As part of the Kent FA’s commitment to pitch improvement throughout the off-season, we are delighted to have teamed up with our official Pitch Improvement Partner, Bourne To Garden, to provide you with some top tips to prepare your pitch for when football returns.
The top tips are linked to the Football Foundations newly-launched Pitch Preparation Fund, where clubs or organisations who meet the criteria can apply for up to £5,000 to ensure their pitches are ready for the new season.
Here’s Colin from Bourne To Garden with his top tips:
Keep the rootzone open to encourage root and plant health. Even a shallow aeration will break surface tension and help to get any spring rain into the rootzone. I would recommend that as part of any end of season renovations, the use of “verti – drain” type equipment to try to get as deep as possible with as much heave as the ground will take, as this will give better results in the long run, including better drainage in the winter and better drought resistance through the summer as the longer roots can search out moisture.
Depending on the wear and tear from the season, I would recommend a minimum of 20 g/sqm of a 100% rye grass mix distributed evenly across the surface. If possible, use a drill or disc seeder to get the seed in contact with the soil and slightly buried to give the seed the best chance for establishment. Prior to top dressing hand seed the hard-wearing areas such as goal mouths, penalty spots, centre spots and assistant referees runs at a slightly heavier rate, possibly as much as 30 – 35 g/sqm.
Ratios of sand / soil will vary with soil types and wear from the previous season, but most winter sports pitches will require a higher sand content with a more course granule to help with drainage through the playing season. Most pitches will require a minimum of 60 – 80 tonnes per year, spread evenly across the surface and drag brushed into the surface.
Apply fertilizer at a minimum rate of 25 g/sqm, with a well-balanced feed such as a 9-4-10 or 14-6-8, depending on a soil analysis to encourage the sward to establish. I would recommend slightly less nitrogen as early, lush growth will stress the grass plant and mean you will need to feed again more quickly. Your turf grass specialist will be able to provide a nutrition guide for your soil and help to produce a fertilizer programme.
Irrigate if a dry spell looms to help get the seed and fertilizer activated and help settle top dressing into the surface, however turf grasses need a lot of water soaked into the rootzone so as to avoid shallow rooting and potential problems in the playing season with root break, leading to the loss of the playing surface. However, in the establishment phase any water is better than none at all.
Once the seed has germinated mow to encourage tillering and where possible “box off” the arisings to help reduce thatch. Where possible keep the turf mown in the 24-30 mm range and leave slightly longer if a dry spell comes.
Spray to control weeds and worms to maintain a level, even surface and easier working and playing conditions through the season. Earth worm casts also provide the ideal seed bed for windblown seeds to establish and out compete the favourable grass species.