Steve Drew: Bristol City FC.
March/April is a busy time for us all. Yet again rainfall levels are top of the charts, not to mention our boots. The pitch at Ashton Gate has performed well this year considering the torrid conditions the weatherman has thrown at us. " Is it just me or does everybody seem to get an inch of rain in a flash flood one hour before kick off.
Sometimes it pays to keep smiling (After all you can only do your best and I keep thinking that it can't just be happening to me).
An example of this happened to me after being notified by the F.A that my pitch was in the nominations for the Groundsman of the year awards. Dr S Baker (STRI) was due to come and judge the pitch but we played Oldham the night before and nearly 2" of rain fell before and during the game. Well at final whistle I could have cried at the mud bath that I was left with!! Needless to say that was the end of my award chance and I thank small mercy that it happened in March and not December. By the way well done to Jim Gardiner at Wycombe on winning, job well done.
March saw seven fixtures at Ashton Gate with both first and reserve team action. Our program for March was mainly to keep water percolating through the surface; this was achieved by solid tine (20mm) to a depth of 125mm at 50mm centres. We also managed to oversow with eight bags (200kgs) of rye grass seed through the diamond of the pitch to enable new growth establishment prior to end of season renovation. Once seeded I fertilised the pitch with 300 kgs of 6:0:4 and gave the pitch a spray of liquid seaweed. I find that the seaweed is very good in helping the grass to recover and encourages the root growth as spring emerges. I try and brush the pitch everyday to remove dew and debris; this discourages disease and if I see any I treat the pitch with a fungicide immediately.
April sees temperatures up slightly but it is still damp and I am still brushing daily.
This is the time for my budgets for the forthcoming season so I spend some time planning my future expenditure. It becomes a very busy time and along with six more fixtures I have an I.O.G training day to contend with at the training ground. On the day, 15 delegates and myself roll up our sleeves and successfully carry out the various procedures of renovation. The training ground is made up of quite heavy clay and we have no facilities to irrigate. I try to renovate the pitches as early as possible so that there is enough moisture and April showers to help the grass germinate and establish before hotter weather appears.
Our renovation included scarifying, hollow coring, good sweep to remove all debris and cores, overseeding and the spreading and looting in of eighty tonnes of medium/coarse sand.
Back at Ashton Gate I am looking to get more air into the ground by using my spiker and encourage the roots to push down ready for next seasons onslaught. As Poa annua (666) rears its ugly seed heads I try to remove them by verti-cutting and regular brushing with a sweep-collector. I now don't mind lowering the height of cut on the mower as we move back into growth but I keep to a minimum 20mm height of cut. I have changed my fertiliser regime to 12:0:9 composition so as to boost growth and help thicken out the sward. This will help to smother any Poa that is already trying to establish itself in the pitch. I use a non-phosphorous fertiliser to reduce Poa germination, combined with the liquid seaweed to aid rye recovery from what has been a long and very wet season.
Finally I am now fine-tuning the work for the end of the season which I provisionally booked back in November. This booking ensures that the equipment I need is available as soon as the season finishes.