Frost? -In Jersey
I have been working at the Springfield Stadium for the last six years. In fact the ground was redeveloped back in 1996. It was a football pitch before that time but the planners had it earmarked for housing. Fortunately they chose to keep the football pitch and now it has become the main stadium venue on Jersey. All the cup finals and any visiting teams come and play here including some of the mainland premiership clubs for pre-season tournaments and training.
This season we hosted an under 21's pre-season international tournament with players from Boca Juniors, Benfica, Celtic and Manchester United. Benfica and Boca Juniors got all the way to London but couldn't get to Jersey because of the fog so we had to re-arrange all of the games. With temperatures above 90 degrees on some of the hottest days of the year, the games also had to be played in the evenings because of the heat. It was a good pre-season tournament played in early August, but after these games we had just a week's break and then our season was under way.
The stadium hosts a number of Jersey First division teams, who use the venue as a home ground. Sometimes a different team will play here each night and we usually get about seventy to seventy five games a season from September to May.
None of the teams use the facility for training, although we did have a training game prior to the Inter Island games. As well as the private clubs, some of the schools play their matches here during the day as part of their normal sports activities. I also get school sports days during the summer.
Frost is very unusual here on Jersey, but when we do get the occasional cold night it normally goes off quite quick in the morning sun. The north end of the pitch is okay, but the south end tends to keep the frost in for longer, because it's in the shadows of the buildings. However I'm quite lucky that overall, it is an open venue so the pitch does get a good airing. The warmer climate helps to keep the grass growing quite well, even in the depths of winter.
At the moment I am cutting the pitch twice a week and even on Christmas week I was cutting and collecting clippings from off the pitch. The Dennis mower is set at 36mm at the moment. We had the STRI here as our consultants. They provided a maintenance schedule, which included a minimum height of cut of 25mm and a maximum height of cut at 36mm.
This season I've kept it a bit higher because of the number of games that we've already had and the long dry summer weather. Keeping a little bit more leaf on the plant helps to protect it. I leave the goalmouths slightly longer to aid extra protection there, preferring to cut these with a Victa rotary mower. All the grass has to be collected because the pitch is sand based and we try to keep the organic matter to a minimum.
The pitch was reconstructed on a gravel carpet with sand-based infill on top. There was a small amount of organic matter incorporated in the top couple of inches, before it was then turfed on top. The pitch had to be back in play the following season for the Island games and therefore there was not a big enough time window to instead, sow the newly prepared surface.
The method of turfing over the sand has given me problems ever since because we have a layer of material that came with the turf that tends to hold water. To correct this I hollow core the pitch every year, removing the cores and then top-dressing with sand. I use a Charterhouse verti drain with 25mm thick hollow tines at the end of the season, coring the whole pitch and removing the cores. Then the surface is sand dressed.
There are land drains built into the gravel carpet, which help to take the water away, we certainly needed this type of construction as there is actually a brook then runs under the centre of the pitch. There is also a very high water table and while we have soakaways at the end of the drains, they are always pretty full of water. On the Island, the water table is about four feet below the surface in the summer.
I usually aerate once a month, if I can get on between the games. When I do spike it is usually after a game once the pitch has been repaired and then I leave it open until the next game. Once it's spiked, I will avoid taking the mower on again until just before the next match, so as to get as much air into the ground as possible.
I have a GreensCare Coremaster, which I use on the back of our compact tractor. For deeper spiking, I'll call in the big vertidrain, maybe twice a year. In fact the pitch had a deep spike around Christmas time. Again I tried to leave it open as long as I can before the next game.
I don't get much of an opportunity to verti-cut the pitch because of time, although I do have a Dennis mower with interchangeable cassettes, but I tend to use the brush attachment most to sweep the grass, helping it to stand up a little bit more.
When conditions allow, I also use an old Sisis tractor mounted rake to lightly scarify the pitch. This is an attempt to remove as much of the ever so invasive Poa. It isn't as bad as it was. We have been fraise mowing the pitch for the last two years, cutting it really short by using an Amazon flail mower, the flails seem to remove a lot of the surface rooting Poa. Once scarified, we re-seed over the top to encourage the rye's to establish before the Poa takes hold again. The pitch doesn't divot much, we usually just get the top of the grass being scalped and you can still see the white of the roots underneath, which will grow back no problem. I don't find that there is much to divot at all, so I tend to brush and then mow the pitch and it recovers very well, it's good that way.
There is good root growth, last time I checked it was a good six or seven inches down, but it does vary over the pitch. The centre is a bit weaker but that it because it is on the highest point of the pitch and a main wear area. The pitch goes down from the centre to the goals and the centre to the touchlines so it's also the bit that dries out most quickly in the summer.
Although it's been a dry year, we have concentrated on actually drying the pitch out. We have been watering it for two days then leaving it for five through the hottest part of the summer, this has enabled the roots to go in search of water. It seems to
I don't really have that worry about the pitch turning over in a game here in Jersey. The only time that it may happen is if I watered heavily prior to games. When we had a tournament in the summer, one of the teams requested that the pitch was watered before the game. The top 25mm was soaking wet and underneath was quite dry. The subsequent result was quite a lot of divots. I prefer to leave the pitch dry for a game, the only damage that occurs then as I said, are a few scrapes and surface scarring.
We have a full irrigation system at Springfield; with eight turf risers in the pitch and sixteen pop ups around the outside. We are very lucky to have the equipment and resources available here on the island. When we visit the mainland and see what others have to work with it is eye opening. This also goes for the players, they really don't realise how lucky they are here on Jersey. All the goals and nets are up ready for them prior to games, none of this putting your own goals and nets up that I've seen over in England.
The pitches over here are growing pretty much all year round, which means there is nearly always recovery. Visiting teams love to play on these pitches and because of the conditions the pitch always has a nice thick sward of grass on it. Even in December I can over seed the pitch and know that the seed will germinate in the next ten to twelve days, so we're very lucky. Because the pitch is sand based we don't have games called off. The only time that we've lost games in the past has been when the pitch is frozen- once in a blue moon.
We get lots of good comments from overseas players, we hosted games for West Ham and Utrecht and the players thought that the surface was one of the best in Europe.
The closed season is quite short for us though, this year we finished games on the 19th May, and had the pitch renovated and seeded by the 26th. The first pre-season games were being played by the 9th July.
After we fraise mowed in May, the pitch was hollow tined, and top-dressed with about 60 tonnes of sand. We used a Moore's seeder and a Sisis star seeder to put down about eight 25kg bags of perennial rye grass mix. (35% Verdi, 35% Barlinda and 30% Ritmo). Due to the short closed season we re-turfed both the goalmouths.
We've got a little bit of clover and the occasional daisy, but I haven't used any chemicals, preferring instead to hand pick anything coming through. Last year we did spray one application of Bastion T to remove the weeds.
The only downside really is that the stadium is still classed as a local park and we get locals walking across the pitch and kids playing on the pitch. We now use some portable Jackson fencing across the goalmouths to stop excess wear in these areas.
The good thing is that we don't get dogs in the park. Jersey is a tourist island and has strict policy about dog walking, and dog mess. In fact we only allow guide dogs in the park.