As the football season reaches its climax, many of you will be hosting important games, whether that be promotion and relegation battles, cup games or even corporate events, so aim to achieve the best surface possible. It won’t be easy given the number of games, but presentation will go a long way.
Regular brushing will help to prevent disease outbreaks and also stand the grass up.
Always ensure that any disease is correctly identified prior to applying any plant protection product.
Maintain a height of cut between 30-40mm.
Continue with post match divoting and brushing and undertake aeration if conditions allow.
If training on the main pitch, ensure that regimes, such as shuffle drills and small sided games are rotated on the pitch to avoid excessive wear.
- Continue cutting to encourage good sward density, ensuring that you do not over cut as this would thin out the sward due to the slowdown in growth
- Ensure that any equipment used is keenly set to cut
- Regular brushing will keep the air circulating around the base of the plant
- Deep spike to alleviate compaction as and when required
- Continue spiking when the conditions are right (this should only be carried out if the soil is suitably moist) to compliment your deep spiking
- Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting
- Hand fork high wear areas, if difficult to get onto the pitch with machinery
- Use any downtime to overhaul/service machinery
Try to keep the top 100mm free draining; this can be achieved by regular spiking with solid or slit tines to a depth of 150mm or more.
- Keep your linemarker clean
- Keep string lines taut
- Ensure that right angles are correctly formed. Use the 3:4:5 triangle method. The bigger the triangle at the start, the more accurate the pitch will be.
- Keep your machinery in tip top condition
- Grease where you find a grease nipple, oil where you see a metallic moving part, check the oil, check the water
- Clean it when you’ve finished
Pre and post match routines
Before the match
- Check that the pitch is fit and safe for play
- Check post protectors and flags
- Check for debris (glass, stones etc.)
- Clear away leaves – a thankless task, but one that needs doing
- Ensure the surface is firm and not saturated, correctly marked out and flagged, and that the posts are safe and secure
- Replace divots, even if it’s just the worst affected areas – it will make a difference!
- Dragmat/brush/harrow to restore playing surfaces and remove worm casts
- Clean up the playing surface with a rotary mower
- Dragmat, harrow and groom rake surface, as required, to maintain levels, remove early morning dew, control disease and generally get air in and around the plant
Spike/verticut as often as possible
April is already upon us and, although it only seems like yesterday that it was the start of the year, it seems like a distant memory back to last April. However, it is only then that we were opening venues for the return to sport at many places. It seems an age ago, as we have come so far from that point up to where we are now, and there have been hours of dedication from turf professionals and volunteers up and down the country poured into their sites for preparation of matches and activities. This month brings the ‘real feel’ of spring, with longer nights and increasing temperatures, which has now started to provide some essential turf growth and recovery; although there has been snow in April in the past, so we must not get too carried away.
The weather in March turned out to be a stark contrast to what we had experienced in February, which was a very wet month, that brought localised flooding to many areas. March on the other hand turned out to be a dry month for many with some high day temperatures for the time of year. The issue here for many was that because February had been so wet, there was an element of having to wait until the ground conditions were suitable for carrying out maintenance. Then, as the month progressed, conditions got too dry and watering was having to take place just to keep some moisture in the ground.
Temperatures look set to be more moderate over the course of April, but with some cold night-time temperatures at the start of the month. Rainfall is forecast for much of the start of the month, with conditions looking more settled towards the latter parts of the month. The rainfall will be welcomed from many who are waiting to make applications for encouraging some early season growth to achieve some recovery. With day temperatures still moderate and night-time temperatures still relatively low, applications of nutrition need to be made understanding how the environmental conditions will affect the efficacy of said applications. Growth can’t be rushed at this point of the season. Trying to do so will only result in unnecessary applications or spending, and potential issues further down the line.
These can be a useful tool throughout the season to ensure that moisture is distributed evenly throughout the profile. When using this technology, there is a benefit of ensuring applications are made early. This helps ensure the product is in the profile before issues can arise. Recent years have seen dry conditions early in the season, they can lead to playing catch up in terms of having consistent moisture within the profile. Managing moisture in this way allows the turf manager to have better control over the conditions. This can encourage rooting deeper in the profile, allow less water to be applied via irrigation systems and allow better uptake of nutrients by the plant, and therefore better efficacy of any product applications that have been made. Each site will be different and there are technologies within the market which will suit individual sites with individual needs.
Irish Summer Time (IST) started on the 27th March which brings an increase in daylight hours. This gives the plant more opportunity to carry out photosynthesis, more photosynthesis means more growth. Applications of simple sugars and carbohydrates can provide the plant with a readily available supply of energy, which can be much needed at a time when growth is commencing and can assist in reducing any additional stress. As temperatures begin to increase, so does the opportunity to use a wider range of fertiliser technologies. Again, each site will have its own specific requirements and it is important to find a solution which works best for you as it is not a case of one cap fits all. For those that want a slow release of nitrogen over a longer period of time, the conditions will become more suitable for this type of fertiliser technology as the month progresses. These come in many forms such as coated granules, organic based, Methylene Urea and Isodor and Crotudur to name a few.
Plant Growth Regulator
April can bring the first signs of annual meadow grass seeding, which can have an impact on playing quality, performance and overall aesthetics. Although grooming can be deployed to physically remove the seed, in some instances, depending on the surface you manage, this can provide the perfect seed bed for more annual meadow grass to develop. When growth becomes consistent, it is key to manage this to ensure even growth is achieved. An even sward increases the playing quality of the surface being managed and, in-line with this, plant growth regulators can be used to great effect to help regulate the flowering capacity of the Poa annua plant. Prohexadione- calcium (Class A late gibberellin inhibitor) can be used at cool temperatures and is active when sprayed onto the plant, therefore its regulatory effect is fast acting. Early applications, when seedheads are still in the root stage of development, ahead of stem dissection and flowering, will promote regulation through inhibition of the biosynthesis of the plant hormone gibberellin. A key benefit of this active ingredient is that it regulates Poa annua, closely aligned with the desirable perennial grasses in the sward. This restricts the ability of the Poa annua to pioneer the sward, by not giving it the advantage of being out of regulation whilst the perennial species are still being regulated.
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Start thinking about your end of season renovations, and how you may be tackling the possibility of an extended season and the need to get onto the pitches to carry out the work. Start to build your strategy and get it down on paper. Look at what resources you will need – manpower, materials and machinery.
With reference to your machinery needs; if it’s part of your inventory, drag it out, dust it off and fire it up to make sure it will work for you when you need it. If you don’t have it in your inventory, but you know someone who has, a neighbouring club or school perhaps, particularly if you are on good terms with them; you may come to some arrangement to borrow it when they are not using it.
Alternatively, look at the option of hiring. There are a growing number of hire companies these days that are now specialising in the hire of sports ground equipment. With reference to your material needs, get them ordered now so that they are on hand when you need them.