Turf Care evolves at Shrewsbury School.
By Sue Meeken
With Charles Darwin amongst its more famous pupils, it is not surprising that Shrewsbury School is taking a scientific approach to its grounds maintenance regime.
Sport is a major element in the curriculum at the school, which was founded in 1552 and is one of the largest boys' boarding schools in England. It has 14 pitches that accommodate football from September until Christmas, then rugby until Easter, followed by cricket during the summer.
One of the weapons in Head Groundsman Anthony Hough's armoury is a Higher National Diploma in Environmental Science. He uses his scientific knowledge to fine-tune the quality of the playing surfaces.
Formerly on the Fulham FC grounds staff and having ten years' turf care experience, Anthony constantly monitors the performance of the grounds and makes adjustments accordingly. Most recently, this led him to buy a 7516 Verti-Drain from Charterhouse Turf Machinery, to maximise the effectiveness of his regular deep aeration work. The model he chose can penetrate up to 16in (40cm), and is pulled by the school's existing 45hp New Holland TC45D-A tractor.
"Using a Verti-Drain is a vital part of our regular turf maintenance programme," he says. "The school's grounds are on heavy clay soil and so aeration improves surface drainage, decompacting lower layers of soil. We adjust the tine depth and the direction of treatment to give the optimum playing conditions."
Like other models in the Verti-Drain line-up, the 1.6m wide 7516's principle of operation means that the tines 'heave' the soil before being withdrawn, to further break up the ground and to increase air space. This encourages healthy grass growth and beneficial microbial activity.
"The 7516 is simply fantastic and gives no trouble at all," enthuses Anthony Hough. "We use it almost constantly, always checking that the conditions are right. Being on clay soil, if the surface is too wet, then the tines will smear the soil and cap the drainage channels. After rain, we ensure the surface is just slightly damp with dry layers below; the Verti-Drain then breaks the surface and its heave action opens up drainage fissures perfectly."
Obviously, Anthony Hough is using his experience to achieve the best results - emulating the students at Shrewsbury School.