The end of the season has finally arrived for Blackburn, and fortunately we can look forward to another Premiership year. The pitch has stood up well to the wear and tear this year and we have managed to retain good levels. The renovation work is still vital, and we are currently getting the work at Ewood Park finished off, as quickly as possible.
The renovations that I have planned for the main ground and for our thirteen other pitches between the training ground and the Academy; are pretty much the same.
I have had all the pitches fraize-mowed with the Koro machine (a little later than I had hoped, but that's contractors for you!); this cleans the surface and reduces the Poa annua (annual meadow grass) significantly. There is a lot of rubbish produced though and it's important to calculate the quantity of rubbish for disposal. You can work on at least 100 cubic metres of grass waste per pitch!
At Ewood Park with the surface stripped clean, we have used our Toro multicore and hollow tined at a 3 1/2" (90mm) depth at 2" (50mm) centres. For me the most important job is getting air back into the profile, aeration figures throughout the season, but now that we have a break, I am not worried about surface disturbance and want to get as much soil and air exchange as possible. This will give the new seedlings the best possible chance to establish before the start of next season.
Once the pitch was hollow tined, I allowed the cores on the surface to dry slightly before using a core recycler to break them up and spread the sieved sand/soil back over the pitch. The core recycler is a new machine that I had on trial last year, it is a tractor mounted, PTO driven brush inside a cage that resembles a drag mat. The cores are swept up by the powered brush and are smashed against the cage, like the Ronseal advert on TV; the machine does what it says it does.
Once the cores were recycled I repeated the process of hollow tining and recycling, the only thing that changed was our operating direction, this time across the pitch.
With all this done we seeded with 12 bags (25kgs/bag) of Bar stadia seed. I used the cyclone spreader to broadcast the seed because I prefer to keep as much machinery off the main pitch as possible. With pop up irrigation, it is relatively easy to get the seed to establish, and as the ground tends to be warmer nearer the surface, germination is within 5-6 days at this time of year. However on the other pitches we will probably use our pro-seeder to get the seed in. These areas are more exposed and I need to give the seed additional protection.
With the seed on now, we have twenty tonnes of 70:30 root zone (Sand/soil) to spread. I felt that the overall levels have been very good this year, so I am cutting back on quantities of dressing. Anyway with 10 pitches to dress, it becomes an expensive operation otherwise. Once top dressed, the root zone and recycled material will be drag matted and brushed in to the surface to finalise the levels.
Finally we will fertilise with 300kgs of spring/summer fertiliser, and then vertidrain the pitch to put it to bed. I prefer to do this operation last, as the heave that the machine gives us, shatters any deep panning, and creates even more air space in the profile.
With the exception of water, nothing else will go on the pitch for the next couple of weeks, so the vertidrain holes will allow plenty of fresh air in.
We hope to finish Ewood Park this weekend, and then move on to the other two grounds. Hopefully in a week or so, all our renovations will have finished.
Good luck with yours.