Key Tasks for September
Now that games are taking place again, it's a case of keeping on top of the mowing and preparing pitches for matches:
- Continue brushing to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant, removing early morning dew and controlling disease
- Mow regularly at your preferred cutting height to ensure a good sward density
- Verticut to clean out lateral growth and aid air circulation
- Continue spiking when the conditions are right - alternating between surface and deep with occasional slitting
- Aerating and spiking high wear areas ‘now’ will help them later in the season
- Linemarking; “measure twice: mark once” is a good tip to take on board when marking out new pitches
- While temperatures remain fairly high, take the opportunity to apply an autumn fertiliser. The application of a good balanced feed, with perhaps a seaweed tonic, may help to fill your grass out, but bear in mind the need to apply it in line with your feeding programme
- Don't be tempted to apply too much nitrogen, as you may find yourself struggling to keep up with the flush of grass growth
- Do not apply fertiliser during drought periods, unless you have the means to water in
- Avoid the use of fertilisers with a high salt content, as this draws moisture from the plant. Use of liquid fertilisers are less likely to scorch grass, but may still need to be watered in
Traditionally, September marks the beginning of autumn. A time when conditions can be more favourable for carrying out maintenance tasks such as seeding and turf recovery. The temperatures can be more generous without the extreme heat and long dry spells (location dependant) which can cause issues through the height of summer and there is typically more moisture around which really helps drive seed germination, establishment and growth.
The long term forecast for the month ahead currently looks favourable with a mixture of sun and showers. Average daytime temperatures in the late teens and average night-time temperatures in the low teens. Therefore, it should provide those who weren’t able to get any renovation work carried out in August the opportunity to take advantage of favourable conditions in September. Ultimately at this time of year attention also starts to focus on autumn nutrition and integrated pest management (IPM) plans. With a focus on disease management and keeping surfaces in quality condition as environmental conditions (such as dew formation) become more favourable for disease outbreaks. Therefore, at this time of year moisture and water management are key factors to build maintenance practices around.
When undertaking renovation activities that incorporate seeding, good contact with the soil will ensure the seed can utilise any moisture and use the favourable ground temperatures to establish. Applications of plant growth regulators, such as prohexadione- calcium and trinexapac-ethyl prior to the operation, can assist in holding back competition from the existing mature plants already in situ. Which would otherwise compete against the seedlings. A simple technique which helps freshly germinated grass plants to establish in a more favourable environment.
Establishment and recovery from any maintenance operations can be assisted from ensuring adequate nutrition is available, so that once the seed has depleted its own resources there is sufficient available to maintain growth and likewise for any turf recovery situation. An application of energy from phosphorous helps to synthesise ATP, the energy currency of all cells. Calcium will provide the raw ingredients to drive cellular generation at the growing tips of roots and within new leaves. Additionally, it will strengthen the primary cell wall, strengthening defences against pathogenic fungal attack, particularly as cooler nights coincide with warm days to produce heavy dews, an environmental factor mentioned previously.
Applications of high levels of nitrogen on fine turf surfaces should be avoided as this can lead to an increase in severity of a disease outbreak. Research has shown that balanced late autumn fertiliser applications can result in better spring performance. Essentially, avoid over applying readily available nitrogen which would result in excessive, soft top growth that is more susceptible to pathogen attack.
Worms will now start to become a focus for turf managers; as the moisture levels in the soil increase, it will coincide with an increase in activity. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally.
Cultural management continues to be the only route currently available which can include a combination of practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts, leading to less negative lasting impression on the surface from the cast.
- 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