Expected weather for this month:

Wet and windy weather is possible. However, there are indications of a return towards more settled weather as the month progresses

Key Tasks for May

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 Pitches 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.

Spring 2019 has thus far been more favourable for the turf manager than the spring of 2018. Disease pressure had been relatively low and, whilst April has seen the cool nights and warmer days which are typical of this month, there has been good growth windows to get surfaces moving and recovering across much of the country. Concerningly for turf managers, water reserves both in reservoirs and within the soil profile remain low across much of the country. This provides potential for drought stress on grass plants much sooner than in the spring and summer of 2018.

The weather forecast for May currently suggests there may be some periods of rainfall. Taking opportunity of these precipitation events by maximising the penetration of water into the soil, via aeration events such as sarel tine and star tine rolling, combined with the use of penetrant wetting agents, will enhance the passage of water down into the soil profile. Such action applies to fairways, outfield areas and pitches as much as it does fine turf surfaces such as greens. The application of surfactants to larger areas of land is often perceived as being expensive, but modern product formulations mean wetting agents can be applied to larger areas of land cost effectively.

Combining the advantages of a penetrant with the water retention properties of a block co-polymer surfactant will help to hold water which has soaked into the ground and keep it available for roots.

Seaweed is well proven to mitigate plant stress response as well as promote post drought recovery; again, cost effective applications of a cold pressed seaweed to larger areas are sensible and achievable for many.

Renovations

As winter sport seasons reach their conclusion, the pitch renovation season begins.

When overseeding, opting for the best cultivars you can afford is a wise investment in the base foundation of your surface.

Taking a broad spectrum soil analysis prior to renovation allows the identification of deficient secondary macronutrients and micronutrients. All nutrients share equal importance and, by identifying the weakest link in the chain, you can maximise health and performance throughout a growing-in period and beyond.

One trap which can occur is to apply vast quantities of phosphorous to drive establishment, regardless of the soil sample result. This is questionable wisdom because a soil sample result details plant available nutrient. Where phosphorous is high, it will inhibit the availability of copper, calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc, and adding more P in to the system will not encourage the plant to uptake a greater quantity. The plant will take what it needs and no more, something which is true of all nutrients.

The same can be said of nitrogen; young seedlings cannot absorb large quantities of nitrogen, a base foundation of granular fertiliser is essential as a reserve once roots develop but, wherever possible, little and often foliar applications accompanied by biostimulants will support their needs much more responsibly.

Biostimulants are vital ingredients for turf health and offer many benefits during renovation. Apply liquid seaweed over seed to enhance germination before adding humates and carbon into the mix at the first feed, 5 days post germination. The aim being to driving and accelerating growth thanks to better response from fertilisers driven by increased availability and energy in the system.

Seaweed: Contains hormones (Gibberellic acids) which accelerate germination of seed and seedling maturity. Also acts as a chelate and growth promotor and elicitor of plant protection mechanisms in response to heat, drought and cold (abiotic) stress.

Humates: Chelation and enhanced root absorption of nutrients, improved nutrient retention in soils and bacterial habitat, as well as stable carbon source. Enhances germination and establishment.

Sugar: Provides carbon energy which is the base foundation of energy processing in all plants and soil life. Consequently, supports greater soil biodiversity and efficiency of fertiliser use.

Organic Fertilisers

With soil temperatures exceeding 10 degrees Celsius on a consistent basis through May, organic fertilisers can be applied with confidence; particularly moss suppression products, now that the warmer temperatures enable the bacteria within to degrade the moss.

Weeds, Pests and Diseases

Disease pressure is likely to be low throughout May with the plant being able to outgrow any pathogen attacks which do occur.

Following widespread die-off from last year’s drought. weeds have made the most of the opportunity and colonised areas of bare ground. Strong active growth in May is the perfect time to achieve maximum uptake of applied herbicides, whether it be total weed killers to paths and paving, or selective herbicides to turf areas. In the case of the latter, consult label recommendations with regards to timing this around any seeding operations. 2019 may also be a good time to consider opting for rotation of Active Substances as part of an integrated weed management plan. Areas where substances such as 2,4-D, MCPA, mecoprop-P and dicamba have been used for a number of years would benefit from being rotated with alternative active substances, such as clopyralid, florasulam and fluroxypyr.

