May GAA Diary 2022

General Maintenance

The grass should be growing at a rapid rate by now and you have to be out mowing as often as possible, 1-3 times per week is advised. You should be able to present your pitch with bands, stripes and a consistent surface. Gaelic players like to have a 20-30mm sward height for Hurling and a 50-70mm high sward for Gaelic Football.

A cylinder mower will provide the best results, cutting in a different direction each time. If you are using a rotary mower, a ggod practice would be to brush the pitch prior to cutting, this will the grass upright and contribute to a cleaner, more uniform finish to the cut. This type of mower can also act as a hoover, and will clean up any debris leftover from matches and training sessions.

Continue with some light scarification, brushing and post-match divoting of your surface. Maintain surface aeration to aid root growth, but only if surface conditions allow.

Monitor and record pitch usage hours. The amount of play you can get from your pitch will depend on the quality of construction, species of grass and the level of maintenance the pitch gets. Other variables to consider are levels of rainfall, temperature and the rate of growth you are getting. record the amount of hours per week the pitch is being used and monitor its performance. If the pitch is struggling you will have to cut back on the hours of usage per week. Clubs with more than one pitch should introduce a pitch rotation system to protect surfaces and give you an idea of just how much play a pitch can withstand.

Keep your training routines, drills and small sided games, rotated on the pitch to avoid excessive wear. Also, when the pitch is not in use, you should make a big show about keeping pedestrian footfall off the surface at all times

  • Continue cutting to encourage good sward density
  • 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 goalmouth and centre circle 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.

At this stage of the season, the addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil may help to repair any deep scars. Ensure good seed to soil contact, otherwise the operation is pointless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not germinate.

Fertilise as required after soil analysis. A spring summer 9-7-7 fertiliser is usually a good bet this time of the year. Inspect for pest and disease infestation and remove as necessary.

Marking out

  • 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.

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

Post match

  • 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

GAA Artificial Pitch Maintenance

  • Keep surface clean
  • Brush according to manufacturers recommendations usually after every 7 to 10 hours of use or once per week and no more than 3 times per week general rule. Keep records.
  • Remove any algae and moss from surface. Crumb Rubber filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer’s recommendations on rubber levels and pile heights.
  • Check line and seems for any glue failure or tears and repair immediately any seems left unrepaired can become a big problem quickly
  • Check fencing around pitch for loose panels
  • Make sure that goal mouth rubber levels especially along kick out areas and replace if low.
  • Clean decontamination areas out, make sure brushes at entrance and pitch signage is in place.

Artificial Goalmouths

  • The carpet is usually contaminated with debris from pitch. Brush carpet when dry to remove any clay particles. Make sure levels are ok with clay surrounds.
  • It’s a good time to raise goal mouths if the pile height of the carpet is below the bordering natural pitch. Remember raising the carpet means raising the cross bar.

Agronomy

One of the benefits of doing this monthly agronomy diary is that you get to build up an excellent picture of what the conditions have been like over a period of time.

As we head into May, I can’t clearly recall what conditions were like at this time last year, but reading back through my notes, it is apparent it was very similar to what we have experienced this year. Very challenging in terms of producing growth that will either bring together a surface or give sufficient recovery from play. Relatively mild day temperatures, with periods of sunshine coupled with low night-time temperatures, have put the grass plant under considerable stress; especially when you also factor in the lack of rainfall we have had. Irrigation can and has had to be used, but in doing so, you are acutely aware that the irrigation water is cold after a long winter and isn’t helping to encourage soil temperatures to rise. This has pushed progress a bit further back for some in terms of where they predicted their surfaces would be heading into May. It is not ideal to unrealistically manufacture growth in these conditions, therefore it is advised to work with nature, where possible, rather than try to force growth.

The forecasted month ahead for May looks more encouraging, as night- time temperatures appear more favourable, with good day-time temperatures in the mid-teens. 26 days of the month are forecast at 15°C or above during the day and 26 days with night-time temperatures of 7°C or above, which will help to start generating some consistent growth, putting more control back in the hands of the turf manager.  There appears to be a spell of rainfall early in the month, which I imagine will be welcomed by most, and then as the month progresses the forecast looks set to keep improving with a period of dry weather. This combination of moisture and temperature increase should stimulate growth and assist in giving surfaces adequate levels of recovery or grow-in from renovation work; allowing for refinements of surfaces and consistency in performance.  

Plant nutrition will now be well under way for many, whether granular or liquid, and depending on the site etc… applications will be different across the country. Given the recent weather challenges from the extremely low temperatures, many may well be waiting to see a response from the latest applications, depending on when it was timed. The recent stress that the plant has been under is not to be underestimated, whether it be from the extremely low amounts of rainfall we have had, or the stress from cold irrigation water, or the dramatic change from day to night temperatures. It is important to try and mitigate or alleviate these stresses. There are already signs of Poa annua seedheads appearing, due to these underlying stresses on the plant. Grooming can be utilised to physically remove seedheads, although this should be weighed up against the action of creating a new seedbed for any seeds which don’t make it into the grass box. Another important factor is current growth conditions and how well the plant will be able to recover from such actions.

Nutritional inputs may need to be adjusted to meet the demands of the weather. Dry conditions may affect the performance of granular fertilisers, where there is less nutrient available in solution due to dry conditions. Therefore, until rainfall is expected, utilising liquid applications of a readily available nitrogen source, such as ammonium sulphate, will encourage gradual growth and recovery.

Using surfactants where possible will assist in even moisture distribution through the soil which, in turn, improves plant health via improved rooting and nutrient uptake. Whilst applications of wetting agents are being made, it is a good opportunity to include biostimulants in the tank, which can be targeted to reach the rootzone area of the profile. These biostimulants will help mitigate any plant stress that is present. 

Recently, there have been the first sightings of Crane fly emergence, and brings to the fore one of the major issues currently for turf managers. There is still no registered chemical control for this pest to be applied at this time of year, however if damage is significant, there is the option to consider a spring application of nematodes to try combat the problem. Steinernema feltiae can be used at soil temperatures above 8°C and Steinernema carpocapsae above 13°C, therefore it’s important to choose the right treatment for your site at this time of year. We will wait to see if emergency approval is granted for the use of Acelepryn on chafer grubs in 2022. Installing pheromone traps allows you to monitor which species you have on your site and to plan accordingly; it also means you can track the peak flight period to time your product application for best results.

The forecast looks good for May, so let’s hope it brings consistent growth which will allow the best surfaces to be produced.

Tom Wood
B.Sc (Hons) | BASIS | FACTS

Machinery

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.

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