January Maintenance

Maintenance Regimes

If your pitch is waterlogged after the heavy rain most of the country has seen recently, then stay off it because you will do more harm than good. Individual circumstances will dictate when the pitch is playable again. When - and only when - it is fit, make sure to spike heavily used areas and you might be better served to use a hand fork instead of machinery.

Mild temperatures mean grass is growing around the country. There will be some regional differences in temperature but soil temperature will be higher than usual meaning you can present your pitch with bands, stripes and a consistent surface. Maintain a height of cut of between 24 and 30mm.

If it snows, training will take place indoors or on the main pitch. Ensure that drills are not always held in the same areas of the pitch in that case to prevent excessive wear.

  • Keep cutting to encourage good sward density, making sure you do not over cut which would result in thinning out the sward due to growth slowdown.
  • Make sure your equipment is used keenly to cut
  • Brush regularly to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant
  • Deep spike to alleviate compaction - alternate between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting and be flexible
  • Hand fork goalmouth, centre circle, in-goal and any other well-used areas if you can't get onto the pitch with machinery
  • If you have any downtime, use it to overhaul or service machinery
  • If you should be hit by frost, stay off the pitch until it has lifted or until you absolutely have to - this will avoid damaging the grass plant/leaf

Aim to keep the top 100mm free draining, something you can achieve by spiking regularly with solid or slit tines to a depth of at least 150mm

For marking out, keep your linemarker clean and keep string lines taut. Ensure that right angles are formed

Agronomy

The pitch is likely to be sodden, if not saturated and the grass roots badly need some air. When it is dry enough, try to aerate, slit and tine as the holes will close up nicely and you can make a real difference to the plant's recovery.

As temperatures are higher than usual, use a slow release nitrogen feed to nourish the hungry sward. Harden the plan with an iron (ferrous sulphate) feed.

Weeds, pests & diseases

January can still herald disease, particularly as it is milder than usual. Keep the sward brushed, especially in the mornings. Knock off the dew to remove surface water from the sward and prevent attacks of disease. You can use switching canes and brushes to do this.

Use systematic curative and protective fungicides to control diseases - there are a wide range of products on the market that have active ingredients Chlorothalonil and Iprodione. These are usually applied in liquid form with water as the carrier. Remember that you must be suitably qualified in chemical application to carry out this task.

Worm activity can be prevalent during the winter and all the more so when the weather is mild. Keep an eye on the pitch and treat accordingly. Carry out worm treatments if required but think about why worms are present. Assess your pH levels, organic matter and cultural practices. The only active ingredient available for controlling worms is now Carbendazim.

With pests such as rabbits, foxes and moles, you must identify the problem and control their activities, if need be employ approved pest control services to eradicate them from the site.

A combination of early morning dews, diminishing daylight hours, warm and wet weather means the risk of fungal disease outbreaks is increased. Attacks can be triggeed by weakened or susceptible plants, a disease-producing organism and weather conditions suited to the formation of fruiting bodies and spores - moist, mild and wet.

You may come across Fusarium Patch, Red Thread or Dollar Spot - these are typical types of disease.

Machinery

Keep your machinery in prime condition, grease where you find a grease nipple, oil where you find a metallic moving part, check the oil, top up the water and clean thoroughly when finished.

 
 
Dennis Mowers