October Maintenance

Key things to keep an eye on during October will be night time temperatures, humidity and periods of leaf blade wetness. This month could swing either way from prolonged dry spells dry patch to wetter days.

If you find night time temperatures are falling, growth rates of both grass and fungal pathogenic growth will start to drop off. This will also lead to heavier morning dews, prolong periods of leaf blade wetness and increased risk of attack from fungi.

Water stress can quickly creep in if you conditions tend to be at the drier end of the spectrum, especially on windy days when evapotranspiration rates are higher. This can be particularly risky for newly sown seed which may be in the initial stages of germination and establishment. 

Nutrition and Disease Management

Favouring products such as the methylene urea contained with the Lebanon range is both sensible and cost effective. Nitrogen applications will still be required and Ammonium sources should be applied with care so as not to force too much soft growth which is susceptible to disease.

However, readily available ammonium is useful in maximising establishment of sown areas ahead of the winter, but be sure to really keep on top of mowing and remove dews whenever possible so to avoid rapid spread of fungal diseases.

An application of a preventative systemic fungicide such as Bayer’s Interface® or Dedicate®  and Syngenta’s Instrata® will help to guard the plant against infection during times of high susceptibility.

Magnesium is the element at the centre of the chlorophyll molecule and applications of this secondary macro element as the days draw in will help the plant to maximise photosynthesis efficiency. Potassium is required in a higher proportion as we enter the autumn winter period.

Combining little and often applications of a soluble or liquid fertiliser with a straight liquid nutrient is a key tactic in marinating plant health, for anyone looking to be in fine control of nutrition. Different elements don’t always mix cleanly together, so it is worthwhile performing jug mixing tests and then alternating little and often applications either every two weeks or once per month depending on disease pressure arising from environmental factors. 

Phosphite is particularly useful at this time of the year when it comes to providing the plant with an easily accessible form of phosphorous which also helps to resist the spread of fungal diseases. Calcium and Chelated Iron are also vital nutrients when it comes to toughening up the plant and increasing cell wall thickness. 

Finally; a tonic of trace elements will help to sustain levels that may have reduced over the growing season and facilitate the plant with  abroad spectrum diet moving inot the winter period.

General Maintenance

Now the season is underway, most groundsmen will have a better understanding of how their pitch is performing, as a rule of thumb aim to maintain a cut height between 24-30mm.

Essential tasks in preparing pitches for play involve, mowing, marking out, divoting, brushing and carrying out aeration.

Training areas will be prone to damage, such as goalkeeping drills and small sided games. Where possible, rotate the areas where these drills take place.

Continue cutting to encourage good sward density

Ensure that any equipment used is keenly set to cut

Regular brushing will keep the air circulating around the base of the plant

Deep spike to alleviate compaction as and when required

Continue spiking when the conditions are right (this should only be carried out if the soil is suitably moist) to compliment your deep spiking

Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting

Hand fork goalmouth and centre circle areas, if difficult to get onto the pitch with machinery

Try to keep the top 100mm free draining; this can be achieved by regular spiking with solid or slit tines to a depth of 150mm or more.

Divoting is crucial, so start as you mean to go on. At this stage of the season, the addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil will help to repair any deep scars.

Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for disease. Remember that, without good seed to soil contact, the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.

Marking out

Keep your linemarker clean

Keep string lines taut

Ensure that right angles are correctly formed. Use the 3:4:5 triangle method. The bigger the triangle at the start, the more accurate the pitch will be.

Machinery

Keep your machinery in tip top condition

Grease where you find a grease nipple, oil where you see a metallic moving part, check the oil, check the water

Clean it when you've finished

Pre and post match routines

Before the match

Check that the pitch is fit and safe for play

Check for debris (glass, stones etc.)

Ensure the surface is firm and not saturated, correctly marked out and flagged, and that the posts are safe and secure

Post match

Replace divots, even if it’s just the worst affected areas - it will make a difference!

Dragmat/brush/harrow to restore playing surfaces

Clean up the playing surface with a rotary mower

Agronomy

It’s good practise to undertake at least an annual soil test, this will help ensure you apply what is required and not waste money and time applying products you do not need.

Soil analysis is a means to discover what levels of nutrients are available to plants. There is an optimum for each plant nutrient and, when coupled with other properties such as soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigorous your plants are. Different nutrients undertake different tasks within the plant.

The choice of materials and how well it works can be dependent on many factors, including soil type and the weather, with moisture and warmer air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.

Weeds, Pests & Diseases

Weeds

As long as soil temperatures are warm then turf weeds will still be actively growing. As a result, the early part of the month represents the last opportunity to control weeds going into the winter; something which will not only improve presentation now but give facilities a head start with this issue next spring.

Pests

As soil moisture increases worm casting will become a problem on surfaces. With some sports the relative period where worm casts coincide with the playing season is relatively short, in such cases where casting density is not too severe then the best options are cultural controls such as brushing or switching prior to play and maintenance operations. 

The only legally approved and properly researched control of worms is Carbendazim. Using a pH buffer can improve results if your water is compromising the efficiency of this active ingredient.

October represents the last chance for you to be Pro-active not Re-active in regards to the control of both leatherjackets (end of the month) and chafer grubs (middle of the month) with entomopathogenic nematodes. If you fail to treat this year’s grubs when they are young and instead choose to let them grow over the winter there will be NO Way to control them in the spring once the crows and badgers start digging them up,  as the now mature larvae rise to the surface with the warming soil temperatures to pupate.

Diseases 

Particularly fusarium, are often prevalent during the autumn, mainly due to the heavy dews that are present at this time of the year. Moisture on the leaf will allow diseases to move and spread easily.

The typical types of diseases you may come across are:

Fusarium Patch

Red Thread

Fairy Rings

Anthracnose

Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php

Machinery

There is nothing worse than rushing at the beginning of the season, so make sure goal posts are cleaned and painted now. Check for replacement nets and spare parts; order them in, so they are on hand when needed.

Inspect and check your mowers regulary to insure you have set the correct Height of Cut (HOC) and the blades are sharp and cut cleanly.

Ensure you have checked your line markers and that they are fit for purpose, you may need to replace the nozzles and check the battery and water pump.

 
 
Dennis Mowers