It's a learning curve.
We've had several games now at Ewood Park since the start of the season, and if I am honest it is difficult to know how the pitch is going to play this season.
Following the pop concert in June we had immediately set to work on some serious renovation. Firstly we had the top 20mm of the pitch stripped off with the Dutch Koro machine. We then spread evenly 350 tonnes of medium, fine sand which was ameliorated into the top 4 inches using a power harrow. Once the levels were re-graded and the surface consolidated the pitch was re-seeded using 14 bags of Bar Stadia grass seed.
When the pitch was constructed in 1994 with a Ruffords root zone, I found that it consisted of too many finer sands and particles. This meant that although the surface was reasonably stable it was prone to 'capping' and meant regular aeration to keep the water moving through. However the sand used this year was more of a medium sand, so one thing I do have to do is keep an eye on the nutrition leaching through too quickly because it is so much more free draining.
Given the short time scales, its been a big push at the start of this season , the seed didn't go down until June which left us just enough time to get the grass semi established before Augusts Barcelona match. The pitch played well for that game and I think we were helped for once by the weather, (someone up there does like us), the torrential rain for two days before the match was truly a God send.
I can see already that all through this season my constant battle will be getting enough water on the pitch. What a difference to last year! With the high sand content root zone, there will be no such thing as too much water. The Everton match last week is a good example. It rained Friday daytime and all night then again on Saturday. We also got the irrigation on from 8.30am match day morning and finished at 1.50pm. The pitch was totally and utterly flooded. By 3pm the ground was bone dry on the surface. The game went well and the pitch was great but my concerns rose during the final 20 minutes, when there were some worrying divots appearing because the pitch had dried out so much. The fact being that with 14 stone footballers giving the performance of a life time (in some cases anyway!) the pitch showed signs of root break occurring. While I have strong thick rooting in the top one inch(25mm), the rooting below that is less dense. The stress caused to the area below 25mm depth may well cause us future problems.
However, with a bit of sunshine during the next 4 weeks or so, we should see the photosynthesis get going on the leaf to buck up the root systems. We are currently using a range of products such as 'Activate' which we are spraying on every 4 weeks. We are also using Amino-sorb which is a root stimulant and also applying high content potassium fertilisers. We used 10 bags of 0:0:59 as a slow release potassium feed that should last up to 5 months.
Time will tell this season and I am on a learning curve using this new coarser root zone system, a long cold dry winter is not what I am looking for. I know that if we have a prolonged cold dry spell that I will struggle to put water on the pitch for fear of it freezing and us losing games. Without the stability provided by water the root system may well not be strong enough to cope with the rigours of professional football during the forthcoming months. But now after 7 games the pitch looks immaculate, so with water as my closest ally I am sure that by the end of this season I will have taken you through all the heartbreaks and highlights of these root zone systems, the effects on the playing surface and my own sanity.
All the best.