Football Groundsman Maintenance Guide, is a blog l hope you will find helpful and just some thoughts.
For most of us football or winter sports groundstaff it truly has been a shocking autumn/ winter. Record rainfall during the early/mid season hampered both winter and summer sports groundstaff ,with cricket renovations being washed away or not at all to winter sports pitches.Which just haven’t coped with the winter deluges and more recently winter storms Ciara and Dennis .
We have all struggled at some point,between October and December we recorded 700mm up here in the north east coast but as l said in my last blog with proactive management and good maintenance practices we got through. We are just about up to date with our fixtures here and as before, aerating winter sports early, when conditions are drier will pay most dividends.
Compaction is usually at depth and it’s relatively easy to find out how deep compaction in the soil profile is. I use a metal road pin and I push it into the profile until I meet resistance. Results vary depending on soil type, but l normally find compacted layers 200-250mm below the surface,especially in clay based soils.
This layer needs shattering with either a vertidrain type machine with heave or a linear aerator(picture below) In my experience shallow aeration will not alleviate the compaction and may lead to further problems, especially in wet clay soils where smearing and side wall compaction may just produce a clay test tube for the water to sit in.
So in conclusion, plan aeration/decompaction early, then back up with other forms of aeration to keep the profile open.
As spring approaches and hopefully better weather my thoughts turn to renovation.
Renovations Questions to Consider
What seed and how much?
Sand spreading and reinstatement?
The renovation window for winter sports pitches will soon be upon us. What should we be looking at doing?
That all depends on budget, but here are a few pointers to help out :-
Cut sward of pitch as low as possible.
If budget allows scarify and collect leaving a clean surface to overseed.
Grass seed should be of the perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) variety. We use this species because of its fast establishment and excellent wear tolerance, vital for winter sports. I have personally started using regenerating perennial ryegrass or RPR,although slower to establish the cross bred ryegrass produces stolons under the surface which produce more grass plants.
I find once established it produces a very hard wearing surface. Smooth stalked meadow grass (Poa pratensis) may also be an option, especially on pitches with a shading problem but l have found this species very slow to establish, so unless you have time I wouldn’t recommend it.
Sowing of the seed should be disc or dimple seeded, depending on conditions. A star or dimple seeder is better when pitch conditions are soft. A disc seeder works much better in drier surface conditions,aiming for a seeding depth of 10mm below the surface to protect the seed from birds and the elements. I always aim for a sowing rate of no less than 35 grams per metre squared.
This may mean eight to ten bags of seed per pitch and I sow the pitches in multiple directions. A pre seed fertiliser (6.9.6) should be applied at a rate of 35 grams per metre squared to help seed establishment.
Top dressing of the surface should be considered to re-establish surface levels, to protect the seed and if drainage is a problem to create a bridge through the profile to carry water. Before applying any sand check its suitability with your supplier,for use on your soil.
It normally takes 60 tons of sand per winter sports pitch to give a good coverage and should be applied by a mechanical belt spreader
As mentioned previously, creating a drainage bridge through the profile, especially in clay based soils is vital to get the surface to perform better,thererefore consider vertidraining at this stage. Using 19-25mm solid tines try and achieve a depth of 250-300mm.
If possible using heave to fracture the profile. Heave is the altering of the entry/exit of the tine from the ground and this creates the cracking in clay soils that helps drainage.
Make sure when a contractor does this operation the hole spacings are a perfect square, like a four on a dice. If elongated or a rectangular pattern the machine is going too fast and the effect is lessoned.
After vertidraining, running over the pitch with a drag mat will help restore surface levels and most vitally pull the sand into the vertidrain holes.
Renovation is a costly but vital operation that all clubs should consider if they want the maximum usage out of their pitch. Therefore :-
Communicate – get the committee /coaches/players on board. It’s for their benefit!
Plan – draw up estimates, plan of renovation and materials early. Don’t get caught in the end of season rush!
Products – Choose the correct products. Using inferior or wrong products is effectively money down the drain
Contractors – look for reputable contractors. Get different quotes. Get the job done the way you want it. After all your club is paying for it!
Think of post establishment practices,perennial ryegrass is a very hungry grass and to get it to perform you’ll need to consider a fertilising program.
Mowing post establishment,try to keep grass mown at a height of 35mm and in different directions. This will help tiller the grass out and create good ground coverage.
As we move into the close season of football and renovation many may have to have winter sports pitches ready for cricket. Next time I write it’ll be post establishment and my role will have changed to cricket groundsmanship and also as a minor counties/premier league/ ECB pitch advisor.
Let us keep our fingers crossed for a better summer ….
We all deserve it, that’s for sure!
Paul Jackson (check me out on our about page-https://turfcareblog.com/about/)
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