Tips and Hints for the Month ahead on The Turf
This year if nothing else has taught us to expect the unexpected, the wettest autumn and winter on record has been followed by one of the driest springs in my memory and of course a small matter of the pandemic, challenging times for rugby groundsman.
This can mean the pitches can be in all sorts of states from hardly touched to close to a ploughed field.
As with all blogs I can’t cover all situations, but I hope to help those who need a few pointers.
So, the first thing to do is not to panic as we all learn very quickly grass is a miracle plant and will recover from near death to being a healthy plant if given the correct support.
I started as a rugby groundsman l basically had no equipment except for a transfer wheel marker but back then it was seen as a great resource, this was the 80s.
So basically, I borrowed a tractor and an orchard mower on sledges to cut the 6 pitches and a water filled roller that was it, since that time I have never rolled a winter pitch so I don’t advise it.
I also when looking behind our clubhouse found an old chain harrow covered in grass and then a set of Ransom’s gangs that were rusted up, but not too badly and after a £200 outlay they cut very cleanly.
I only mention this because it’s always worth having a search round especially if you are new to the club.
7 Possible Tasks for The Rugby Groundsman
Stand it up
If you have already completed renovations then I wouldn’t harrow worst (use the soft side in summer as less aggressive).
Ensure any new grass is well established and if not go gentle on it. A regime of weekly or more is a good idea, combined with a regular mowing regime will encourage great sward thickness.
Alternate directions of cutting and brushing is a great tip. This stops a nap in the grass forming when you continually work the grass in one direction.
Any chain harrowing should be done, soft side down unless using in winter or post renovations.
A brush maybe an even better option, at getting the grass standing up in a less aggressive manner.
This maybe a pipe dream to the grassroots groundsman, but if there are the means to spray a selective herbicide then weed control is important.
Please remember you need to be certificated in the use and application of such chemicals.
Weeds compete for the same water and nutrients as the grass plant, as well as look unsightly.
To gain the best results often a fertiliser application can be carried out a few weeks prior application.
For most weeds are part of life, so if that is your ground then maybe consider hand weeding, this words really well on non-tap root weeds such as plantains and daisies.
Avoid any application of herbicides when the grass plant is under stress, and for most that is probably now in this very dry period we are experiencing.
Aeration is the next most important job, hopefully you have been able to perform this task a few times in the last few months. If not one session will help a lot make sure the soil is moist before aerating.
Even if you do this with a garden fork and attack the high wear areas any aeration helps the grass plant, with moisture and gas exchange and a lot of us have time on our hands and a beer belly to trim get out there if you can.
This blog is aimed right at the grassroots and l am aware, water pressure and access to mains water can be just a pipe dream.
For those who can get some water down, here as few tips.
1-Avoid watering in the hottest parts of the day.
2-Prioritise watering to newly seeded areas.
3-Use horticulture fleece, scaffold netting or germinations sheets to hold moisture in that bit longer.
If the finances are available then over seeding is always a good thing to do but I had years when I didn’t have the budget and the pitches still recovered. If you are going down this route then you need to be able to irrigate if you can’t then you may well be wasting your money.
You will need to either bury the seed with a disc seeder or cover the seed with top dressing, or all you will succeed in doing is having fat pigeons.
As I’ve mentioned on previous blogs our skill comes in knowing when the conditions are right for each operation and to hold fast when they are not.
Cut and Feeding
As new growth establishes itself and if rain is forecast a spring/ summer fertiliser will help sward thickness as will a weekly cut at between 35mm and 45mm, but lower during the summer for other activities/sports as required.
It’s about what works for you we are on a very windy site with little irrigation so find the longer grass keeps moisture in the profile longer.
If you can irrigate throughout the summer then do so and if the money is available, I’d feed at six-week intervals checking on signs of stress.
Feeding a plant that is already under stress, could really do it some damage so only feed if the plant is green and growing and there are the means to water it in (rain or irrigation)
The best advice I can give is don’t stress about it, mother nature is a wonderful thing and grass will return.
Of course, observe the government’s rules on isolation and social distancing enjoy the weather and good luck.
Also check out the Grounds Management Association website (formally IOG) who are there to support rugby groundsman every step of the way.
If you want to check out more blogs, check out our rugby groundsman section- https://turfcareblog.com/rugby/
Massive thanks to the community for the images.
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