March Maintenance

General Maintenance


March is normally when warm weather gets the grass growing, although many parts of the country have seen good growth over the winter, with some pitches still being cut and overseeded during this time.

When mowing, keep your height of cut as near as you can to the high end of a winter cutting height, to ensure the grass has optimum leaf area for carbon production (the building blocks of plant growth) through the process of photosynthesis.

Continue to brush to keep air circulating around the base of the plant, remove dew and control disease. Well-worn areas (goalmouths, in-goal areas, centre circles) will need attention after matches to lift the grass out of the muddy areas. This is also crucial to keeping surface levels.

Divoting is important and should be done after every game. Use a border fork and a bucket of topdressing with some sand mixed in - two hours divoting, tending to some of the worst-hit areas can make a lot of difference. If you are unable to afford a full divoting programme then tackle the worst of it and clean the rest off with a mower or pick-up sweeper.

Continue to spike when conditions allow. Be flexible with your regime and alternate between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting. Use a hand fork in areas where it is difficult to get to with machinery.

Make sure you keep your lines looking bright by overmarking them before each game, then stringing them when they start to wander. Put thought and time into this as pitch lines are one of the visible impressions the public have of what you do.

If your training pitches are being used on a daily basis, try to reduce wear by rotating where activities are taking place so the same areas don't get completely worn out.

If you plan to do early renovations in April, you might need to think about reducing the height of your grass over the next few weeks. This will firstly make sure your emergent grass sowing won't need to compete for light with taller established grass and secondly it means you won't be on the grass with heavy machinery when it is in the process of establishing.

Look over any irrigation reels or equipment if you have them, and check they are in good working order - then complete any service requirements, if they are needed.

Aim for all matches to be finished in time for your renovation window.

Agronomy

Particle size distribution (PSD): March is the right time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis. You will ideally want a full PSD soil analysis done - if you haven't got one already - to tell you the actual make up of your soil profile, including how much clay, silt and sand make up your soil profile.

Soil pH: You can also establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content, plus soil nutrient status and soil pH. This information will give you help in identifying exactly what your soil needs. These tests are also ideal for checking other physical conditions of the pitch, for example root depth, compaction levels and aerobic state.

You may want to use wetting agents to improve and enhance soil performance. These reduce the surface tension of a liquid, resulting in the liquid spreading across or penetrating the soil profile more easily and are normally applied each month.

Look out for any hint of nutrient deficiency and compaction which could cause the ingress of Red Thread, which can be effectively treated with fertiliser.

Your pitch will most likely need a feed now, so a low nitrogen input with some iron is recommended. This will get the grass plant moving and the iron will give some colour to the sward and kill moss spores. Keep a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile to make sure it grows properly.

Turf treatments are an option and there are plenty to choose from, such as organic based micronutrients, seaweed treatments, clay flocculants, amino acids and plant growth regulators like Primo Maxx. It is not always easy to assess whether you will see the benefits of these treatments, but you will quickly be able to see if they are effective or not. Try asking your supplier for a trial amount and test for yourself.

Weeds, pests & diseases

Disease control: Be aware of the possibility of turf disease and know that prevention is always better than a cure. Moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can combine to make the plant susceptible to disease attack. Turf grass diseases active at this time of year include Fusarium and Red Thread.

Fusarium symptoms are orange-brown patches 2.5cm to 5cm across, which increase in size as the disease progresses. Active patches display a distinctive ginger appearance when they are seen early in the morning. Creamy white mycelium which looks like cotton wool can appear in the centre and towards the outer edge of the patch. Grass in the active patches can often be slimy and even once the disease has been controlled, until there is sufficient grass growth to fill in, the scars will not go away. Brush regularly in the mornings to remove dew to reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak.

Red Thread manifests itself as ill defined bleached grass with Pink mycelium which can be seen in early morning dew. Looking closer, you will see red needle like structures attached to the leaf blades. When these die, they become brittle and detach easily which allow fragments to spread the disease. Outbreaks can be controlled by systematic curatives and protective fungicides such as Chlorathalonil and Iprodione applied in liquid form using water as the carrier.

You can mix two or more products in the same tank to reduce the potential for resistance to the disease to develop. This will make sure the disease is attacked from two fronts, making it more difficult for the pathogens to develop resistance to treatments.

Pests: Worms might well be quite active at this time of year so carry out treatments if you need to. The only active ingredient for controlling worms is Carbendazim - always remember that anybody applying chemicals must be suitably quailfied.

Machinery & materials

You should now be thinking about your end of season renovations and how you will tackle any possible extension to the season, and how you will get onto the pitches to carry out work. Get your strategy down on paper and identify what resources you will need - manpower, materials and machinery.

Make sure any of the machinery you are going to need for the renovation is in good working order - take it out, dust it off and fire it up so it is ready to go. If you need something but don't have one, then look at borrowing one from nearby, or hiring. There are several hire companies around now who specialise in hiring sports equipment.

Whatever you choose, get it ordered now so there are now last-minute dramas.

 
 
Dennis Mowers