With all the doom and gloom in the public media - Hong Kong, Brexit, mass shootings, British Airways etc. - I'm pleased to say that, all in all, this year has been a fantastic year for growing grass.
A nice spring and a summer that has been warm, with reasonable amounts of the wet stuff, albeit heavy at times! A far cry from 2018, the weather has allowed us all to catch up again and get our surfaces looking good.
With the warm wet weather, you would expect a high incidence of disease. I certainly would have done a few years ago as we relied almost entirely on our armoury of fungicides to keep pathogens at bay as I fed the grass to the hilt with nitrogen. How times have changed.
Instead of costly chemicals, a more balanced nutritional programme, coupled with plenty of aeration, has equipped the plant with the improved means to defend itself. A healthy plant, as indeed a healthy you or me, is less susceptible to becoming ill.
The modern turf technician must use a combination of skills to keep the grass at an optimum, but knowing your soil analysis, pH, CEC, and having a reasonable budget, allows us to magic up some quality for the players.
To supplement the required macro nutrients of NPK, we use trace elements, seaweed, sugar, humic and fulvic acids, nitrites and calcium, as well as a little iron to keep the grass healthy and resistant.
I have always advocated that the key to good grass is a healthy aerated soil/rootzone. The most important time to aerate is through the growing months, creating air space to allow the ground and roots to breathe, and for these roots to colonise the space and go down in search of water.
Creating a healthy soil with good beneficial microbial populations, produces a strong plant with a good root system, but this is mostly achievable during the summer/autumn period, before the soil temperatures drop down and the plant slows its growth. There was a time when I was told to only spike the ground in the winter, to help remove surface water, as it was seen purely as a drainage action; how much we have learnt over the years!
Since its launch, I have also been a keen user of growth retardants - or, more specifically, late cycle gibberellic acid inhibitors - that slow upward growth and divert this energy into rooting and tillering. The cost is far from prohibitive and, if you can cost its use against the wear and tear of mowing machinery, fuel and labour, it's a no-brainer.
As we enter the autumn, I can't quite believe how quickly this year has flown by, although looking at surfaces across all the sports at the moment, our industry's future is looking pretty bright.
I wish you all the best at your venues.