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

As the rugby union season reaches its climax, many of you will be hosting important games, whether that be promotion and relegation battles, cup games or even corporate events, so aim to achieve the best surface possible. It won’t be easy given the number of games, but presentation will go a long way.

Regular brushing will help to prevent disease outbreaks and also stand the grass up.

Always ensure that any disease is correctly identified prior to applying any plant protection product.

Maintain a height of 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
  • 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

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.

Machinery

  • 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

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

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

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.

  • 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