Spring Top Dressing.
By David Goodjohn
The Daffodils are in bloom, the temperature's rising and, glory be, England has won two Test matches in the West Indies!
There's just one cloud on the horizon, and that's the state of those Football and Rugby pitches out there, desperately in need of top dressing. But why do we need to be doing this top dressing? Let's look at some of the reasons:
General wear and tear from those numerous matches played this season have left a diamond shape over those soccer pitches with little or no grass cover. Vigorous rucking, mauling, scrummages and lineouts have left bare patches and ugly scars in the hallowed rugby turf. How are we going to get it back into peak condition?
As a part of the springtime aeration / overseeding regime, top dressing is necessary because the seed needs an environment within which it is more easy to establish and grow. For seed to successfully germinate it needs close contact with the soil, and the correct top dressing can also provide shelter from the variations in the weather.
The scenes of devastation often left from games having been played in atrocious conditions (often against the groundsman's stated opinion) can be pitiful to witness. The effects of frost, rain snow and wind lead to structural damage in the soil, and these changes need to be rectified in the Spring. Add to this the erosion caused by the weather and soil being carried off on players' boots and kit and it's easy to see why each pitch has to be replenished and refreshed at the end of a long season.
It's often a great help to get a soil analysis at this time of year too. Is my rootzone too clay bound or too sandy? Whatever the excesses or deficiencies (and this goes for nutrients too) they clearly need to be helped back to levels which will aid grass growth. By helping to develop the approved type of soil profile (sandy enough to help drainage but not to light so that grass plants are easily kicked out) we can help make the next season simpler in terms of maintenance, and more likely to improve in the longer term.
Remember, if you mention top dressing to a farmer he'll think about fertilisers, so make sure as a Groundsman you don't solely think about Soil and Sand top dressings but also the appropriate fertiliser as part of a year round programme. Try to imagine what you're aiming for in the longer term, and by using the right materials and practices in the here and now, it makes the immediate future far easier and leads to groundscare nirvana in the long run as you aim for the holy grail, the perfect surface.