Verti-Drain contributes to Wigan's Winning Ways Wigan Athletic FC have impressed the footballing world with their rapid rise through the divisions, and they are currently in strong contention for a place in European competition next season. Equally remarkable is the quality of the pitch at the club's JJB Stadium, because the surface also has to withstand the home games of the Wigan Warriors Rugby League side.
Promoted to the Premiership only last season, Wigan decided to invest in additional equipment to keep the pitch in peak condition. Today, this is almost as important for television producers as it is for the players.
Top of Head Groundsman Ian Forshaw's list was a Verti-Drain deep aerator from Charterhouse Turf Machinery. "At the end of last season, there was a problem with 'black layer' inhibiting the growth of healthy turf," he says. "We bought the Verti-Drain to tackle this in particular."
Verti-Drain machines help to revitalise turf, not only by digging deeper, but also by their manner of operation. The tines 'heave' the soil as they leave the ground, shattering deep-rooted compaction. This creates extra pore and air space, encouraging drainage, healthy grass growth and beneficial microbial activity.
Wigan chose a 7215 Verti-Drain, a lightweight model requiring a tractor of only 25hp. The 1.56m wide (61in) machine can penetrate to a maximum depth of 250mm (10in) and it accepts solid, hollow or cross tines.
Ian uses the Verti-Drain regularly, choosing different tines to suit the prevailing conditions. He also varies the direction of operation to maximise the benefits and to ensure all areas are treated.
"The Verti-Drain has made a huge difference and we are delighted with the results," says Ian. "Previously, the 'black layer' problem extended to 10cm (4in) under the surface, but it has reduced dramatically to about half a pencil's width now."
"The surface is much better," he continues. "Compaction has been relieved, the soil drains more freely and the turf is healthier because air and nutrients can enter the rootzone more easily. The Verti-Drain is just the job."
The JJB Stadium pitch is a Desso construction, which features a proportion of synthetic fibres combined with natural turf. The action of the Verti-Drain has helped to knit the sward together, increasing its resilience against the pressures imposed by soccer and rugby players.
Wigan are so impressed by the Verti-Drain that they have just bought another. The additional unit is a 7416 model with a working width of 1.6m (63in), and which can reach depths of 35cm (14in). It is being used at the club's training ground, so the players should detect no difference in pitch quality.
Photo: Head Groundsman, Ian Forshaw, with the new Verti-Drain 7215 at the JJB Stadium, home to Wigan Football Club.