Also consider that not all active substances are equally effective against all weeds. 2,4-D for example is useless against yarrow (Achillea millefolium) because the plant is able to metabolise it. Similarly, weeds such as Slender speedwell (Veronica filliformis) or Field Woodrush (Luzula campestris) are best controlled with fluroxypyr. Consideration of such issues and accurate identification of weeds present represents responsible management, both from a financial, environmental and resistance perspective. If in doubt, contact a BASIS qualified advisor for advice on how to manage such considerations effectively.

There is no effective spring control for chafer grubs; however, chafer grub pheromone traps deployed in May will collect adult males on the wing and form the basis of an integrated management plan of monitoring and recording the pest life cycle, so you can better time nematode applications later in the year.

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.

Turfing Goalmouths

The turfing of goalmouths is a renovation process carried out if the existing surface has failed, which may be because of poor construction and/or high usage levels. Turfing is a last resort only explored once levels have been lost and the playing surface becomes unstable and dangerous to players. There are several key stages to carrying out a re-turf:

1. Preparation

First decide how big an area is to be re-turfed so that turf can be ordered ahead of any preparation work, always add 10% to this to allow for wastage. Preparing the area correctly is vital to the success of the re-turf. The existing damaged surface should be removed using a turf cutter to the depth of the new turf.

GAA goalmouths generally suffer from compaction and relieving prior to laying turf is essential. This can be done with pedestrian or tractor mounted equipment or even a fork if aeration machinery isn’t available. In cases of layering and severe compaction it is preferable to turn over the soil with a rotovator. In heavy soils, it may be worthwhile to add some drains or mix sand into the existing soil before establishing levels. Once the compaction has been relieved the surface should then be consolidated by ‘heeling in’ with your feet to prevent sinking afterwards. The ground should be firm but not compact.

Levels should then be re-established to blend seamlessly into the surrounding playing surface and finished with the back of a rake ready to receive the turf.

2. Turf Selection

The selection of suitable turf for renovation work is the first criteria to be considered. When considering what turf to use it is useful to have a ‘turf nursery’, or an area on your facility that is unused and may contain good quality turf. This is an area of land set aside for growing turf in similar conditions and using the same maintenance programme so that the turf is as near identical to the original as possible, that way no patches are clearly visible after the repair. There are a few general rules to abide by when selecting turf for harvesting and these are that the turf is:

  • Healthy but hungry (ready for a feed once laid)
  • Dense in grass coverage
  • Free from weeds.

The size of the turf (width and length of rolls) will depend on how you plan to lay it and whether it’s thickly or thinly cut. Every joint will be a weak point until the turf has established so ideally to keep joints to a minimum, large rolls are preferred. Large rolls will need to be laid by machine whereas smaller rolls can be laid by hand.

Laying the Turf

The new turf should be laid onto the prepared surface so that it is level with the adjacent surface. Areas may need to be raised or lowered as you go. Start by laying the turf along a straight edge. When joining turf, you should allow a small overlap and cut through both turves with an edging iron, before removing the two off-cuts to ensure a tight, clean joint. On subsequent rows the joints should be staggered like brickwork. Boards should be placed on newly laid turf for walking along and working from. Turf should be ‘well butted together to prevent gaps. Always push turf into a joint, never stretch the turf by pulling it.

Aftercare

As mentioned earlier, turf should be hungry on arrival and ready for an application of fertiliser. This will ideally coincide with a springtime application for the pitch. In dry conditions the turf may need to be watered to prevent it from shrinking. Once the turf has begun to root it can be top-dressed and brushed with a light dusting of sand to smooth out any imperfections. Mowing can begin as and when is needed in the right conditions to ensure the machinery will not compromise the quality of the re-turf.