Following a wet winter and storms badly affecting many grounds, it is now time to regularly brush the square to lift the sward, keeping it upright to help dry the plant and reduce disease.
When conditions and weather allow, one of the first tasks is to mow the square to remove winter growth. The height of cut may need raising - make sure you are just topping it off and not removing too much grass in one go. Set your mower to 25-30mm so clippings will be removed at the same time.
Sarel roll the square following this first cut, opening it up and lightly ironing out the surface. Use a low nitrogen, higher potassium feed (NPK 6:5:10 +6% Fe) to help green up the plant and control any moss that has built up over the winter.
Later in the month, reduce the mower height to 15-20mm - provided weather conditions allow, of course. Lightly verticutting to remove any lateral growth caused by snow or rain is also recommended.
Don't overstress the grass at this time as it could have a major impact later in the season.
Don't forget about the oufield either. They need to be harrowed, aerated and implement a programme of solid or slit tining to a depth of 150-200mm to aid water movement and oxygenate the soil.
You can still take soil samples, with findings used as part of your fertiliser programme. Stay on top of any grass growth and mow at 30mm if you have to.
Keep an eye on the weather. You may want to start your rolling programme earlier than planned but only do this if your season begins in early April; any other rolling should only start in March.
Take your lightest roller to begin with and use the 'Union Flag' system, rolling in as many different directions as possible but finish in the direction of play. Timing of this is very important.
Disengage the blades to reduce friction and unnecessary wear on the machine if you are using the weight of a mower as your roller. You could add weight to the grass box, for example a bag of loam, to increase consolidation.
You must build up the rolling gradually over a few weeks until it is time to get the heavy roller out to get the right consolidation for the new season.
Ideal rolling conditions suggest the soil is in a state of plasticity or "plastercine" like. Use a knife to test the square regularly to see what condition it is in. If it is too wet, delay rolling to avoid any damage.
Your aim is consolidation and the quality of your pre-season rolling will show when you produce your first pitches of the season. The square must be consolidated throughout to a depth of no less than 100mm - where squares have been constructed to ECB guidelines - and this can only be achieved by gradually bulding up the weight of the roller.
Get your soils sampled for nutrients, organic matter, content and pH. A pH of 6.5 is what you are aiming for - anything lower or higher is too acidic and lower alkaline and would impact grass growth, recovery and pest invasion.
You can give the grass-growing process a helping hand by applying low nitrogen based fertilisers, which, along with high potash feed (NPK 6:5:10) will help the grass green up and control any moss growth.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can continue along with your annual programme - only apply what your soil needs.
Weeds, Pests & Diseases
Disease can occur in February, particularly Fusarium, Anthracnose and Red Thread, when the weather is mild. Keep the sward brushed, use switch canes and brushes to remove heavy dew deposits in the morning.
Worms are active throughout the winter months and all the more so when it is mild and wet. Watch the square and treat accordingly. You can carry out worm treatments if needed but think about why worms are present - pH levels, organic matter and your cultural practices may need to be assessed.
The only active ingredient available for controlling worms is Carbendazim.
You can use systematic curative and protective fungicides to control diseases, of which a large range are available with the active ingredients chlorothalonil and iprodione. Apply in a liquid form with water as the carrier.
All personnel should be suitably qualified in the application of chemicals, gaining PA1/PA6 certificates for handheld spraying or PA2 certificates for tractor or vehicle spraying.
With regard to rabbits, foxes and moles, you must identify the problem and control their activities and if need be employing approved pest control services to eradicate them from the site.
Turf disease can affect your outfield if soil moisture levels increase - early morning dews exacerbate the problem. Brush regularly with a tractor-mounted boom brush.
Machinery & Materials
There should still be time in February to send any machinery away for repairs or servicing. Keep your cylinder mower blades sharpened and serviced as these are vital to good groundsmanship.
Keep a good stock of materials like loam and seed ready for any repairs or maintenance. This is now the ideal time to get in touch with sales reps and find out what products are available for spring renovations. Don't leave it until it is too late!