Key Tasks for February
If your pitch is frozen, stay off it; you will do far more harm than good. If we get some milder weather in between the cold spells, then ensure that any heavy wear areas are well spiked. This may be best done with a hand fork rather than machinery.
Pitches that are not cut on a regular basis will often exceed 125mm - far too long. The plant becomes weak, straggly and often flattened after play or training.
Most professional and semi-professional clubs cut between 30-40mm.
Continue with post match divoting and brushing and undertake aeration if conditions allow.
If training on the main pitch, ensure that regimes, such as shuffle 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.
- 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 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
- 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
As the last month of the norther hemisphere winter season, February heralds lighter evenings and brighter mornings, and as we head towards the end of the month the well-worn seasonal phrase - ‘it’s warm behind glass’.
From an agronomic perspective, February also represents the last opportunity for turf managers to sit and contemplate how they are going to maintain their surfaces during the growing season ahead.
This contemplation can result in one of three main outcomes;
Continuation – defined as the continuation of an habitual or time proven approach.
Alteration – defined as the refinement of established practices or the addition of new process into an established system.
Revolutionary – defined as a through change in direction and approach.
All of the above are equally valid depending on circumstance and, to some degree, turf managers will be preparing to embark upon various iterations of each of these outcomes to a greater or lesser degree across all practices within their remit.
There are no correct across the board answers with respect to how or why these outcomes are chosen to be implemented as each facility and each category of maintenance requirement is distinct to its own set of unique circumstances. Circumstances such as climate, soil type, construction type, previous maintenance, financial resources, labour resources, sport type and fixture pressure.
The current climate within the industry is one of change. Solutions which were previously effective are either being removed or superseded by enhanced understanding and refinement of existing methods.
Actively engaging with education via the attendance at seminars, talks and training is an incredibly valuable thing for each and every one of us to make the time to commit to at some point in the coming year.
In respects to the current climate and how that effects turf managers actions over the coming month, this overriding advice could be summed up as follows.
Make the most of windows.
If the weather conditions are favourable due to increasing warmth, sunlight and low humidity driving growth, introduce a small quantity of fertiliser on areas which are showing signs of sclerosis (yellowing); nitrogen in the form of nitrate or ammonium will be taken up by the plant the fastest. Be careful not to apply too much nitrogen and force lush growth, as cold winds will desiccate soft leaves, and fungal pathogens, fuelled by low temperatures and high humidity, will quickly take advantage.
Maintain applications of calcium to harden cell wall structure and provide a line of defence to both these challenges.
Moss is likely to be prevalent on surfaces at this time of the year. This is due to climatological conditions which favour it over grass. The end of February into early March is a good time to apply sulphate of iron to tackle moss, however try to time an application once the general trend in the weather is leaning towards the grass rather than the moss.
Soil sampling - now is the perfect time to undertake a broad spectrum soil analysis from which to make informed and cost effective decisions for the fertiliser programme ahead.
Speaking of programmes, surfactant, disease management and insect pest management plans and protocols are all necessities of sports turf management at all levels in 2019. Put together, they work towards an integrated approach with all the benefits that infers.
It’s important to maintain aeration when ground conditions allow. Helping the soil to expel carbon dioxide and drain water is absolutely vital when it comes to maintaining a healthy plant and soil. In water logged areas, be wary of anoxia which is when the plant starts to yellow due to a lack of oxygen around the roots.
Speaking of water, what is your soil reserve like? Dig a hole to check if the soil is dry more than 100-200 mm beneath the surface. If it is, then aeration combined with a penetrant wetting agent is critical to maximise rainfall ahead of the summer. If soil water reserves are low, then we won’t need a summer anywhere near as dry as 2018 to severely effect the quality of surfaces this coming year.
- Keep your machinery in tip top condition
- Grease where you find a grease nipple, oil where you see a metallic moving part, check the oil, check the water
- Clean it when you've finished