Preferably, you should have conducted a soil analysis of your soil profile to ascertain the nutrient status of your green. This will help you decide what fertiliser products to buy and apply. Using manufacturer’s recommended rates, A spring/summer fertiliser should now be applied to encourage top growth. When fed correctly rye grasses are more wear tolerant.
Start your pitch prepration 10-12 days prior to the first match of the season and following the guidelines laid out in April's maintenance calendar will result in a good standard of pitch.
It’s crucial to have water available for irrigation purposes, which is required for pitch preparation, repairs and the health of the plant. It’s important the water penetrates to the root zone, a minimum of 100-150mm, to encourage deeper rooting. Allow to dry, then repeat irrigation process, allowing the service to remain dry however can lead to problems such as dry patch, scorching and death of the plant.
Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play. After match pitch repairs begin with the brushing and sweeping up of any surface debris. Soak the wicket, scarify and spike,
Use germination sheets to aid in any seeding where the grass is weak, sparse or bare. 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.
The outfield should be treated the same was as any other natural grass pitch, with regular mowing, raking or verti-cutting, aerating and feeding to maintain a health sward.
Light harrowing/raking helps keep surfaces open. Apply balanced fertilisers such as a 9-7-7 as part of your annual maintenance programme to help stimulate growth and recovery. Aerating the outfield will help to increase aerobic activity and get some much needed oxygen around the grass plants root system?
If possible, an application of sand dressings and regular spiking will improve soil water movement in the top 100mm. You can hollow core your outfield then brush the cores back into the surface which helps restore levels, reduce thatch and helps speed up the surface.
Outfields tend to be undulating and uneven, preventing close mowing and in reality, most are probably mown at a height between 12-25mm. Rotary mowers tend to scalp undulating ground where as boxing off with a cylinder or hydraulic gang mower can give a better finish, so the type of mower will dictate height of cut.
All Groundsman/Greenkeepers should ideally monitor the performance of the playing surface, with aid from technology such as cameras you can monitor the performance of your sward in many ways.
The use of Performance Quality Standards (PQS) has been promoted by the turf industry, to ascertain the standard of spot pitch maintenance.
It’s also important to measure the performance of your facilities to ensure it meets any stated guidelines by the sports governing bodies.
This can include measuring composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, sward height, hardness, levels over a 3m level, and infiltration rates of the soil root zone.
With the development of GPS mapping in recent years it’s now possible to measure chlorophyll, moisture content and deviation in levels. A soil test will help determine organic matter content, soil type, CEC capacity, nutrient stats of the soil and soil pH.
Having a better understanding of the above will aid you in making better decisions on what maintenance inputs you will need to undertake to maintain surface playability.
Weeds, Pests & Diseases
Prevention is always better than a cure, so keep an eye open for turf diseases. The plant can become susceptible to disease attack from the combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade.
The most common and damaging of the diseases is Fusarium, which symptoms are orange/brown patches 2-5cm across increasing in size. When viewed early in the morning patches are distinctively ‘ginger’ in appearance. Creamy white mycelium resembling cotton wool can be seen in the centre and towards the outer edge of the patch.
In the active patches you will find the grass is often slimy, and even once the disease is controlled scar will remain until there is sufficient grass growth to fill in. To reduce the likelihood of a disease outbreak you can regularly brush, switch or dragmat in the mornings to remove dew.
Red Thread is ill-defined bleached grass with Pink mycelium visible in early morning dew. Close inspection will reveal red needle like structures which are attached to the leaf blades. The needles become brittle upon death and are easily detached allowing fragments to spread the disease.
Protective fungicides and Systemic curatives such as Chlorothalonil and Iprodione, can be used to control any outbreaks, applied in liquid form with water as a carrier. Mixing two or more products in the same tank can help reduce the potential for disease resistance developing. Fungicides are selected with different modes of action so that resulting mixture will attack the target disease on two or more fronts, making it more difficult for the pathogens to develop resistance to treatments.
The use of Cabendazim is the only active ingredient for controlling worms, and be used if needed, as you may find they’re very active at this time of year. Moles can be active where worms are prevalent and need to be treated as they can cause a lot of damage to the surface.
Merit can still be applied, as leather jackets and chafers are fairly prevalent, but it can be tricky to get a good kill when the grubs are at this stage of development.
There may be some symptoms of plant parasitic nematode activity, as soils warm up. There are two different types of nematode which infect grass plants; Endoparasitic which enter the roots tissue and feed on the plants or Ectoparasitic which migrate along the outside of the roots and feed on root cells.
Be on the look-out for the following symptoms:
You can assist in returning some balance to the soil with Biomass Sugar, which will reduce plant stress associated with parasitic nematode attack.
Machinery & Materials
All machinery should now have been returned from any servicing in time for use, with ongoing inspection and cleaning after use being vital. Breakdowns cost money as well as inconveniencing pitch preparations. The workshop should be kept in a good order; good housekeeping is important, a tidy workshop reflects a tidy worker.
Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.