Getting the Balance at Reading
We've had a lot of games on the pitch so far this season - 29 football and 11 rugby. London Irish play here and Reading Football Club's first and reserve teams.
I'm quite pleased with the pitch, although I do think we've been a bit unlucky this year, particularly with the rugby games. We had a lot of games crammed close together, and it was really wet for 3 or 4 of them.
One weekend we had rain all day on the Saturday during a football match and then we had a rugby game against Leicester the following day. The pitch would not have been playable for football but it was OK for the rugby. It did a lot of damage to the pitch, as you can imagine.
When you have a wet rugby game, the boots mash the grass into a sticky layer. On that one game you probably lose 25-30% of your grass cover through the middle. When you have grass pushing on to sand it springs back up; but when it pushes on to the gluey layer it just sticks and becomes buried, so far more grass is lost as a consequence. The surface quickly deteriorates. I'd say I've lost about 50% grass cover this year in the middle, and maybe 30% across the rest.
On a positive note, I'm pleased to say I've reached a good understanding with the manager. Last season the team trained on the pitch at least once per week. In the summer they said they wanted the reserve games to be played on the main pitch. I made it clear that the pitch would not cope with first team, reserves, training and rugby.
We reached an agreement stating that there would be no training on the pitch. Also, if there were any double headers i.e. a first team game on Tuesday followed by reserves on Wednesday, the reserve game would be moved to Didcote FC. So far we've had two games switched.
In essence, I've got 3 fixture lists - first team, reserves and rugby. At least I know where I stand and can plan the work. In the past I've had situations when I've spiked and fertilised, then had a phone call telling me that the team were training on the pitch the next morning - this scenario tended to cause a lot of damage. This way round I can plan accordingly around the fixtures.
In the summer, I need to get the top off the pitch, about 8-10mm. I've got a Desso pitch and I know at Villa that they went quite deep with the koro which took out some of the Desso and took about 2-3 weeks to re-stitch. We're not going to go in that deep.
I really just want to strip the top vegetation and expose the Desso again, exposing a reasonable root zone. The koro will take the poa out and give a good level for seeding. We will, in effect, be fraize mowing and then re-seeding with 15-16 25 kg bags. I am also planning the possibility of putting on some lime, if the Ph has fallen during the season, but this will only be subject to the soil analysis reports.