Expected weather for this month:

Generally consistent forecasts of daytime temperatures between 2 and 10 degrees centigrade throughout the month

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

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

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

A new year heralds new opportunities. Opportunities to reflect upon the successes and failures of 2019 as we plot a refined course for 2020.  

At the heart of all effective sports turf management agronomic programmes is an integrated approach. One which pays consideration to the whole as a system rather than individual factors. Underpinning the successful implementation of an integrated approach is knowledge, monitoring and recording, followed by planning.

Knowledge leads to appreciation and understanding.

Monitoring and Recording leads to the extraction of truth.

Planning leads to the refinement of ideas and processes for incremental increases in successful outcomes.

As we enter 2020 and the new decade it heralds, should you not be 100% confident and comfortable in your own ability and understanding of how to practically implement these concepts into your day to day management then I implore you to act now. Take positive advantage of these winter months to reach out and seek answers as to how you can better grasp and then implement these principles into all you do across your facilities. Fully integrated management, implemented well, is a necessity for success in 2020 and beyond.

Many people are doing well and are trying hard to adapt to changes such as revocation of products and extremes of climate. However, I do often witness a committed application of the principles to one subject area; for example, Microdocium nivale management mirrored by a lower level of engagement and application for other issues, such as weed, water and leather jacket management. Integrated by definition applies to all matters equally, as a collective.

Nutrition

The requirement for nutritional inputs by the plant will be low to zero depending on temperature. A soil temperature of 8-10 degrees Celsius is required for metabolic activity and plant uptake of nutrition.

Applications of calcium and silicon will assist the plant to withstand cold and harsh winds and by strengthening the primary and secondary cell walls. Contrary to popular opinion, iron does not directly harden a grass plant, rather it upregulates enzyme production leading to a greening of the leaf via metabolic processes. Chelated iron can be used to add colour and will not accumulate problematic iron deposits in soil over time, in the same way raw ferrous sulphate heptahydrate will. Increasingly, copper is being added to many iron products; copper will accumulate in soils over time and can cause toxicity issues, so be sure to researched the full ingredients list on any products rather than looking at headline figures. If you are still unsure, then Safety Data Sheets will sometimes list ingredients if they are contained at concentrations which have to be declared in the interests of environmental and human health. That is not to say that copper has no place in balanced nutrition, but rather to apply it with thought and consideration to the long-term bigger picture. Some amino acids also may assist the plant in upregulating metabolic compounds which assist in cold weather survival.

Disease

Applications of calcium and silicon will also help the plant to directly bolster its defences from pathogenic attack via hardening of cell walls. Seasonally warm night-time temperatures, combined with continual periods of leaf blade wetness, will help Microdochium nivale to proliferate. The active substance Fludioxonil acts as an anti-sporulant.  This fungicide controls dormant spores residing in the sward and thatch layer in-between outbreaks of infection. Using dew dispersal and penetrant surfactants will reduce leaf wetness and sward humidity. All approaches which form an integrated management approach.

Weeds

Weeds development will be dormant during this month but, considering rotation of active substances and application timings for the upcoming growing season is a responsible course of action.

Pests

Insect pests will be dormant down within the soil profile, so present no immediate cause for concern. If soil temperatures are low, then worms will also be avoiding cold regions at the surface.

  • 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