Birley's Field at St Stephens, named after former Headmaster Norman Birley who bought the land in 1927, is the School's main playing field. It comprises 8 hectares and is used for rugby, football, hockey, lacrosse, cricket, athletics and rounders.
There are hard courts for tennis and netball; an artificial grass hockey pitch (also used for tennis courts); a grass athletics track; three grass cricket squares, artificial grass wickets and 24 practice cricket wickets.
With rugby pitches used as cricket outfields in the summer term, a quick turnaround is required to get the turf back in pristine condition after a tough winter programme.
"We're on 8 metres of clay with minimal topsoil so it can be a challenge to produce top quality playing surfaces," explains Head of Gardens and Grounds Mark Collins who has been at the school for 20 years, "Yet we rarely get any cancellations."
Kent's second team squad recently played a one day and three day tournament against Surrey on the school pitches and were fulsome in their praise of the outfield quality.
"Visiting schools often comment on how good our outfield is, but it was gratifying to hear the Kent squads remark that we have maintained good cover, despite the difficult summer, and praise the quality of the turf," Mark says.
He attributes the even, consistent cover to his use of Multigreen 20-0-32 temperature controlled release fertiliser, which provides cost effective nutrition in a single application lasting a whole season.
After a priming period which offers immediately available nutrients to help with recovery and ensure that pitches look pristine for the start of the autumn season, the polymer coated Multigreen prill only releases nitrogen and potash when temperatures exceed 6 degrees centigrade, in line with the optimum conditions for grass growth.
"We put Multigreen on at 35g/m2 in the autumn and sometimes in the spring and it gives the turf a consistent, slow regular feed which avoids growth flushes that you get with other products," he explains.
"The steady growth is so beneficial to us - we mow every day, and it makes for less clippings, which in turn minimises thatch development."
He adds that in the winter, Multigreen offers good recovery over a long period, lasting into the spring and helping the pitches withstand the battering of a heavy winter sports fixture list - pupils are required to participate in games three times a week, plus Saturday matches.
"Because the release of nutrients is temperature controlled, there is no sudden growth after heavy rain, so the turf is much easier to manage. It is so consistent, that is its real strength," says Mark.
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