Expected weather for this month:

Generally consistent forecasts of daytime temperatures between 2 and 10 degrees centigrade throughout the month

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.

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.

A new year heralds new opportunities. Opportunities to reflect upon the successes and failures of 2019 as we plot a refined course for 2020.  

At the heart of all effective sports turf management agronomic programmes is an integrated approach. One which pays consideration to the whole as a system rather than individual factors. Underpinning the successful implementation of an integrated approach is knowledge, monitoring and recording, followed by planning.

Knowledge leads to appreciation and understanding.

Monitoring and Recording leads to the extraction of truth.

Planning leads to the refinement of ideas and processes for incremental increases in successful outcomes.

As we enter 2020 and the new decade it heralds, should you not be 100% confident and comfortable in your own ability and understanding of how to practically implement these concepts into your day to day management then I implore you to act now. Take positive advantage of these winter months to reach out and seek answers as to how you can better grasp and then implement these principles into all you do across your facilities. Fully integrated management, implemented well, is a necessity for success in 2020 and beyond.

Many people are doing well and are trying hard to adapt to changes such as revocation of products and extremes of climate. However, I do often witness a committed application of the principles to one subject area; for example, Microdocium nivale management mirrored by a lower level of engagement and application for other issues, such as weed, water and leather jacket management. Integrated by definition applies to all matters equally, as a collective.

Nutrition

The requirement for nutritional inputs by the plant will be low to zero depending on temperature. A soil temperature of 8-10 degrees Celsius is required for metabolic activity and plant uptake of nutrition.

Applications of calcium and silicon will assist the plant to withstand cold and harsh winds and by strengthening the primary and secondary cell walls. Contrary to popular opinion, iron does not directly harden a grass plant, rather it upregulates enzyme production leading to a greening of the leaf via metabolic processes. Chelated iron can be used to add colour and will not accumulate problematic iron deposits in soil over time, in the same way raw ferrous sulphate heptahydrate will. Increasingly, copper is being added to many iron products; copper will accumulate in soils over time and can cause toxicity issues, so be sure to researched the full ingredients list on any products rather than looking at headline figures. If you are still unsure, then Safety Data Sheets will sometimes list ingredients if they are contained at concentrations which have to be declared in the interests of environmental and human health. That is not to say that copper has no place in balanced nutrition, but rather to apply it with thought and consideration to the long-term bigger picture. Some amino acids also may assist the plant in upregulating metabolic compounds which assist in cold weather survival.

Disease

Applications of calcium and silicon will also help the plant to directly bolster its defences from pathogenic attack via hardening of cell walls. Seasonally warm night-time temperatures, combined with continual periods of leaf blade wetness, will help Microdochium nivale to proliferate. The active substance Fludioxonil acts as an anti-sporulant.  This fungicide controls dormant spores residing in the sward and thatch layer in-between outbreaks of infection. Using dew dispersal and penetrant surfactants will reduce leaf wetness and sward humidity. All approaches which form an integrated management approach.

Weeds

Weeds development will be dormant during this month but, considering rotation of active substances and application timings for the upcoming growing season is a responsible course of action.

Pests

Insect pests will be dormant down within the soil profile, so present no immediate cause for concern. If soil temperatures are low, then worms will also be avoiding cold regions at the surface.

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.