In these unusual times, pre-season training and games are all over the place. As we all know, presentation is important. If it looks well presented, with bands, stripes and a consistent surface, it makes the game more enjoyable for the players.
Grass growth might be slowing down, but you should be able to present your pitch with bands, stripes and a consistent surface and maintain a height of cut.
- 20-30mm sward height for Hurling
- 50-70mm high sward for Gaelic Football
Essential tasks in preparing pitches for play involve, mowing, marking out, divoting, brushing and carrying out aeration.
Training areas will be prone to damage from specific training regimes, 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.
At this stage of the season, the addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil may help to repair any deep scars. Ensure good seed to soil contact, otherwise the operation is pointless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not germinate.
- 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.
- Apply a low nitrogen, high phosphate and potassium autumn/winter fertiliser to aid grass recovery
- Dragmat, harrow and groom rake surface, as required, to maintain levels, remove early morning dew, control disease and generally get air in and around the plant
- Spike/verticut as often as possible
With the sun now lower in the sky, shade problems tend to increase. Shadows remain on the ground for longer periods and these areas tend to take longer to warm up and dry out which, in turn, may affect maintenance operations and playability.
Pre and post match routines
Before the match
- Check that the pitch is fit and safe for play
- Check post protectors and flags
- 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
- 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
GAA Artificial Pitch Maintenance
- Keep surface clean
- Brush according to manufacturers recommendations usually after every 7 to 10 hours of use or once per week and no more than 3 times per week general rule. Keep records.
- Remove any algae and moss from surface. Crumb Rubber filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer’s recommendations on rubber levels and pile heights.
- Check line and seems for any glue failure or tears and repair immediately any seems left unrepaired can become a big problem quickly
- Check fencing around pitch for loose panels
- Make sure that goal mouth rubber levels especially along kick out areas and replace if low.
- Clean decontamination areas out, make sure brushes at entrance and pitch signage is in place.
- The carpet is usually contaminated with debris from pitch. Brush carpet when dry to remove any clay particles. Make sure levels are ok with clay surrounds.
- It’s a good time to raise goal mouths if the pile height of the carpet is below the bordering natural pitch. Remember raising the carpet means raising the cross bar.
This month traditionally sees a shift in weather conditions, which become more autumnal without extreme heat and long dry spells (location dependant) which can cause issues through the height of summer, and there is typically more moisture around which really helps drive seed germination, establishment and growth.
Mornings and nights become noticeably darker and, importantly for turf managers, dew on the grass plant becomes a more regular occurrence.
The forecast for September looks set to break from the typically dry weather we have been experiencing in most parts of the country. The start of the month looks unsettled with spells of rain forecast for most of the first two weeks. Towards the end of the month, it is forecast to settle down with less frequent showers. Temperatures start the month in the late-teens, but towards the end of September these are predicted to be lowering to the mid-teens.
The increased rainfall and conducive temperatures could mean those who are yet to carry out renovations still have a good opportunity for success this month, providing the rainfall is not too extreme. If overseeding work is being carried out, ensuring a good contact with the soil will allow the seed to utilise the moisture in the ground. Also, consider utilising plant growth regulators, such as Prohexadione-calcium and trinexapac-ethyl, to help in the development of new seed by holding back the competition from the existing mature plants in the sward, creating a more favourable environment for establishment.
Conditions can become more suitable for disease development in September with an increase in moisture levels in both the soil and on the leaf surface. The 3 constituents of the disease triangle combine and surfaces can become damaged. This month can be an appropriate time to put in place a preventive disease management plan. This will ideally be an integrated approach which includes carefully selected nutrition from an appropriate nitrogen source (one that isn’t going to contribute to disease development), fungicides, biostimulants and moisture management, including dew control. These can be utilised in a synergistic approach where each application complements the next in the effort to minimise disease outbreaks and maximise plant health.
Adult crane fly typically emerge in late July through to September. The adult flies commence egg laying almost immediately, with hatching and larvae emergence about two weeks later. To aid effective timing of treatment, ensure the product is in the soil at the optimum time for egg hatch and initial larvae activity. Where chemical control is not authorised, entomopahogenic nematodes can be applied with warm soil temperatures and available moisture being ideal conditions to get the best out of an application. The entomopahogenic nematodes swim in the water film on soil particles in their bid to search out a larval host; useful information can be found on this link Sportnem T Leatherjacket Killer.
With the increased soil moisture content in September, worm activity will increase and soon become a major issue for turf managers. There are still no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally. Cultural management continues to be the only route currently available, which can include a combination of practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts, leading to less negative lasting impression on the surface from the cast.
B.Sc (Hons) | BASIS | FACTS
- 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