April Maintenance

General Maintenance

Unless you have been very lucky, you are likely to have suffered due to the recent bad weather, and some grounds, if played on when they weren't ready, subsequently become unplayable weeks afterwards.

If that describes your current situation, then stay off the pitch until the surface is dry enough to allow you to run a dragmat over it to restore the levels. Spiking can also assist.

Rugby and football seasons are coming towards their climaxes at the moment and you may be getting ready to host important matches, whether they are promotion or relegation clashes, cup games or corporate requirements. Always try to deliver the best possible surfaces which may not be easy given the recent conditions. Great presentation always goes a long way.

Brush regularly to prevent any outbreaks of disease and get the grass standing up and before applying any plant protection product, always ensure disease is correctly identified.

Your height of cut should now be between 24 and 30mm and make sure that regimes such as goalkeeping drills and small-sided games are not continually taking place on the same part of the pitch to avoid excessive wear.

  • Keep cutting - this encourages good sward density
  • Ensure equipment is keenly set to cut
  • Brush regularly to keep air circulating around the base of the plant
  • Deep spike when conditions are favourable to alleviate compaction
  • Be flexible with your spiking regime - altenate between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting
  • Hand fork heavily worn areas if you can't get onto the pitch with machinery
  • If you have downtime, use it to service or overhaul machinery
  • Attempt to keep the top 100mm free draining. Achieve this by regular spiking with solid or slit tines to a depth of at least 150mm

Marking out

Make sure your marker is always clean, keep the string lines taut and form right angles correctly using the 3:4:5 triangle method. The bigger the triangle you start with, the more accurate the pitch will be.

Pre/Post-Match Routines

Before the game: Check the pitch is fit and safe for play, that there is no debris (glass, stones, for example) on the surface, clear away any leaves and make sure the surface is firm but not saturated, correclty marked out (see above), flagged and that the posts are safe and secure.

After the game: Replace divots - even just the worst affected areas as this will make a difference, dragmat or brush to restore playing surface and remove worm casts and use a rotary mower to clean up the playing surface

Also, don't forget to book your machinery in for its annual service and repair if you haven't done so already, dragmat, harrow and groom rake the surface as required to maintain levels, remove dampness, control disease and get air around the plant, and verticut or spike as often as you can.

Agronomy

April is always a good time to take soil samples. This is best done before end-of-season renovations so you have the analysis back in time to prepare for next season.

You should have a Particle Size Distribution (PSD) analysis done - this will tell you the precise make-up of your soil. All soil contains diferent ratios of clay, sand and silt and PSD analysis will tell you what percentages of each are in your soil. It also helps determine the amount of organic matter content, soil nutrient status and soil pH - all great information for you to have at your fingertips so you can decide exactly what your soil needs.

Analysis also tells you what levels of nutrients plants have available to them. Each plant nutrient has an optimum and along with other properties like soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigirous your plants are. Each nutrient takes on a different task within the plant.

You can now apply an early starter fertiliser, which will provide for good grass recovery while establishing young grass seedlings. Go for something like a 9:7:7 but make sure your choice corresponds with your soil analysis.

Then, later in the month, apply a slow release fertiliser to take the grass through until May or June. An ideal product is Lebanon Proscape 25+0+5+1%Fe 51% MESA 22.7kg and it lasts for several weeks.

Weeds, pests and diseases

Make sure to coordinate your weed treatment programme ensuring that when you are spraying, you are not damaging emerging grass in areas you have sown. Remember that the majority of selective weed killers will persist for up to six weeks in the ground.

Check the label for the correct advice about when to spray. If you want to prioritise weed treatment before renovations, then delay your renovation week for up to six weeks. On the other hand, if you are going to renovate first, it is essential that you make sure your newly-sown grass is nicely established before applying weed treatment.

Look out for any outbreaks of fungal disease and if you spot any, use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Dew in the morning can provide the perfect conditions for fungi so keep brushing to remove the dew.

Equally damaging can be leaf spot, especially in stadium environments. Again, regular brushing is the answer as this keeps the leaf blade dry, but also apply an approved fungicide to prevent further outbreaks.

One very common turfgrass disease is Red Thread. It can develop at any time of year but thrives when it is cool and wet, often appearing in late spring and autumn. All turfgrasses are at risk, but ryegrasses, meadowgrasses and fescues tend to be affected more than most.

Its appearance is often seen as an indicator of low fertility and if nitrogen or potassium is limited, symptoms will be even more severe. A dose of fertiliser should be enough to see it off, however, and if it persists, fungicides can be an effective course of treatment.

Remember to always ensure diseases are correctly identified before any treatment is applied.

Machinery

Keep your machinery in the best possible condition. Grease any grease nipples, oil any metallic moving parts, check the oil and check the water. Then clean when you are finished.

 
 
Dennis Mowers