End of the season-not quite yet!
Last Saturday the Madejski stadium hosted the final Zurich Premiership match of the season between London Irish and Bristol. A convincing victory by the home side in front of 12,696 supporters saw the visitors relegated to the National Division One.
However we're not yet in a position to get on with the all-important end of season renovation, we've still got matches to play. Obviously, there's been the play off between Reading and Wolves but there's also more rugby - the European Shield, 2 matches on 25th May; and before that an all day 6 aside tournament and 4 local cup finals. Although there is disappointment with Reading not progressing through to Cardiff for the play off final, the team have had an exceptional year, and the big bonus is London Irish staying in the top rugby division.
The stadium has seen a lot of heavy use during the winter - rugby, football and reserve team matches. Reserve team matches were only introduced this season because I did a deal which allowed them to be staged at the Madejski in return for no training. To be fair, the manager has stuck to the deal, and at least with reserves there is a fixture list, so you know where you stand. You can organise your work. With training you can be told the night before and you may have organised spraying or whatever, and suddenly your planning goes down the pan.
Fortunately, the club are very good with money, I've got a football and rugby budget. It gives me more scope to get extra fertiliser or seed when I need it. There are now three of us working on the pitch and landscaping around the stadium.
This season I have been able to buy a 30 inch Dennis cylinder mower; it is a brilliant mower. I use it a lot after games to get the rubbish up and stand the grass up. I tend to set it about 10 mm above the surface and it picks up all the bits and unknots the grass. If I use it to verticut, I will lower the blades to 2mm and it takes a fair bit of rubbish out.
The stadium pitch has the fibre re-inforcement of Desso. It has held up well overall but there was a lot of wear down the middle of the pitch on the south side, this was due to a concert we held last summer. The stage was set up in the south stand and we had 20,000 people on the pitch. But, the feet of the rock fans weren't the cause of the problem, most of the pitch was covered in Rolatrac - white tiles - to protect the grass. However, there was an area, about the
It was dark green and, unfortunately, it absorbed all the heat from the sun and scorched the grass. When we removed the tiles it was like hay underneath. That was in the middle of July, so we cracked on with the renovation immediately afterwards. I verti cut 4 times through the damaged area, then multi cored it and reseeded by hand.
However, there was a thick layer of dead grass and we couldn't get it all out. The pitch held up until November, and then it started waterlogging in that area. It then got churned up in a rugby game and it never recovered from then on through the winter.
Once the surface is stripped of the vegetation and clean, 40 tonnes of sand will be spread. The new seed will be sown and I'll soon start getting ready for the next season. The ph is a bit low at the moment, currently sitting at about 5.7/5.8 so as well as all the normal additions I'll be putting on about a tonne of lime to bring the pitch up to a preferred reading of 6.5.