Hopefully, for the majority of clubs, your pitch renovations will have been completed by now, eagerly awaiting for the new seed to germinate and get to the two to three leaf stage, so you can start mowing.
End of season renovations are an essential maintenance regime for football pitches, they allow the opportunity to re populate the sward with new seed material, relieve compaction and improve surface levels.
It is critical that you do not allow seedlings to dry out. Keep your seeded areas watered and, if possible and if you have them to hand, make use of your germination sheets to encourage the rapid establishment of your seeded areas. Mow the pitch on a regular basis, at least once a week; most professional groundsmen will be mowing on a daily basis or 2-3 times a week to encourage the grass to tiller.
I cannot stress enough, invest in your pitch! It will then provide you with a good playing surface the following season. Once the seed has germinated, it is important to keep it watered. Irrigation is essential, many grounds are beginning to show signs of stress resulting from the lack of rain we have had earlier on. Try not to waste your water resources, keep an eye open for leaks, check the sprinklers are working properly. It is best to water during the evening to prevent excessive water loss from evaporation.
I hear too many clubs complaining they have no money or cannot afford to do the relevant maintenance work on their pitches. Looking after a football pitch is not easy and needs a lot of planning, resources and, more importantly, knowledge. Clubs need to decide whether they carry out the work themselves, getting geared up with the appropriate equipment, or pay someone to come in and do the work. Whichever way, there is a cost involved.
So, my point is that clubs should recognise these costs and budget accordingly. In many cases, football clubs do not charge their players anywhere near enough subs to cover these costs. Also In a lot of cases, clubs are paying substantial amounts on players and coaches, with little left for the provision of pitch maintenance.
Clubs should charge an across the board grounds maintenance fee for all playing members, juniors included. For example :- €2 a week from every member who uses the facilites will raise in excess of €150 per week at most clubs. That's €600 a month, €7200 a year - a considerable chunk of money to help maintain your pitches. Add to that a couple of pig roasts/disco/bonfire events and you could be looking at bringing in around £10K a year. The meessage I am conveying is that, with some effort and hard work there is a way to fund the management of your Pitches.
A GAA clubs pitch is a valuable land assett, and the one key component that brings succes and recognition to the club, it is your shop window and should be treated as such. it should be well presented and maintained to produce a safe surface for players to perform.
Continue cutting regularly at 25-37mm to ensure a good sward density. It may sometimes be helpful with newly sown grasses to lightly roll the surface before cutting to ensure that the weakly held grasses in the surface do not get pulled out. Also, ensure that any mowing equipment used is keenly set to cut without tearing.
June is when soils can dry out quickly as we move later into the month. Make sure that your irrigation systems are functioning as, once soils become hydrophobic and dry patch sets in, it becomes very difficult to get water back into the surface. If you follow a programme of using wetting agents to ensure a uniform wetting, this will help, particularly on soils prone to dry patch.
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. Following a pitch renovation, suspend this operation for a period to allow for the germination of the new seedlings to take place, particularly on oversown thin areas.
Continue spiking when the conditions allow, alleviating built up compaction. Keep your spiking regime flexible; surface spiking at this time of year and heading into a dry spell will help what rain you receive to move quickly down into the surface where it will be of benefit to your grass plants .
I cannot emphasise enough the importance of carrying out end of season renovations on your GAA pitches, the concept of the renovations is to de-compact the pitch, increase the air space in the soil profile which will encourage root growth, restore levels by topdressing and re-populate the sward with new grasses and encourage the new sward with some timely feeds.
Costs will be determined on what work you have done, a typical end of season renovation on a soil based pitch undertaking the following work:- Scarification, verti-draining (aeration), topdressing (90 tonnes of sand) and overseeding with 12 bags of seed and some fertilisers will cost anything between €6000-€7000 depending on choice of materials and transport costs.
Weed treatments: At some stage you will need to consider where your weed killing programme fits into the picture of you pitch renovations. Selective weed killers remain persistent in the ground for a number of weeks when sprayed, and this can have an adverse effect on your seedling grasses it not timed properly.
If you have a noticeable amount of weeds present already, then you may be better spraying immediately to eliminate the heavy competition that new grasses will get from the already established weeds, but do take account of the prevailing weather patterns. You will, however, need to delay the renovation programme if this is the case by some 5 - 6 weeks, but this will ensure that grass seed will be going into the bare areas left behind by the dead weeds.
Always seek advice, from the on label instructions, for the period that should be given between spaying and sowing for the product you are using. Don't forget also to tailor the product to the predominant weed species i.e. if the majority of weeds present are yarrow then look for a product that specifies on the label that it provides good control of this weed. If you have little in the way of weeds, then it may be better to get straight on with your renovations and apply a weed killer application later in the season when your grass has established and has reached the two leaf stage. Always consult the label.
