For a basic spring renovation operations such as scarifying, spiking, fertilising, seeding and topdressing are all required. If you use the list as a sequence you won’t go far wrong, though heavily used areas may need further attention.
When scarifying, start by cleaning out the surface, removing old divots to get rid of any build up of dead organic matter accumulated over winter.
Reducing the height of cut before scarifying will help your grass establish better and also reduce any stress put on your machinery. The most traditional method is a tractor drawn rake, followed by a box mower.
An advantageous method would be a tractor drawn rake, with scarifying tines fitted, allowing the job to be completed in one operation. Another benefit is the tines leave a grooved surface ideal for ensuring grass seed is buried beneath the soil surface.
The aim with both methods will be a short and clean surface, finishing with a height of around 13mm to 20mm that will give grass seedlings time to grow and establish. Koroing is also extremely efficient at removing the top organic layer of the pitch, for those with the available finance. However, you will effectively be starting again with a newly sown surface so your seeding rates will need to be higher.
You want to be spiking as deeply as possible, to a depth of 250-300mm ideally, relieving compaction. Remember to check the depth of existing under soil drainage or heating before carrying out deep spiking. Pay particular attention to heavy wear areas, including linesmen’s runs and spectator areas.
A good pre-seeding fertiliser - typically one low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus and potash - will provide the young seedling with the essential nutrients to root quickly and to resist disease. This should be worked into the surface, brushed or dragmatted in. Water in if rain is not expected.
Using a good quality, new, seed when seeding is important as older seed is unlikely to germinate as quickly. To establish young grass seedlings and provide good grass recovery you will should start to apply an early fertiliser.
Oversow at the rate of 20 to 35g/m2. Keep some seed in reserve to oversow any thin areas later on. The important thing is to get good seed to soil contact to ensure good germination.
If you’re able to, monitor the progress of your renovations and oversow any thin areas to ensure you have a good start for the grass next season. A slow release fertiliser can be applied later in the month to take the grass through June and July.
Choose a topdressing compatible with your current rootzone. Typically this will be a medium to fine sand and a quantity of 60-80 tonnes.
This may typically be a medium to fine sand and of a quantity of 60 to 80 tonnes per pitch.
If topdressing is not an option, you could consider hollow coring, recycling them by breaking them up and dragmatting them back in. If you pitch is a sand slit system, then topdressing regularly with a compatible sand will ensure that the slits do not become capped over.
Topdressing provides two important functions; it helps to restore surface levels and covers the grass seed to provide good soil to seed contact.
Minor dips and hollows that collect water, noted during the winter, can be further spiked. Low areas in the pitch can be concentrated on.
A heavier topdressing for these areas will help raise levels, though you should ensure the it’s worked into the holes and base of the sward. If the topdressing is thick and left covering the top of grass this will only weaken the sward, leading in the need to repeat the operation.
Wear can range from pitches sustaining little to no loss of the grass in high wear areas, to a strip running the whole length of the pitch completely devoid of grass cover.
The more affected areas can be concentrated on to relieve compaction and bring the surface levels back, by importing new material compatible for your soil.
In some instances, you may consider turfing, though this is expensive. You will need to give the turf time to establish in order to stop it getting kicked out.
Recent news have highlighted the need to ensure all goalposts meet health and safety standards, so now is a good time to thoroughly check them over.
Other areas should also be checked over, such as fences and dugouts and, of course, now is a good time to consider having machinery serviced. If storing machinery away for any length of time, empty the petrol tank first!
Weeds, Pests & Diseases
Merit can be applied if you find leather jackets and chafers prevalent, although it can be tricky to get a good kill on grubs at this stage.
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.
If the warmth occurs in conjunction with humidity and moisture on the leaf for prolonged periods Microdochium patch may also pop up as temperatures increase. If grass is growing well the disease may well just bubble under the surface and the grass will outgrow it.