October tends to be a month that can swing either way from prolonged dry spells and resultant dry patch to distinctly autumnal wetter days. Key things to keep an eye on will be night time temperatures, relative humidity and periods of leaf blade wetness.
Warmth and available moisture are the keys to both grass and fungal pathogenic growth. If night time temperatures fall, growth rates will start to drop off, however lower night time temperatures will lead to heavier morning dews, prolonged periods of leaf blade wetness and increased risk of attack from fungi.
If your local conditions are at the drier end of the spectrum, water stress can quickly creep in, especially on windy days when evapotranspiration rates are higher. This is something which represents a particular risk to newly sown seed which may be in the initial stages of early germination and establishment.
Nutrition and Disease Management
Nitrogen applications will still be required but favouring products with more slowly available forms such as the methylene urea contained with the Lebanon range is both sensible and a cost effective way of feeding. Ammonium sources should be applied with care so as not to force too much soft growth which is susceptible to disease.
However, readily available ammonium is useful in maximising establishment of sown areas ahead of the winter, but be sure to really keep on top of mowing and remove dews whenever possible so to avoid rapid spread of fungal diseases.
Ensure you take the time to look at the break down of the nitrogen component of any fertilisers you buy and don’t just simply make a judgement based upon the overall headline figure.
In terms of protecting soft young growth, then an application of a preventative systemic fungicide such as Bayer’s Interface® or Dedicate® and Syngenta’s Instrata® will help to guard the plant against infection during times of high susceptibility.
Potassium is required in a higher proportion as we enter the autumn winter period. Magnesium is the element at the centre of the chlorophyll molecule and applications of this secondary macro element as the days draw in will help the plant to maximise photosynthesis efficiency.
For anyone looking to be in fine control of nutrition, the combining little and often applications of a soluble or liquid fertiliser with a straight liquid nutrient is a key tactic in marinating plant health. Phosphite is particularly useful at this time of the year when it comes to providing the plant with an easily accessible form of phosphorous which also helps to resist the spread of fungal diseases. Calcium and Chelated Iron are also vital nutrients when it comes to toughening up the plant and increasing cell wall thickness. Different elements don’t always mix cleanly together, so it is worthwhile performing jug mixing tests and then alternating little and often applications either every two weeks or once per month depending on disease pressure arising from environmental factors.
Finally; a tonic of trace elements will help to sustain levels that may have reduced over the growing season and facilitate the plant with abroad spectrum diet moving inot the winter period.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
Pitchcare have a 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.
Particularly fusarium, are often prevalent during the autumn, mainly due to the heavy dews that are present at this time of the year. Moisture on the leaf will allow diseases to move and spread easily.
The typical types of diseases you may come across are:
- Fusarium Patch
- Red Thread
- Fairy Rings
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
As soil moisture increases worm casting will become a problem on surfaces. With some sports the relative period where worm casts coincide with the playing season is relatively short, in such cases where casting density is not too severe then the best options are cultural controls such as brushing or switching prior to play and maintenance operations. Longer term forms of discouragement include lowering of soil pH if it is on the high side or sand top dressings which serve to discourage the worms in the soil as well as help the castings to dry out faster and disperse more easily.
The only legally approved and properly researched control of worms is Carbendazim. Using a pH buffer can improve results if your water is compromising the efficiency of this active ingredient.
October represents the last chance for you to be Pro-active not Re-active in regards to the control of both leatherjackets (end of the month) and chafer grubs (middle of the month) with entomopathogenic nematodes. If you fail to treat this year’s grubs when they are young and instead choose to let them grow over the winter there will be NO Way to control them in the spring once the crows and badgers start digging them up, as the now mature larvae rise to the surface with the warming soil temperatures to pupate.
As long as soil temperatures are warm then turf weeds will still be actively growing. As a result, the early part of the month represents the last opportunity to control weeds going into the winter; something which will not only improve presentation now but give facilities a head start with this issue next spring.
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 Grounds Training
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.