I feel it necessary to advise some caution at this point. If you are thinking about weed control, then you should always pay good regard to the prevailing weather patterns. Remember that it is inadvisable to spray during periods of drought. This makes sense economically for two reasons: during dry weather plant growth slows and, remembering that selective weed killers are generally systemic in nature, being drawn from the leaf to the plant's areas of metabolic activity, they will not move so readily into the plant, making your application less effective. Secondly, you are at risk, if you spray when the grass is suffering from drought stress, of having a marked and, in some cases, fatal effect on your grass, giving you the added expense of re-seeding.
Scarifying: However you achieve it, you will need to clean out the surface, removing the remnants of old divots etc. and to get rid of the build up of dead organic matter accumulated over the winter months. Thatch can build up, particularly on the wings of the pitch, away from the more intensively played areas in the centre and goalmouth areas. Before carrying out this task, you will need to reduce the height of cut. This will not only help your grass to establish better, but will help your machinery to carry out the work without struggling.
A tractor drawn rake, followed by a box mower, is probably the most traditional method and most likely within the means of most clubs and schools. You may also have use of a pick up flail mower, in which case you may find that scarifying tines can be fitted, allowing the job to be completed in one operation. This method can be advantageous, as the scarifying tines can leave a grooved surface, ideal for ensuring oversown grass seed is buried just beneath the soil surface and in contact with the soil.
Whichever method you use, you will be aiming to achieve a surface that is short and clean, with a finished mown height of 13 to 20mm, that will give your grass seedlings time to grow and establish without competing too much from the existing grasses.
Koroing is an operation that is becoming popular to those that can afford it (mostly Premiership clubs fall into this bracket). Koro topping is extremely efficient at removing the top organic layer of the pitch, however; you will effectively be starting again with a newly sown surface, so your seeding rates will need to be higher.
Spiking: Relieving compaction is important, and spiking as deeply as possible is required. There are several ways this can be achieved and to a depth of 250 - 300mm. Some clubs may have a vertidrain or Weidenmann which will carry out this work well, providing that the model is matched to the tractor size. Other aerators include an air injection system that will help to fracture compacted soils.
Remember to check the depth of existing under soil drainage or soil heating before carrying out deep spiking. Pay particular attention to your goalmouth and centre spot areas, and don't forget also the off pitch areas where your linesmen and spectators stand.
Fertilising: A good pre-seeding fertiliser, typically one low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus and potash, will provide the young seedlings with the essential nutrients to root quickly and to resist disease. This should be knocked off the leaf of the plant using a brush or dragmat to avoid scorching. Water in if rain is not expected.
Seeding: Obtain a good quality rye grass seed mixture for your renovation. Fresh seed is important as old seed will not germinate as greatly or as well as new. Look at the STRI list for the range of recommended cultivars listed by fineness of cut, resistance to disease etc., and choose a mixture with the characteristics suited to your needs and situation.
Oversow at the rate of 20 to 35g/m2. Personally, I like to sow with some in hand in case I need to oversow any thin areas later on. The important thing is to get good seed to soil contact to ensure good seed germination. This can be achieved in a number of ways depending on the equipment you have to hand.
If you have a Quadraplay, for instance, you could start by surface spiking, oversowing and then continue to work the seed into the surface using the surface spiking unit and brush unit. Traverse the pitch in as many different directions as possible to work the seed into the surface. (Quadraplay or not, the important thing is to get as many surface holes as possible for the seed to work its way into the surface, so a sarrel roller could complete this task equally well in combination with a brush).
The roller can be lowered on the final run to firm the surface and ensure good soil to seed contact. Alternatively, the use of seed drills will help to bury the seed into the surface and at a depth where it won't be subject to drying out. This method will produce a linear seeding pattern and it is best to complete two passes, or more, at a slight angle to the first.
Topdressing: chosen wisely for compatibility with your current rootzone is an essential ingredient to ensuring good surface levels. If you employ the services of an agronomist, then he will have advised you of the best topdressing for your situation. This may typically have been a medium to fine sand and of a quantity of 60 to 80 tons per pitch.
If you are using a general topdressing, of say 70/30, you should be aware that this could have high clay content, despite the high percentage of sand, and could give you some problems later. It would be wise to ensure you know what is being supplied. If you cannot afford to topdress, you may consider hollow coring, recycling them by breaking them up and dragmatting them back into the surface. If the construction of your pitch is a sand slit system, then topdressing regularly with compatible sand will be required to ensure that the slits do not become capped over.
There are two main functions of topdressings here, the first being to cover the grass seed to achieve good soil to seed contact that will ensure good germination of an expensive resource, secondly to restore surface levels.
Low areas in the pitch can be concentrated on. Usually, low areas, minor dips and hollows that collect water, noted during the winter, can be further spiked. A slightly heavier topdressing spread than the surrounding area will help to raise these areas, though be careful to ensure the topdressing is worked into the holes and into the base of the sward. The topdressing should not be thick and left covering the top of the grass, as this will only lead to a weakened sward. Repeat the operation if necessary and check it with a straight edge.
Goalmouth and centre spot areas: At this time of year, how much grass is still around in these areas depends on a number of factors, and is a combination of the condition of the sward at the start of the season, number of games played, the conditions that they were played in and, finally, the adopted post match and winter maintenance regimes.
