpful

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/flood-advice.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/sport-england-makes-200k-available-for-storm-hit-facilities.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/upping-their-game.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/managing-moss.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/winter-lighting.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/a-world-without-oxygen.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/sports-pitch-drainage-why-are-there-still-failures.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/trowbridge-rfc-grounds-for-success.html