High early season usage at St Mary's
Just at the moment we're trying to compensate for the amount of usage that we have already had on the main stadium pitch this season. Our last game was against Arsenal last weekend. Since the match we have replaced the divots. This operation was followed by verticutting the pitch, setting the blades about 5mm(1/4") above the surface and then using the brush units in our Dennis mowers to clean the sward by removing the surface debris.
Because of the higher early season usage we have found that the percolation rates have started to slow and that the black layer is now forming about 25-30 mm (1") below the surface. We did some shallow aeration down to this level and then sprayed a Rigby Taylor product called 'Blockade' and some trace elements using our tractor mounted spray boom.
We are also doing some deeper aeration with our Sisis soil reliever to a depth of 175mm(7") at 100mm(4") centres using 13mm(1/2") solid tines. As we enter the winter, the machine is set to minimum 'heave' so as not to cause surface disturbance. I am now using this machine on a fortnightly basis, and with the current training regime on the pitch, I can't afford to loosen the surface too much.
So far this season we have hosted 12 matches and 27 training sessions. This is unusual for us, but our training facilities are quite small, with only one full size pitch and a 60x40 metre area for the first team squad to train on. Up until recently the pitches at the training ground had been coping, but with six days a week use, they are now starting to wear and I suppose that the boss (Gordon Strachen) feels that while the surface at St Mary's is good, then he'll use it as a training venue as well. Yesterday the team trained, they will be back in on Friday and again on Saturday, before they go to play their next match. This represents 41 uses before we get to December. Compared to previous years at the Dell this is already over double the usage for a season on the main stadium pitch.
If they are training on the main pitch, I'll talk to the boss in the morning and discuss the best areas for him to use. The North goalmouth got turned over a couple of weeks ago during a training session, but it's still stable at the moment. We will be re-turfing this shortly though, with some fibre reinforced turf tiles. The South goal is still looking good, and should be the worst goalmouth because it's at the cooler end and suffers with the lack of sunlight.
When the stadium was built we had some clear panels put in at the back of the top tier of seating and also in the roof itself at the South end. In the summer when the sun is higher the back panels are of no real benefit but the roof panels allow the sunlight in. In the winter when the sun is lower in the sky, the back panels help allow in the light, but the roof panels are
This week we also used our Variseeder to over seed the pitch, although I don't expect a 100% success at this late stage, the soil temperatures are still at around 10 degrees Celsius and therefore plenty warm enough for some seed germination. We have put about 140 kg's down and I think it will help to thicken out the sward a little during the next few weeks. Once the seed had been applied, we used the Quadraplay with the brush and slitter to slit down to 25mm and brush the seed in to the Variseeder dimples and the slits.
Many people ask me about the mowing patterns that my assistant, Andy and I produce. It started as a bit of fun, but already this season we have cut the pitch with eight different patterns. In some respect we have become as superstitious as the footballers, so we retain each pattern for as long as the team keep winning at home. Obviously we won last weekend so we will keep the current pattern until we next lose or draw.
When England played here against Macedonia, we thought about doing the Union Jack, but ended up cutting the St Georges flag in. The two bands for the cross were as wide as the centre circle, and we then criss-crossed the four corners in a check pattern with single mower widths. It didn't really show up that well, because the cross itself was too big. At the moment we have reverted to the Shirt design stripes.
During the stadium construction we also asked for the track and the pitch to be built at the same level. The track is made of a rubberised tarmac so when we mow, spike, brush etc we can do the machine turns off the grass, which is a big bonus.As for the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see how the pitch continues to perform; it is still very much in its infancy as we are only half way through our second season at the new stadium so I'll keep you informed.