March is normally the month when the higher temperatures kick the grass plant back into life; but this isn’t likely in the foreseeable future. Once conditions are more favourable, you can carry out the following maintenance work.
With mowing, keep your height of cut as near as possible to the high end of a winter cutting height. This will ensure the grass has the optimum leaf area for the production of carbon (the building blocks of plant growth) through the process of photosynthesis.
Continue the work of brushing to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant, particularly important for removing early morning dew and controlling disease. Pay particular attention also to the goalmouth areas and centre circles post match to lift the grass back up out of muddy areas. This is also important in keeping surface levels.
Divoting is important work and should be completed after each match. Arm yourself with a border fork and a bucket of topdressing with a little seed mixed in. Just a couple of hours post match divoting, sorting out some of the worst, will make all the difference. If you cannot afford a full divoting programme, then you could just tackle the worst and clean the rest off with a mower or pick up sweeper.
Continue spiking, when the conditions are right. Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting. Hand fork goalmouth and centre circle areas if difficult to get onto with machinery.
Keep you lines looking bright by overmarking before each match, and string them when you start to see them wander. Giving some thought and taking some time with a string line helps give a better impression of a groundsman’s skills, particularly as this is one of the visible aspects of what we do.
For training pitches used on a daily basis, try and reduce wear, rotate where activities may take place, especially fast feet drills.
If you are planning to carry out your renovations in April, then you might want to think about reducing the height of your grass towards the end of the month. Not only will this ensure your emergent grass sowing will not have to compete for light amongst taller established grasses, it also means that you will not need to be on the grass with heavy machinery whilst it is trying to establish.
If you have irrigation reels or equipment, it is wise to look over them and check that they are working ok and complete any service requirements, if they are needed.
Pre and post match routines
Before the match
- Check that the pitch is fit and safe for play
- 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
- Plan ahead for end of season renovations; particularly important if you have been affected by flooding
- You could also consider booking in your machinery for its annual service/repair, ensuring you get the time slot that suits you
- 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
Remember – the more that club members, players and officials understand what you role involves, the better. You could use any spare time to provide a members newsletter/blog detailing what problems you are experiencing (training regimes, waterlogging etc.) and to seek additional help as required.
- Check goals for loose bolts and tighten as necessary
- Check nets – make sure they are properly supported at the back of the goal and aren’t sagging
- Check team dugouts are stable and anchored securely. Make sure that they are tidy and free from litter
- Repair and maintain fence lines
- Sweep up/vacuum fallen leaves
As you are reading this in early March, hopefully the horrendous rainfall we experienced from the last couple of weeks in February are now a distant memory. Up to that point, the winter had been fairly kind, with mild temperatures, conducive for small amounts of growth and recovery and the rainfall hadn’t been too significant, which meant that most sites were reasonably dry, given the time of year. Well, what we didn’t get over December and January, certainly came in February, with what has felt like storm after storm.
The recent wet weather has meant that many have had to delay significant maintenance work they may have had planned. There were some who took advantage of the favourable weather very early season and managed to get activities finished before the bad weather hit. Everyone else will have to wait until surfaces become suitable to get back onto the land to carry out the required maintenance. Patience is key here, as going early when conditions are not right can do more harm than good.
Looking ahead to March, more settled weather has been forecast. Typically for the time of year, there is still some rainfall to be expected, but as the month progresses temperatures look set to gradually increase, with night-time lows breaking away from just above freezing to a consistent 5/6 °C. We are already seeing the increase in daylight hours, which is only going to have a positive effect on turf growth as they continue to get longer.
March is often the month that is synonymous with the start of spring. There is a raft of maintenance work to be carried out ahead of the summer season. This could involve small scale ongoing maintenance, or it could be more heavy duty ‘corrective’ maintenance, it all depends on the site and the conditions. Crucial to the success of these types of maintenance is the recovery following the work being carried out. Applying a fertiliser with the most suitable nitrogen sources, with readily available nitrogen for plant uptake, will stimulate growth and recovery.
Nitrate and ammonium are both readily available nitrogen sources. Nitrate is freely available for plants to uptake and can therefore stimulate growth in cooler conditions; it is highly mobile and can reach plants’ roots quickly, providing a quick nutrient supply. Ammonium also provides a readily available form of nitrogen, making it a particularly good choice in the early season. Its ability to fix to soil minerals makes it less mobile than nitrate. As soil temperatures begin to increase, microbes will rapidly begin to convert ammonium to nitrate in the process of nitrification. Utilising a nitrogen source that is not readily available may not give the desired response and growth required. Methylene Urea (MU) is an example of a long release source of urea nitrogen fertiliser. MU’s rate of decomposition is determined by the action of microbes found naturally in most soils. The activity of these microbes, and therefore the rate of nitrogen release, is temperature dependent. Organic fertiliser is composed of natural materials derived from animals and plants. Relying on natural biological and chemical processes, nutrient content tends to be lower, less exacting and released much slower than conventional fertiliser products. As the nutrient release is slower, so is the turf response. For those not carrying out maintenance work where recovery from surface disruption is required, liquid applications of fertiliser to coincide with the increase in temperatures may be adequate to gently ‘wake up’ the turf and give the necessary response ahead of subsequent granular applications later in the spring, when temperatures have risen further.
As the plant’s internal factories start to become more active, until there is adequate light, moisture and temperature for the plant to produce enough of its own energy resources, applications of biostimulants, in the form of carbon rich products such as seaweeds, sugars and carbohydrates will be beneficial to the plant and soil as they can act as a readily available energy supply for the plant and help reduce any stress, such as that from any maintenance works carried out. Reducing stress at this time of year can have an impact on the presence of Poa annua and specifically the flowering seed heads that are produced when the plant is under stress. Across all sports, this is an undesirable grass due to its characteristics, therefore it is recommended that steps are taken to relieve stresses that may induce flowering. Suitable plant growth regulators may also be applied at this stage to regulate the growth and reduce seed head numbers.
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- Check and service floodlighting systems; ensuring they are ready for the new playing season.
- It also important to replace any worn tines on your aeration equipment.
- Clean out the shed, sell off any old machinery and dispose of any junk that’s clogging up the shed.