Key Tasks for April
It's a difficult time for everybody, and our advice is to follow any guidance issued by the Government and the Sports Governing Body regarding the maintenance of your sports surfaces. In addition to the maintenance guidelines below, you will also find topical advice on the Pitchcare Forum on how to manage your surfaces should the Coronavirus restrictions be increased.
Your number one priority is to keep safe.
Hopefully, most of your aeration operations were completed during the winter period. Generally, we do not aerate clay soil profiles after January, as we do not want to encourage cracking of the clay surfaces. However, if there is a need to help remove surface water from the courts, we can utilise the sarrel roller which lightly aerates the top 25-30mm, allowing any surface water to drain down deeper into the soil profile. Carry out the following regular tasks:
- Continue to roll the courts
- Fortnightly light scarification or verticutting
- Seed sparse or bare areas
Rolling. It is essential to carry out an effective rolling programme in April. Continue to roll the courts, firstly across the line of play, followed by rolling down the length of play. Timing of this operation is vitally important. Trying to roll when soil conditions are wet or too dry will not achieve the desired effect.
Mowing. The mowing height on the courts should be lowered to around 8-10mm for the playing season, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut.
Light scarification or verticutting can be carried out at fortnightly intervals pre-season. Removing horizontally growing grasses and surface organic matter are always beneficial for the onset of court preparation which, together with brushing, will improve the quality of cut.
- Ensure drainage outfalls, channels and ditches are clear
- Inspect stored posts, nets, seating and notice/score boards
- Inspect and remove debris from playing surface
- Regular sweeping and brushing
- Repair any hollows or damaged areas
- Repaint lines
We face what is an unprecedented situation in modern times. Each and every corner of society at large is facing the reality of global pandemic at the hands of a microscopic infectious agent consisting of genetic material, in the form of long chains of DNA or RNA molecules. Viruses are somewhat indefinable; having been said to be “organisms on the edge of life”. As we all already knew, but are now understanding, whilst they are both incredibly small and incredibly simple, viruses are able to impact all avenues of human life and society on a gargantuan scale. Their simplicity is, of course, their greatest strength.
At a time when the whole of human society is facing its greatest viral adversary since the 1918-19 H1N1 influenza pandemic, the value of the sports turf industry and the dedicated people who work to facilitate a surface for play, will no longer be in an active position of contributing towards providing recreational sporting activity in people’s daily lives. The industry, both at a professional and amateur level, contributes great value to the recreational activities of society; activities which will be sorely missed by many, but perhaps this presents an opportunity for them to be appreciated anew once they return. There are many challenges to be faced in the coming weeks and months, both professionally and sadly personally too, but with each hardship also comes opportunity. In particular, awareness of the smaller things; the details we often overlook in our busy day to day activities and pressures. Time may also be there for thought, reflection and inventiveness. For it is in the quiet times where the greatest opportunities for inspiration and creativity lie. These will be the things which allow all of us to collectively rise from the hardships. Things will be different, but we have it in our control to be able to make things a better kind of different. I was speaking to a Head Greenkeeper of thirty-five years’ experience a few weeks ago. Just as the current situation started to take shape, he said to me; “one thing’s for sure, we’ll all learn a lot from this, each and everyone one of us.” He was right. Let’s make sure we all support each other as an industry to make those lessons count.
The impact of this should mean that we do not hide from a situation where sports turf professionals and amateur volunteers across the country are facing immediate tough challenges and stresses. Clubs of all sporting disciplines will be facing tough decisions, relating to business and people, with curtailed budgets due to wholesale drops in revenue, and reduced staffing due to efficiency savings and governmental advice. All these things are real, and all of them are tough. However, I know that one thing at the forefront of the mind of everyone involved in the day to day management and maintenance of a sports turf area will be the continued maintenance of the facility and the grass plant. For whilst human society grinds to a halt, nature in all its spring-like glory relentlessly endures without pause or consideration for human constructs. In the current situation however, we must be realistic about what we can achieve and we must, as with many aspects of our life, focus on the basics; the basics with respect to the grass plant are nutrition, light and water.
Key Agronomic Points
- Grass plants not being subjected to play will be under reduced levels of abiotic stress. Without the need for play, we can reduce this further by increasing heights of cut. This will allow the plant to collect more energy, giving solar radiation and in turn create more carbon, both for itself and the beneficial microorganisms inhabiting the rhizosphere - as a result, we would expect plant health to be more resilient. Slow release spring fertilisers will provide cost effective nutrition in a steady flow, helping to regulate growth in a manner which promotes plant health but reduces pressure for maintenance.
- Plant growth regulators, such as trinexapac-ethyl and prohexadione-calcium, will reduce growth pressure and may help to ease the mowing burden on stretched teams working reduced shifts or split days.
- Water management will be assisted by sarrel tine aeration, which is time efficient, cost effective and allows a large surface area of the turf to respire gasses and percolate water. Surfactant programmes may still have a place for those seeking to reduce costs with water bills, should irrigation be required later in the year.
- Pests such as leather jackets and chafer grubs will continue in their life cycles. So, whilst it may not seem the most pressing thing to pay attention to at this moment in time, maintaining observations as part of your Integrated Pest Management plan will be crucial for timing operations later in the season. The aim being to keep surfaces in the best condition possible later in the year, and at a time when maximising revenue streams may well be even more important than ever.
The coming weeks will be challenging, but if we do support each other as a sports turf community we can all help one another to the other side.
You should have had your mower serviced and sharpened ready for the new season.
- Inspect machinery and equipment
- Clean after use
- Remember to check air filters
- Inspect and reset mowing blades on cylinder mowers to ensure they remain sharp
Grounds Training was established in 2006 to provide a complete and unique service delivery training courses for the sports turf industry. We are now the go-to provider for on-site, bespoke training for groups. Grounds Training also works with the industry’s awarding bodies – Lantra and City & Guilds (NPTC).
We have a wide range of ground care machinery courses, safe handling of pesticides Lantra Accredited Initial Sports Line Marking and Synthetic Sports Surfaces course . All our courses are delivered by industry qualified instructors registered with Lantra Awards and or NPTC.
We also offer a small number of open courses at our site at Allscott ,Telford.
All the course we have to offer can be found by visiting https://www.groundstraining.com/