The independent school, which takes pupils from their nursery years to 'A' levels, has four full size rugby pitches, a synthetic hockey pitch, athletics track, rounders pitches and hard tennis courts. In summer the rugby pitches form the outfield for three cricket squares, so when term finishes at Easter, John and his team have three weeks to get them turned around and the turf back in pristine condition.
"The pitches get lots of wear - they are used for two hours a day, Monday-Friday and then for 2-3 games each during Saturday fixtures," John comments. "Combined with the London clay soil which gives poor drainage, they are in serious need of renovation by the end of the season."
After aiming to get the pitches as level as possible during the last few weeks of the season, he hires in a Charterhouse disc seeder and sows the seed in four directions - two passes over the whole pitch and twice more up the centre. For the past two years he has used 10-11 bags of British Seed Houses A20 Ryesport mixture per pitch, which combines the ryegrasses Vesuvius, Lucius, Cadix and Carnac for a quick recovering, disease resistant sward.
"I've used a number of different brands over the 12 years I have been at the school," John comments, "But A20 gives excellent germination, even in cold conditions. Bearing in mind that we are usually seeding at the beginning of April, we have seen frosts after seeding in recent years, but the seed still comes up well."
Sandy Pentecost of British Seed Houses explains: "All the cultivars in A20 are top performing varieties and this leads to a good turnover of seed lots from season to season, rapid germination is indicative of fresh seed and generally leads to stronger seedlings and subsequently a stronger sward".
Signs of emergence can be seen within six days, and when seeds have all germinated after a couple of weeks, slow release fertiliser is applied. Watering is a labour intensive process, as the water pressure is only sufficient to irrigate one pitch a day, but essential in recent cold, dry springs.
After 17-18 days, growth is strong enough for a first cut with a rotary, before trailed gangs are used for regular mowing duties as the pitches take on their summer cricket outfield role.
"The growth is strong and vigorous, and we have seen an improvement in its wear resistance right through the season - the A20 will go up to Christmas before the signs of wear show, so it definitely keeps more grass on the pitch," John comments. "We have been very impressed with the A20, and it certainly makes renovation easier."
British Seed Houses, Camp Road, Witham St Hughs, Lincoln, Lincolnshire LN6 9QJ UK
Tel: +44 (0)1522 868714 - Fax: +44 (0)1522 868095 - www.britishseedhouses.com