Pitch Perfect - Snowy Pitch

Pitch Perfect - Blog 6!

By Scott Byers
We hear from our Groundsman of the Year, Scott Byers, on the pitch challenges that come with a cold January!

Hello to all the Groundsman across Kent once again! 

I hope you have all the enjoyed the freezing temperatures and snow as much as I haven’t!

January has been a challenging month for me and my team as temperatures drop with some heavy frosts and snowfall disrupting our programme. Like many of you I don’t have the luxury of frost sheets here at K Sports and we have very limited options during these difficult conditions. Heavy frosts can sometimes delay our daily tasks for up to 4 hours making it very difficult for us to complete our workload. Walking across the pitches in freezing conditions can be damaging enough let alone carrying out any maintenance using machinery.

Pictured below is our pitches 1 & 2 after the snow fall recently:

 Pitch Perfect - Snowy Pitch

All of our pitches are now well above 60 usages and are showing typical signs of wear and tear. Goal mouths in particular have struggled throughout this season, partly due to the lack of rainfall & irrigation when renovating last summer. We have previously used winter seed to try and improve the coverage & condition of the goal mouths but unfortunately with the usage being so high, results were negative.

In the next couple of weeks we will be attempting to relocate our pitches to help us avoid some of the high wear areas. Moving pitches will obviously depend on the space you have available on your site. Although it’s only minimal this will provide us with a better goal mouth for the second part of the season whilst also recovering and repairing our existing goal mouth. Although conditions aren’t ideal this time of Year, it does help us to make these small improvements and keep the pitches in good, safe playable condition.

Pictured below is the goal mouth from our pitch 6 with 81 usages so far this season:

 Pitch Perfect - Goal Mouths

In recent weeks we have reduced cutting significantly but ensuring we maintain our cutting height at 30mm. Growth has slowed with temperatures dropping so we have to pick and choose carefully when we carry out our maintenance across our pitches. When the frost clears we aim to give the pitches a light brush using our ride on mowers with collectors ensuring we pick up any lose damage or debris. Our mowers are in use every day whether it be for post-match clean ups or preparation for training. We avoid using heavy rollers as our pitches are often compact this time of Year and heavy rolling will only reduce the playability. Despite Verti-Draining & slitting to help relieve compaction over the winter months we still regularly deep fork areas of puddling across our pitches.

Another key priority for me is pitch rotation, with Ebbsfleet United FC training here 4 days a week it’s vitally important we don’t over use a pitch. With just two members of staff preparing and repairing a pitch 4 days a week alongside all our other responsibilities can be challenging. After each session we will divot repair the pitch and then brush or cut it the following day in preparation for their next training session. With 6 grass pitches along with two synthetic surfaces it does put pressure on me and my team to ensure all the pitches are maintained to the highest standard possible.

Pictured below is Ebbsfleet United’s pitch prepared for training:

 Pitch Perfect - Football Pitch

Weather permitting this week we can resume our weekly working programme which will include slitting our pitches. Slitting used in combination with Verti-Draining ensures that our pitches are aerated regularly and helps to improve the playability and drainage of our pitches here at K Sports.

We will also be looking to feed the pitches over the next couple of weeks using a cold start fertiliser from one of our professional suppliers. This will enhance the colour of our pitches whilst providing the turf with the appropriate nutrients at this time of Year. The granular fertiliser we are set to use is suitable for low temperatures and we are hoping for positive results.

If conditions don’t improve over the next month, take the time to carry out repairs to your pitch to ensure they remain in safe and playable condition for all users. Divot repairs, deep forking and top dressing will help to prolong the quality of the pitch deeper into the season. Another job we carry out when the time is available is stringing out our pitches to ensure our line markings remain straight and presentable throughout the season. Repairs to goals and nets can also be handy if necessary. Although wet weather is frustrating, it does free up time for jobs which you might not normally get around too.

Pictured below is our pitch 2 being prepared for line marking:

 Pitch Perfect - Football Pitch

Best of luck for the month ahead and let’s hope for some dry weather!

Scott Byers

Head Groundsman at K Sports

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