Taking it in my stride
It's coming up to six months since joining NEC Harlequins as their Head Groundsman. The time has gone by very quickly since I arrived in early April. I had just a handful of games left at the end of last season to deal with before having to organise and then oversee the end of season renovation programme. Since then I have nursed the new grasses to establishment in preparation for the forthcoming season.
My "summer holiday" has been getting to know the pitch at the Stoop, having a general and much needed tidy up of the site and of course ensuring the pitch gets all the TLC that we can provide for it.
It has been about trying to achieve the balance between good deep root growth whilst ensuring that the mature grasses and the newly sown seed doesn't get stressed or even dry out.
In this heat with a good drainage system you can be up against it and perhaps having to water during the hottest part of the day which is not best practice but essential when needs must.
As Groundsmen we are all aware of the underlying factors that this hot weather will bring us as the season progresses into the depths of winter.
I have found it necessary to feed and water very regularly, just to keep the grass from burning up. The problem arises with the large amounts of water that have been necessary to use. How much root depth are you achieving? I think it is going to be of some concern to all of us in the very near future because the root depth is going to be no where near what you would have liked or even have anticipated. Just a little food for thought?
September; live on Sky against the London Wasps, the reigning Zurich champions. I have two friendlies before this fixture. The games will then come thick and fast from August 28th until November 28th. with a game every week at the Stoop. These will entail all our 1st, 2nd, U21 and U19 team games.
After this period my season quietens down nicely, with just one game in December.
In the New Year, assuming the club are still in the cup competitions, it will be two games a month. At the moment it looks like two weeks at home over the Christmas period, lucky me.
As well as the routine work on the pitch, my last few weeks at The Stoop have been to ensure all my requirements for the forthcoming season have been ordered. Items such as marking materials, new strings etc, fertilisers, seed are now in stock ready for use.
I have also checked over, repaired and cleaned the match post protectors and flags as well as the clubs frost covers in readiness for those dark cold winter months, hopefully they won't be needed, we can but hope.
I have been following a fertiliser programme throughout the summer, but my next feed is planned for a few days before the Sky game ensuring that the fertiliser will peak on the day of the game.
I have kept up my aeration programme with regular slitting, as well as verti-cutting to thin out the dead grass within the sward to allow good air movement and let in light at the plant base.
In the middle of August, because of the infestation of clover, plantains and other perennial weeds I sprayed the pitch with Bastion T to eradicate these weeds.
The site looks tidy and presentable and my only doubt is the root growth, will the pitch perform over the coming season? Hopefully with cooler weather in the autumn and another spurt of seasonal growth, the plant will throw down its roots, and any panic will be averted.
Some people might think I have gone insane but I am looking forward to the new season with a new job, new club, new game and the new challenges. One thing is for sure I will be taking it in my stride.
What I have learnt over the last few years with this profession, that there is more to life than a game of football on a Saturday afternoon.Happy Days