Pitch Perfect – Blog 9!
Hello once again to the grassroots Groundsmen across the County!
The season has now come to an end and like many of you, our senior pitches here at K Sports have exceeded 100 usages from last season. This was a combination of match days and training sessions. Training sessions generally cause a lot more wear and tear throughout the season, teams often penetrate smaller areas of the pitch which causes more damage.
Last summer we didn’t renovate our pitches due to problems with irrigation and weather conditions which certainly weren’t on our side as we all remember. As anticipated this meant our pitches were not performing to their maximum, causing problems with surface levels and poor grass coverage. This led us to over seed and apply 60 tonnes of top dressing across three of our pitches in October aiming to make the desired improvements.
This off season has been slightly better for us, managing to use 25 bags of seed, 160 tons of Grade D silica sports sand, carry out decompaction and also make significant improvements to our irrigation.
Pictured below is our pitches 5,6 and 7 being top dressed:
Once you have applied your top dressing and seed the next important job is to ensure it is spread evenly throughout the pitch, particularly targeting the higher wear areas. This can be achieved using a drag mat, which works the sand into the surface gradually and effectively. In higher wear areas such as goal mouths, a levelling lute can be used and ideally this would be with a 50/50 rootzone rather than 70/30 or 80/20 (sand to soil) material.
Pictured below is our pitches 2 and 3 after a drag mat and a rotary cut:
If your club does have the budget to carry out any renovation works, make sure your pitch is allowed a minimum of 6 weeks without play. Although this is difficult, the renovation won’t be effective if matches and training are still taking place on the pitches. Rest is arguably the most important factor when carrying out these works.
When your renovation works are complete and you are simply waiting for new grasses to establish, take time to adjust your mowers. Servicing may be necessary, regrinding the cutting blades will help to ensure a cleaner cut. When sand is dominant across the surface, try to avoid using cylinder mowers for the first couple of weeks to avoid damaging the blades. Me and my team here at K Sports slightly increase our cutting height so we don’t disturb the materials we have applied.
Remember to apply your granular fertilisers, helping to ensure your pitches are receiving the required nutrients. As written in previous blogs, fertilising will encourage new establishment, enhance colour and improve the overall health of the plant. We are currently using a 12-4-8 granular fertiliser, a balance which works superbly well for us.
Another option when carrying out renovation work is scarification. This helps to eliminate any thatch layer throughout your pitches and provide a cleaner playing surface. If your pitch requires scarification, this should be carried out at the very start of your renovation programme with seeding and top dressing to follow.
Goal Mouths are a typically high wear area across most football pitches. They are difficult to maintain at the best of times, particularly if usage is excessive. We over seed and top dress our goal mouths each season, helping to ensure the damaged area makes a full recovery. Each season we slightly move our pitches, allowing the goal mouths to be in a more established grassed area. This also gives us more time to recover from the season before, which is often difficult.
Pictured below is our goal mouths from early May:
During growing season regardless of what work has been carried out, it is vitally important not to let the grass grow out of control. If you are cutting fortnightly for example, clippings will be evident across the surface looking very unsightly which is not ideal. Cutting little and often is far more beneficial and also helps to maintain a reasonable height of cut. Cutting heights should ideally be between 25-30mm. If the usage of your pitch is excessive then 30mm will add further protection. General rule of thumb is to avoid cutting more than one third of the plant during one cut.
In the next Month we will of course continue trying to make improvements to our pitches ready for the return of our professional teams for pre-season. We will also take time to carry out any repairs to goals, replace any damaged nets or corner flags and go through maintenance checks which will benefit us going into the new season.
Regardless of your budget and the scale of renovation works you may be carrying out during this summer, I wish you all the best of luck. Let’s hope the weather is on our side!
Scott Byers - Head Groundsman at K Sports Cobdown.