If we have freezing temperatures at night and the ground is hard throughout the day very little can be done. However as this is less frequently the case in recent years there are some helpful jobs which can be carried out.
Aeration is vitally important for turf to grow well, particularly the roots. For many clubs the limiting factor will be availability of equipment. If there is no mechanised machinery to hand your local representative should be able to recommend a reliable contractor. Failing this use a hand fork in the areas of concentrated wear and dress with sand afterwards.
If you see starlings or rooks pecking at the turf it is an indication that there are high numbers of Leatherjackets. The pitch should be sprayed with chlorpyrifos to control these as they will seriously reduce grass cover later in the season.
Ensure the marking equipment is kept clean and the correct type of white marking paint is used.
Consider mowing the turf if the weather allows, it will improve the appearance and collect some dead herbage.
The importance of aeration cannot be over emphasized, remember grass roots grow in the spaces between the soil particles. The vertidrain is very helpful when used on football or rugby pitches and will reward you by improving the firmness of the surface. After using a vertidrain or deep slitting equipment it is desirable to dress with sand. This should be of the correct particle size for sports turf, details of which can be obtained from your representative.
If the weather is mild without frost at night apply a dressing of fertiliser to help the turf start to grow as soon as possible. There are certain analyses such as 6-0-12 or Delta Sport 6-3-9+0.5%Fe which are ideal for using any time of the year. Providing the pitch is approximately 100 x 70 metres ten 20kg bags should be sufficient. If the weather allows mow the turf with a machine set at 35/40mm.
Keep irrigation systems serviced as frosts over this and previous months may have caused damage.
The appearance of the pitch may be affected by dead leaves which have accumulated through the winter. To remove these attach a brush or wire rake to the rear of a mini tractor or mowing machine which should help to collect them.
If it was not possible to apply fertiliser in February this should now be done. Because the season has moved on consider using an analysis with a higher nitrogen similar to Delta 12-4-8+0.5Fe . Ten or twelve 20kg bags should be sufficient to give a good result. Always ensure the fertiliser spreader is working correctly to ensure an even spread is achieved, one of the items which frequently causes a problem is the gear box.
Mowing should be increased in frequency with machine set about 35mm.
The season will be drawing to a close and pitches are usually very worn from the use through the winter. Aeration is still important to try and improve the structure of the soil profile. Fertiliser should have been applied by now so the existing turf should be growing well.
To ensure sufficient time has passed before renovation in May any selective weedkiller required should be applied now. Ask your representative to identify any weeds so that the product with the correct spectrum is used. Ensure that the pitch is cut at least once every week as frequent cutting improves the density of the turf.
Make sure end of season renovation materials/products have been ordered.
The season has now ended so renovation should be started as soon as possible. Begin this procedure by scarifying the pitch to remove organic matter which may have accumulated at the surface. Follow this by deep aeration to improve the profile of the soil. Presuming it is now some time since fertiliser was applied a further dressing should be made prior to drilling in the grass seed. If a drill cannot be obtained the seed may be spread using a fertiliser spreader. However if this procedure is used the surface must be made friable so that the seed can be worked into the soil and not left lying on the surface. Follow this with a dressing of suitable sportsturf sand.
One of the major factors after seeding is ensuring the young seedlings have sufficient moisture. If the weather is dry it will be necessary to irrigate using a travelling sprinkler or other type of equipment to ensure even coverage.
Usually pre seeding fertilisers have a high phosphate analysis such as 8-12-8 but the Delta 8-6-6 would also be very suitable. Any mowing which may be necessary should be carried out using a rotary mower set at a height so that it will not stress the young seedlings.
So the list for spring renovations is:
Continue to mow using a rotary mower to help the new seedlings. June can be very warm so ensure the turf doesn’t become stressed because of lack of moisture through the profile. It is important to ensure not just the surface is moist.
Any areas which look like they are not establishing quickly enough should be over-sown. A light topdressing will also be a good idea at this time.
Consider planning for the season ahead by painting goalposts or ordering new posts, flags or equipment. Doing this early will ensure it is received in time for the coming season and not delayed in the rush around August/September.
Start to mow the pitch with a cylinder mower set at 35 – 45 mm, consider applying a summer fertiliser to ensure establishment of the new grass. The Delta Sport 12-4-8+Fe is ideal.
Continue irrigating if possible and pay attention to the centre circle and goal mouth areas if water is limited.
Mow regularly to prevent ryegrass flower stalks establishing.
Areas which look thin and uneven should be topdressed at a rate of about 1-2kg/m2.
The grass seeded in May should now be sufficiently established to mow at 35mm with cylinder mower. Remove the clippings by always having the grass collection box fitted so that there is less chance of organic build up at the surface caused by decaying leaves.
This month make the initial lines using a prescribed marking paint which contains Glyphosate, such as Duraline Preline .
Remember frequent mowing will improve the density of the turf, once every week is the minimum.
It is time to start aeration again, any type will help but deep slitting is helpful to encourage good root growth. Try to remove worm casts before mowing if possible by brushing and if the problem persists apply Carbendazim at the rate of 4 litres per hectare with the appropriate volume of water. Continue regular mowing at 35mm.
Consider applying herbicide to treat weeds if necessary.
A light topdressing may be required in September.
October is the month when leaves begin falling from trees, remove any accumulations to ensure the grass is not starved of daylight. Lack of ultra violet light is one of the main reasons for development of fungal disease. Modern ryegrass cultivars are very robust against disease but at this time of the year you should keep diligent watch for any signs.
Apply a suitable fertiliser for the autumn, the 8-6-6 Delta Sport or the 6-3-9 from the same range would be ideal.
Raise the height of cut on highly worn areas to improve cover in the long term.
November / December
Try to prevent the surface becoming water logged, the aeration throughout the year should help prevent this occurring. Obviously making holes or slits in the surface in wet weather will help remove water from the surface so the importance of this cannot be over stressed.
Divot as often as possible to help keep an even playing surface.
The ryegrass cultivars available today will germinate at low temperatures so providing the weather is frost free seed any bare areas which may have appeared and dress with sports turf sand.