Key Tasks for January
As generally advised, it is always best to avoid working on any frosty or frozen ground. However, in the real world, this is not always that easy with the pressure to get fixtures on. Local knowledge, expertise and individual circumstances will determine whether a pitch is playable or not.
Weather permitting, the following guidelines should be followed:
Maintain a height of cut between 30-90mm.
Continue with post match divoting and brushing and undertake aeration if conditions allow. Stay off the pitch with heavy equipment if your ground is holding water – a hand fork might be your best friend!
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 complement 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.
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
The new year is among us and let’s hope with it we have a way through to getting back some “normality” in our lives. I would like to think that, although many will have just experienced a much different Christmas period, it has still been filled with happiness and good feeling, even if we haven’t been able to share it with all of whom we would have liked.
If fortunate enough to have had a Christmas break, this can be an excellent time for some to switch off from work and re-charge ready to go again in the new year. For others, it is some time to step back, away from the day to day duties and reflect on the previous year and start the planning process for the new year. Either way, hopefully the Christmas period has given everyone that much needed break and now 2021 can be tackled head on.
Early January looks forecast to have favourable conditions, moving away from the wet weather that is given for the end of December, rounding off a very wet end to the year, which has seen many sites saturated for lengthy periods of time. Temperatures appear to be moderate for the time of year with an absence of any extremely cold weather. Although grass growth has slowed down, the mild temperatures will still offer some growth, therefore keep monitoring growth potential data and plan accordingly.
At the start of a new year, attention inevitably turns to planning the year ahead. When considering nutritional programmes for the coming months, following an integrated approach will provide the most effective programme. It is not necessarily individual elements of a programme that will provide total success, rather how all the elements interact with each other and how they will achieve the overall goal together that needs to be considered and applied.
To gain an understanding of what’s going on within your soil, annual soil samples are a useful starting point, this provides data which can be monitored over time. Together with a soil’s physical properties, the chemical nutrient balance with the soil provides the basis of recommendations for an informed fertiliser programme. These recommendations are based on the sufficiency level of available nutrients (SLAN) (other methods are available). The level of nutrients present in the soil are measured through analysis and are compared to an optimal or guideline level. Adjustments to nutrient inputs can be made following the concentrations in the soil analysis. Other analysis methods available consider further factors such as soil properties and growth potential.
Building up data enables you to make more informed decisions. This data can be used within a monitoring system that can be cross referenced against previous results to help detect any trends and diagnose problems. This will ultimately improve quality and reduce costs.
Key factors for early 2021
There will typically be minimal requirements for nutritional inputs by the plant this month as growth will be limited by colder temperatures. Photosynthesis is controlled by enzymes and, as with other enzyme-controlled reactions, the rate of photosynthesis is affected by temperature. At lower temperatures, the rate of photosynthesis is limited by the number of molecular collisions between enzymes. If temperatures are mild, there may continue to be small amounts of growth and therefore applications of a suitable fertiliser may be applied in small amounts to support the requirements of the plant.
Applications of products containing calcium and silicon will assist the plant to withstand stresses from cold temperatures and harsh winds, and by strengthening the primary and secondary cell walls. Chelated iron can be used to add colour and will not contribute to the accumulation of problematic iron deposits in the soil over time. Pigments can also be used on surfaces where contact sport is not played, where transfer onto playing kit may be an issue. Pigments not only provide a natural healthy green appearance to turf without having to apply nitrogen or iron, but also improve turf quality and have been shown to increase surface and soil temperatures in small amounts.
When constructing an integrated nutritional plan, evaluate the products available and assess their merits and how they may benefit your situation and help you to achieve your goals. Products are not all the same and, where they may appear so, there may be subtle differences which can impact on results. Therefore, where possible dedicate time to research the full ingredients list on products rather than solely looking at headline figures. If you are still unsure, then Safety Data Sheets will sometimes list ingredients if they are contained at concentrations which have to be declared in the interests of environmental and human health. If not readily available, suppliers should also be able to provide you with the information you require to understand what is in the products you are considering using.
Favourable conditions of mild temperatures and continued leaf wetness will provide a suitable environment for the development of diseases such as Microdochium nivale. If required, a fungicide with an anti-sporulant, such as fludioxonil, which controls dormant spores residing in the sward and thatch layer in-between outbreaks of infection. As ever, monitor weather conditions and apply a preventative application if conditions are forecast to be conducive for disease development. Applications of penetrant wetting agents and dew dispersants will continue to assist in keeping surfaces dry.
If soil temperatures are low, then worms will be avoiding cold regions at the surface. If mild and wet, there will still be activity and will still be causing major issues due to casting on the surface. There is still no chemical available to provide control, therefore continue your cultural practices to minimise their impact as much as possible.
- 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