Your key tasks after a well deserved Christmas break is to remove any surface debris from the square such as leaves and litter. Get rid of it all as the sward won't survive if it is denied access to the light. Some clubs put up temporary fencing around squares to protect them so if you do this, make sure the fence stays both safe and effective.
If you can't work on the square at this time, you might be able to do some work on the outfield - weather permitting, of course. Brush regularly to remove dew and lift the sward after recent snow. Aeration is vital and this can also be carried out along with any drainage and repair works required.
January is a good time to carry out repairs and maintenance to items such as sightscreens and other structures around the ground. if the weather is good, take advantage to paint and make any repairs.
BRUSHING: Brush regularly in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces and this will reduce the chances of disease outbreaks. Many turf grass diseases are active at this time of year during the mild weather.
MOWING: Don't neglect the square and you might need to mow in the winter. If you let the grass grow too long, this can result in a weak and leggy sward. How often you mow will depend on the need and condition of your club or ground. Maintain a constant height of cut on both the square and outfield. 25-35mm is fine for the outfield and 12-20mm for the square using a rotary pedestrian mower as a cylinder mower could tear or rip out fragile growth.
The outfield has a huge effect on the game it is not tended to. Treat it during the winter as you would any other natural grass surface and don't forget to aerate, fertilise and mow.
AERATION: The square will benefit greatly from the use of a sarrel roller to keep the surface free draining. Deeper aeration work is an option but only where shallow rooting is a concern and if pre-season rolling is not started before March or April. As a general rule, most will not aerate until January is over. However, the outfield can be aerated using solid or slit tines when possible.
The square will be wet at this time, possibly sodden and even saturated and the roots will badly need some air. When it is dry enough, try to aerate, some sarrel rolling or selected forking - the holes will close up nicely and you might be surprised at how much difference this can make to the plant's recovery.
Temperatures are currently unusually high so use a slow release nitrogen feed to nourish the ravenous sward. Harden the plan by using an iron (ferrous sulphate) feed.
If the outfield is being used as a football or rugby pitch, some tining or slitting will be required once it is dry enough as well as a slow release feed and iron.
Weeds, pests & diseases
Disease can still unfortunately hit in January, especially during mild weather. Keep the sward brushed, particularly in the mornings. Removing the dew keeps surface water away from the sward, dries it out and prevents disease. Switching canes and bsrushes are options for dew removal.
To control disease, use systematic curative and protective fungicides. There is a wide range of products available with active ingredients Chlorothalonil and Iprodione. These are usually applied in liquid form with water as the carrier - anybody applying chemicals must be suitably qualified to do so.
Worms can be very active at this time and especially if it is mild. Watch the square and treat accordingly. You can carry out worm treatment but ask yourself why they are present. Do you need to check your pH levels? Organic matter? Your cultural practices? The only active ingredient now available for worm control is Carbendazim.
Problems caused by rabbits, foxes and moles need to identified and then their activities controlled. Employ approved pest control services to eradicate them if you have to.
Fungal disease outbreaks can occur due to the combination of early morning dews, warm and wet weather and diminishing daylight hours. These outbreaks are triggered by weakened or susceptible plants, a disease-producing organism (pathogen usually fungi) and favourable weather conditions (moist, mild and wet) for the formation of fruiting bodies and spores.
Fusarium Patch, Red Thread and Dollar Spot are typical fungal diseases to look out for at this time of year.
If you have artificial pitches, keep them clean, sweeping and brushing regularly to remove any algae and moss from the surface. Sand-filled areas need regular brushing.
Repair any damaged facilities and structures such as netting, fences, scoreboards and sightscreens. Removable structures should have been stored away for the winter and as there is little work going on on the pitch, now is the time to do any painting or refurbishment on these structures.
Inspect drainage outlets, culverts and ditches and make sure they are in working order. This is a good time to unblock ditches as this can affect drainage during the season.
Make sure your loam stocks are adequately supplied.
Now is the time to plan. Evaluate how well your maintenance regimes have done and plan for next season. You might need to get quotations for machinery and materials. Be prepared for next season.
Keep records and diaries of activities carried out and how well facilities and pitches have performed. Take pictures so you have a visual record too.