Expected weather for this month:

Similar to December, with warmer periods followed by cold snaps

Key Tasks for January

As generally advised, it is always best to avoid working on any frosty or frozen ground. However, in the real world, this is not always that easy with the pressure to get fixtures on. Local knowledge, expertise and individual circumstances will determine whether a pitch is playable or not.

Weather permitting, the following guidelines should be followed:

Maintain a height of cut between 30-90mm.

Continue with post match divoting and brushing and undertake aeration if conditions allow. Stay off the pitch with heavy equipment if your ground is holding water – a hand fork might be your best friend!

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 complement 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

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.

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.

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

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

Additionally ...

  • 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

Remember – the more that club members, players and officials understand what you role involves, the better. You could use any spare time to provide a members newsletter/blog detailing what problems you are experiencing (training regimes, waterlogging etc.) and to seek additional help as required

January, in many respects, is likely to model December fairly closely with warmer periods giving way to cold snaps, particularly as we head into the second half of the month.

Once again, let’s consider the pros and cons of each:

Warmer Period

Pros: If soil temperatures rise above 10 degrees Celsius, then good growth will promote recovery on disease scars and worn areas, as well as push along seeded areas following renovation events during early autumn.

Cons: Warmer conditions which promote growth can encourage fungal diseases, especially when they occur alongside high relative humidity and low air movement.

Colder Period

Pros: Once temperatures drop to zero or below, fungal diseases will also draw to a halt.

Cons: Grass growth stops once soil temperatures hit low single figures, thus reducing recovery and establishment growth. In addition, cold conditions place an abiotic stress demand on the plant leaf tissues.

January represents the ideal time to engage in planning and education. Along with all other land-based industries the Sports Turf sector faces a number of challenges, both in the present here and now, as well as on the horizon for the next 5–10 years.

Primarily, those challenges can be categorised into the following:

  • Climatological
  • Legislative
  • Technological

Engaging in continued professional development at events such as BIGGA’s excellent British Turf Management Exhibition, over 22nd–24th January, is an excellent way to spend time with other like-minded individuals and engage in discussion and events designed to help transfer and expand the industry’s knowledge base. 

Planning fertiliser inputs via the creation of fertiliser programmes is a long established and accepted practice in the turf management sector. With an increasing emphasis on Integrated Pest Management as both best and most effective practice when tackling a range of turf management factors, transitioning that same thought process and working practice into a number of areas is both wise and necessary.

An annual management plan for the following areas are all as equally valid as a fertiliser plan:

  • Water management plan – surfactant wetting agents for intensive drought and wet periods, programmed application timings.
  • Disease management plan – cultural operations to improve grass species composition, soil ecosystem diversity, non-pesticidal disease management, chemical controls.
  • Worm management plan – identification of pressure points, reduction of surface organic matter, top dressing with sand, surface acidification.
  • Insect pest management plan – identification of pest species, monitoring of life cycle, treatment protocols.

Underpinning the success of all of the examples set out above are; communication, knowledge and education, planning, monitoring and recording.

2018 was a challenging year for turf managers; so, set about reflecting on those challenges, then go about implement how to position yourself and your organisation with the means to meet any challenges you may encounter in 2019 and beyond.

Times are not changing, they have changed.

Are you ready to meet the challenge?

  • 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

Weekly checks:

  • Check posts are secure
  • 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

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