Wet and wonderful up north
So far, we have played six games at Ewood Park, the last one against Aston Villa, and the pitch is looking very good. We've got a new manager, Mark Hughes. I knew him when he was here as a player, and he more or less lets me get on with my work. I have had a couple of chats with him to get his views on what we are doing, to see if he wants anything done differently or something extra. I've asked him to let me know, but his main input is down at the training ground, for additional grids and so. It is important to keep the communication channels working. I have no problems, he might want to have more input later on, but it is still early days.
Ewood Park is looking and playing very well, with a good healthy sward. It is a lot better than last year and I put that down to the wet weather we've had. During the summer we took the top off the pitch and power harrowed the upper root zone. Then we seeded down with 2 different machines. I changed my seed to Barenbrug's Bar 7 this year and it has been superb.
This time last year we were worried about the stability. We had good long roots, but no root mass and organic matter near the surface. This year we've consolidated a lot more root mass at the surface as well as at a greater depth and the pitch has a far firmer feel to it. We haven't done anything differently, we've used exactly the same dressings, Tarmac's prestige rootzone. The weather is the difference. Last year it was dry so the roots went deep looking for water whereas, with all the rain this summer, there has been plenty of water getting to the top of the rootzone as well.
The club secretary was happy because he thought we'd probably saved a fortune on the water bill, but I pointed out that what we'd saved on water we've spent on extra fertiliser. With all the recent rain, it's gone through like there's no tomorrow. I have put on two dressings at 6 weekly intervals of 100kg of granulated potash. Because of the heavy rainfall in August and September a lot has leeched through, and the first thing that disappears is the potassium. I am now feeding every 2 weeks with a 6:0:12 at just less than half rate, using about 150kg per pitch.
At Ewood, we are cutting four times a week at 25mm. We will let that creep up to about 28mm as we get towards the winter. We've not done any aeration since we did the work in the summer, but we will be verti-draining at least once before Christmas and multi-coring a couple of times as well.
The pitches at the Academy and training ground are also looking good. We are just about to complement the granular feeds with a liquid 5:4:20. It appears to work very well, I think it gives a good balance. At the Academy and Training grounds we aerate as often as possible. The verti-draining at this time of year never stops. It's a bit like painting the Forth bridge. We have 14 pitches between the two venues, so after verti-draining all of them two weeks later we are back again repeating the whole process.
And it's the same with the multi core. One week at the Academy, with the verti-drain at the training ground, the next week we change them around. One gives a deeper aeration and the other, the multi core, a shallower one. The two machines complement one another very well.
The only machinery I have been allowed to add to my stock this year is a seeder. I bought a little Blec seeder. I used it for the renovations on the Academy and training grounds. It is a fantastic machine. It's tractor mounted and goes on the 3 point linkage.
Although we've had a lot of rain, as we typically do in Blackburn, we do not use rain covers. If the construction of the pitch is right, then I don't see them being useful at all. In fact I don't like them at all, I think it's the quickest way to wreck a pitch if they are not managed correctly.
Overall, we've had a good start to the season. The summer work and all the rain has been good for the pitch, but the best time to judge it will be when we've played 20 or 25 games, I'll give you another report then, in the meantime good luck.