Key Tasks for January
January is a good time to focus on the outfield (weather permitting). Regular brushing will help remove dew as well as lifting the sward. Aeration is a key activity that can be carried out too, along with some localised drainage/repair works to rectify any problem areas such as depressions you have identified. January is also a good time to carry out repairs and maintenance to resources such as sightscreens and other structures around the ground. You may get some favourable weather for painting and repairing these structures.
If you are in a part of the country not affected by frost, the following may be undertaken:
Brushing: Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak
Mowing: It may be necessary to mow during the winter. Allowing the grasses to grow too long will encourage a weak leggy sward. Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependent on the need and condition of the facility. It is important to maintain a constant height of cut on both the square and outfield. The outfield should now be maintained at between 25-35mm. The square should be maintained between 12-20mm using a rotary pedestrian mower, as a cylinder could tear or rip out fragile growth.
Aeration: The use of a sarrel roller to keep the surface free draining will also be beneficial to the square. Some Groundsmen may still want to carry out some deeper aeration work on the square; however, this policy is effective only where shallow rooting is a main concern and where pre-season rolling is not introduced until late March or early April. As a rule of thumb, many do not aerate after JANUARY. The outfield can be aerated though, using solid or slit tines when conditions allow.
January, in many respects, is likely to model December fairly closely with warmer periods giving way to cold snaps, particularly as we head into the second half of the month.
Once again, let’s consider the pros and cons of each:
Pros: If soil temperatures rise above 10 degrees Celsius, then good growth will promote recovery on disease scars and worn areas, as well as push along seeded areas following renovation events during early autumn.
Cons: Warmer conditions which promote growth can encourage fungal diseases, especially when they occur alongside high relative humidity and low air movement.
Pros: Once temperatures drop to zero or below, fungal diseases will also draw to a halt.
Cons: Grass growth stops once soil temperatures hit low single figures, thus reducing recovery and establishment growth. In addition, cold conditions place an abiotic stress demand on the plant leaf tissues.
January represents the ideal time to engage in planning and education. Along with all other land-based industries the Sports Turf sector faces a number of challenges, both in the present here and now, as well as on the horizon for the next 5–10 years.
Primarily, those challenges can be categorised into the following:
Engaging in continued professional development at events such as BIGGA’s excellent British Turf Management Exhibition, over 22nd–24th January, is an excellent way to spend time with other like-minded individuals and engage in discussion and events designed to help transfer and expand the industry’s knowledge base.
Planning fertiliser inputs via the creation of fertiliser programmes is a long established and accepted practice in the turf management sector. With an increasing emphasis on Integrated Pest Management as both best and most effective practice when tackling a range of turf management factors, transitioning that same thought process and working practice into a number of areas is both wise and necessary.
An annual management plan for the following areas are all as equally valid as a fertiliser plan:
- Water management plan – surfactant wetting agents for intensive drought and wet periods, programmed application timings.
- Disease management plan – cultural operations to improve grass species composition, soil ecosystem diversity, non-pesticidal disease management, chemical controls.
- Worm management plan – identification of pressure points, reduction of surface organic matter, top dressing with sand, surface acidification.
- Insect pest management plan – identification of pest species, monitoring of life cycle, treatment protocols.
Underpinning the success of all of the examples set out above are; communication, knowledge and education, planning, monitoring and recording.
2018 was a challenging year for turf managers; so, set about reflecting on those challenges, then go about implement how to position yourself and your organisation with the means to meet any challenges you may encounter in 2019 and beyond.
Times are not changing, they have changed.
Are you ready to meet the challenge?
It is important to maintain machines by carrying out regular servicing and repairs.
With minimum work needed on the green, use the time to take some machines out of operation for an overhaul.
- Keep machines overhauled and clean
- Maintain a stock of consumables for your machinery, replace worn and damaged parts as necessary.
- Keep an eye on your material stocks (seed, topdressing, petrol, oil), remembering to replenish as required.
- Service machinery and equipment - changing oil / air filters and greasing up moving parts and sharpening mower blades.
ARTIFICIAL PITCHES: Keep all surfaces clean, by regular sweeping and brushing to remove any algae and moss from surface. Sand filled systems also require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.
NET FACILITIES: Repair damaged structures and netting, order new if required. Strim and mow around structures.
STRUCTURES: Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All removable structures should have been stored away for the winter. With very little activity seen on the ground during January, winter work can be dedicated to repairing and painting sightscreens, fences, and practice net structures.
DRAINAGE: Inspect drainage outlets, culverts, channels and ditches to ensure that they are working. Winter months are a good time for carrying out ditch clearing operations; blocked ditches may affect the performance of playing field drainage systems.
MATERIALS: Keep an adequate supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.
PLANNING: Winter months enables you to evaluate how well your maintenance regimes have gone, which in turn will help you plan the work for next season. You may need to seek quotations for machinery and materials. Be prepared for next season. Failure to prepare – prepare to fail. It is important to keep records and diaries of the activities carried out, and how well the facility and each pitch have performed. The advent of the digital camera is a great tool for recording information. January is an ideal time to contact sales reps to find out what products are available for spring renovations; do not leave it late to order materials.
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