Key Tasks for October
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.
The start of October is set to continue as September has ended, somewhat on the wet side. There are some signs, however, that for at least some parts of Ireland this may change to a more settled and drier period toward the second half of the month. Whatever the local environmental conditions are at any given time, paying close attention to what happened in previous years with respect to the timing of disease outbreaks, cross referencing that information against the current date, before then checking that against current prevailing weather conditions prior to looking ahead in a bid to see what is just around the corner, are the absolute fundamental basic levels of turf grass pathogen management in 2019 - these all encapsulating fundamentals of an Integrated Pest Management approach.
In the context of Microdochium nivale control, knowing what happened, what’s happening and what’s about to happen is paramount when determining the likelihood of disease expression and the selection and timing of inputs aimed to counteract the onset of disease attack. Say goodbye to the age of the reactive product applier and say hello to the age of the informed tactician.
The second and third aspects, of course, are what factors favour the pathogen and what factors favour the plant. The final factor is what is the effect of the input or action being taken and how will this influence conditions, either towards the pathogen or towards the host (grass plant).
Regulating nitrogen inputs to maintain steady hardy shoot and leaf growth is a priority. Lush growth is more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens, so slow release nitrogen, either polymer coated or methylene urea in combination with straight urea will give longevity through to the new year. Where conventional fertilisers are chosen, ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent.
A dose of micronutrients is a good idea to ensure the plant has a full menu of essential nutrition.
Iron – the traditional go to option for hardening the plant in the winter. However, there is no evidence to suggest iron plays a role in directly hardening the plant against pathogen attack. Calcium and silicon are the proven elements for this need. Sulphate of iron, in particular, will weaken the cell walls of the leaf due to the acidity; rather, a fully chelated iron with a pH more towards neutral will be far less antagonistic towards cell wall integrity and beneficial leaf dwelling microorganisms.
Carbohydrates - Applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar during the autumn will be beneficial to the plant and soil over winter. The benefit is a more resilient and well-developed plant in the early spring.
Seaweed – maintain seaweed applications during October, but avoid applications at times when environmental conditions favour fungal pathogens. Seaweed will illicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant and associated microorganisms when applied ahead of disease activity and when conditions favour the disease.
Amino acids – play an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and cope with autumnal and winter stress events.
Humates – continue applications to maximise nutrient availability and application efficiency as well as providing habitable zones for beneficial bacteria.
- Adequate balance nutrition of all plant essential elements not just NPK
- Minimise stress by raising heights of cut and avoiding activities such as top dressing which weaken and damage leaf integrity
- Look after the soil via regular light aeration
- Reduce periods of leaf blade wetness by removing dews or using dew dispersants (apply only to a dry leaf)
- Monitor disease forecasts via resources such as Syngenta’s Greencast
- Plan, stock, apply beneficial nutrition as part of non-pesticidal disease management
- Take advice on and plan strategic preventative fungicide applications using historic data, live weather forecasts and site specific conditions and protected maintenance operations which may cause abiotic stress.
There are no legal substances which can be applied for the control of worms. Any substance or products which act directly upon worms would never be approved by CRD for authorisation.
The only legal option is modification of the local surface soil environment via acidifying with specifically formulated solutions of ammonium sulphate or the application of straight sulphate
Beware regular applications of sulphate of iron, they may well discourage surface casting activity, but the iron will accumulate in the soil causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout rest of the year.
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