Suffice to say that the wear can range from minimal, with some pitches sustaining little loss of grass in the goalmouth area, to an area or strip, if you like, running the whole length of the pitch, completely devoid of grass cover. Some goalmouth areas may even have lost both grass cover and soil, where the soil has migrated out of the area. In these areas, it is important that they receive more concentrated effort to relieve compaction and to bring the surface levels back.
Turf treatments: Some turf treatments work well for some, and there are a number of them to choose from, such as organic based micronutrients, seaweed treatments, clay flocculants, amino acids and plant growth regulators such as Primo Maxx. It can sometimes be difficult to assess the benefits of such treatments, but most managers will notice if it has been effective or not. If you are unsure, then ask your supplier for a trial amount and test it for yourself. I'm sure they would be pleased to accommodate you.
June is also a good month for applying summer fertiliser products. Ideally, it is good practice to undertake at least an annual soil test to analyse the nutrient status of your soil. This will help ensure you only apply what is required and not waste money and time applying products you do not need.
However, the choice of materials and how well it works can be dependant on many factors, including soil type and the weather, with moisture and warmer air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.
Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all Groundsmen/Greenkeepers. With the aid of modern technologies, tools and a camera you can now monitor the performance and the condition of your sward in many ways.
For many years, the turf industry has promoted the use of Performance Quality Standards (PQS) to ascertain the standard of sport pitch maintenance.
PQS provide a recommended minimum quality standard for the finished standard of pitches. Specifically, it sets the basic standard recommended for natural grass pitches, which may be located at a variety of locations including a Club site, within a park or recreational ground.
For example the PQS for a football pitch recommends that a natural grass pitch must:
* Have the ability to drain water
* Have adequate grass cover
* Low level of weed coverage
* Be flat
It is important to survey and measure the performance of your facilities. With modern technologies, we can now measure all manner of aspects of the pitch/golf green or artificial pitch to ensure it meets any stated guidelines by the sports governing bodies. These can include measuring sward height, composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, levels over a 3m level, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.
In recent years, we have seen the development of GPS mapping devices that can measure chlorophyll, moisture content and deviation in levels. Soil tests will also help determine soil type, nutrient status of the soil, organic matter content, CEC capacity and soil pH.
Keeping a record of these parameters will help you have a better understanding of what is going on within your playing surface, and enable you to make better decisions on what maintenance inputs you will need to undertake to maintain surface playability.
Ideally in May, if you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis done to tell you the actual make up of your soil profile. This enables you to get them back in time to start your new year's maintenance
Soil is made up of percentages of clay, silt and sand. The PSD Analysis will identify the ratio of these and confirm soil type, thus giving you a better understanding of what soil you are dealing with. Also, you can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content as well as soil nutrient status and soil Ph. With this information, you will be able to identify the needs of your soil.
Weed treatment programme: Co-ordinate your weed treatment programme to ensure that when you spray, you will not damage emergent grasses in newly sown areas. Most selective weedkillers will persist in the ground for up to six weeks.
Always check the label for advice about the correct time to spray. If your priority is to spray treat your weeds prior to your renovation programme, then you will need to you delay you renovations for up to six weeks. Similarly, if your priority is to complete you renovations first, then you will need to ensure that your newly sown grass is well established (referred sometimes on the label as being at the two leaf stage) before your application.
Keep and eye open for fungal disease, and use approved fungicides to treat any infected areas. Early morning dew on playing surfaces often promotes the chance of a disease attack; regular brushing off the dew will help prevent this.
Leaf spot can be quite damaging, especially in stadium environments; keep the leaf blade relative dry by regular brushing, and apply an approved fungicide to prevent further outbreaks
Red thread is an extremely common turfgrass disease that can develop at any time of the year during cool, wet weather, but frequently appears most severely during late spring and autumn. It can develop on most turfgrasses, but ryegrasses, meadowgrasses and fescues appear to be more commonly affected. This disease is often referred to as an indicator of low fertility, and symptoms will often develop more severely if nitrogen or potassium is limited.
Usually, a dose of fertiliser will help control and outbreak of Red thread, howerver, it it persists, many of the fungicides that are currently available for use on managed amenity turf have shown efficacy against this turf disease and, where necessary, can be used as part of an integrated programme. Always ensure that the disease is correctly identified prior to the application of any plant protection product.
Always make an effort to keep your machinery cleaned and serviced regularly, ideally any mechanical equipment should be washed down after use.
It is important to keep your mowers sharp, checking height of cut and ensuring the cylinder and bottom blade is adjusted for a clean cut. Do not tighten blades down too hard, as this will cause problems.
Keep an eye on oil levels and air filters, cleaning them and topping up as and when required .
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Winter Sports Pitches. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of GAA,rugby and football pitch maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a winter sports surface throughout a 12 month period.
Delegates attending the Winter Sports Pitch Maintenance course and using the accompanying manual will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principles it sets out.
Inspect and check floodlighting/ training lights, change bulbs.
Inspect goalpostsand/ nets for damage or wear.