Key Tasks for November
Grass growth might be slowing down, but you should be able to present your pitch with bands, stripes and a consistent surface and maintain a height of cut.
- 20-30mm sward height for Hurling
- 50-70mm high sward for Gaelic Football
Continue with post match divoting and brushing and undertake aeration if conditions allow.
At this time of year, it is advised that training routines, such as goalkeeping drills and small sided games, are rotated on the pitch to avoid excessive wear.
- Continue cutting to encourage good sward density, ensuring that you do not over cut as this would thin out the sward due to the slowdown in growth
- 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 high wear areas, if difficult to get onto the pitch with machinery
- Use any downtime to overhaul/service machinery
- If it’s frosty, keep off the pitch until the frost has lifted or it becomes absolutely necessary. This will avoid damage to the grass plant/leaf
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.
- 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.
- Apply a low nitrogen, high phosphate and potassium autumn/winter fertiliser to aid grass recovery
- Dragmat, harrow and groom rake surface, as required, to maintain levels, remove early morning dew, control disease and generally get air in and around the plant
- Spike/verticut as often as possible
With the sun now lower in the sky, shade problems tend to increase. Shadows remain on the ground for longer periods and these areas tend to take longer to warm up and dry out which, in turn, may affect maintenance operations and playability.
Pre and Post Match Routines
Before the match
- Check that the pitch is fit and safe for play
- Check post protectors and flags
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
November is late Autumn in the northern hemisphere and the time when our annual voyage around the sun determines that the shortening of the day length really starts to have noticeable impact. To illustrate this, November 1st graces us with a sunrise of 06:53 and a sunset of 16:34 with a day length of 9 hours 40 minutes. On the final day of the month, those numbers have altered to 07:41 sunrise, 15:55 sunset and a day length of 8 hours 13 minutes. So it is then that, over the course of the next few weeks, we will lose 1 hour and 27 minutes of day length. The consequences of this march towards winter for turf grass surfaces are:
- less available sunlight for photosynthesis
- less available warmth to promote growth
- less time for wet leaf blades to dry out during the day
All of these environmental factors drive environmental conditions away from favouring the grass plant and towards undesirable factors, the ones which benefit from a reduction in photosynthesis, temperature and day length, including:
- Mosses and algae.
- Fungal diseases, in particular Microdochium nivale
Managing those undesirable factors requires an understanding of the conditions which promote them, for example excessive thatch, poor surface drainage and little and often deposits of nutrients onto a surface - all lead to a proliferation of moss and algae, which being simpler forms of life than grasses, are able to rapidly colonise in areas where the grass plant is on the back foot; for example, because light levels are low, soil temperatures are low and relative humidity is consistently elevated.
Disease incidence can be correlated with the factors in the disease triangle. All three factors are required to coincide for an outbreak of disease. The major pathogen on turf surfaces throughout November will be Microdochium nivale.
Consideration of the contributing factors
- Susceptible host – excess leaf growth and stress will lead to the grass plant (host) becoming more susceptible to fungal pathogens. The key factor here is appropriate nutrition. In practice this means the Goldilocks zone of nitrogen, just enough to keep the plant healthy but not too much to cause a flush of soft growth which allows the disease to attack more successfully.
Providing the plant with calcium, silicon and phosphite strengthens the cell walls and helps the plant to resist attack without resorting to chemicals. Applying plant beneficial biostimulants, such as seaweed and carbon energy when conditions favour the plant, primes its metabolic defence responses and assists beneficial microorganisms to help repel the disease.
- Virulent pathogen – Is the pathogen being provided with the resources it needs to thrive? In the case of fungal pathogens, this would be prolonged periods of leaf blade wetness and nutrition. Manage this situation by removing dews, reducing humidity within the thatch layer via aeration and the application of penetrant wetting agents. Also avoid applying biostimulants such as seaweed and carbon energy at times when the pathogenic activity is actively on the rise.
- Favourable Environment – prolonged humidity as a result of overcast days and nights, rainfall, cool temperatures which slow grass growth and low wind speeds which extend drying times are the factors which, when they align, drive the race between host and pathogen away from the grass plant and towards the disease. Monitoring forecasts and historic patterns facilitate prediction of high disease pressure, allowing turf managers to act appropriately.
Nutritional requirements will be aligned with growth; put simply, the more growth the more nutrition required. Typically, fertilisers applied during renovation operations should see the majority of surfaces through November and into December. As a result, NPK applications will be
Limited; however, targeted application of secondary macronutrients and micronutrients with calcium to elicit plant responses, such as those outlined above, will bring tangible benefits.
Maintaining appropriate water/air ratio is a key factor in reducing turf stress during periods of the year when rainfall increases and drying opportunities are reduced. Little and often aeration, via methods such as star tining and sarel rolling, facilitate diffusion of oxygen into the profile and carbon dioxide out. This allows the plant roots and beneficial soil microorganisms to breathe, which reduces plant stress and sustains their population numbers respectively.
Maintaining water percolation into deeper aeration channels and drainage systems, via the application of penetrant wetting agents, reduces the tendency of water to be held at the surface where it acts as a barrier to gas exchange and increases localised relative humidity; something which helps fungal diseases to grow and spread.
Regular applications of products containing sulphur will acidify the local soil surface environment and discourage worms from casting. Avoid regular products containing iron which is not in a liquid chelated form, as this will quickly oxidize and build up in the soil chemistry causing numerous problems such as reduced pH, iron panning, nutrient lock up and inhibition of microorganisms.
Inspect and check your mowers regulary to ensure you have set the correct Height of Cut (HOC) and the blades are sharp and cut cleanly.
Make sure that goal posts are clean. Check for damage to nets.
Ensure you have checked your line markers and that they are fit for purpose, especially the spray jet markers; you may need to replace the nozzles and check the battery and water pump.
- Check goals for loose bolts and tighten as necessary
- Check nets - make sure they are properly supported at the back of the goal and aren't sagging
- Check team dugouts are stable and anchored securely. Make sure that they are tidy and free from litter
- Repair and maintain fence lines
- Sweep up/vacuum fallen leaves