The recent dry weather in many parts of the country will have affected many grass pitches. Here in the Midlands, particularly in Shropshire, we have had less then 70mm of rain in the last six months - that equates to less than 3mm per week.
These pitches, especially the ones which have not been watered, will be struggling to maintain vigour and colour and will be prone to wear.
For many it will be a case of waiting for some decent rainfall, and then apply some fertiliser to stimulate some much needed growth.
Care should be taken not to cut the pitches too short whilst they are in this state. With a bit of luck we should be due some much needed rain in October to alleviate these dry conditions.
Where there is moisture in the ground, and with the onset of cooler night time temperatures, you may already have experienced some mornings with heavy dew, bringing with it the increased chance of fungal outbreaks. Though some outbreaks may need treatment with a fungicide, prevention is better than a cure and this can be aided with some good cultural practices starting with dew removal during the early morning.
Early in the Month 1st - 15th October
Autumn/winter fertilisers can be applied that are low in nitrogen, which will suppress the production of soft sappy top growth susceptible to fungal diseases, and high in phosphate and potash to help the grass maintain a healthy root structure. The choice of fertiliser will be largely based around your soil tests, but may be influenced by whether you choose to use a conventional type fertiliser or a slow release product that will release the nutrients over a period of time based on soil temperature and moisture.
Applications of tonics can also be applied in accordance with your annual programme to help harden your turf against damage and the ingress of turf diseases.
Keep an eye out for disease and treat at the early signs.
Worm activity is starting to become noticeable and brushing the surface when dry will help to dissipate the casts, reducing the problem of smear.
Later in the Month 16th October - onwards
Start thinking now about your machinery service requirements and put them into a programme. Some forward planning at this stage of service requirements are needed, for which machine and a time when you will be sending your mowers out for sharpening etc. This will help you in the long run to avoid nuisance breakdowns and to ensure that you have the machinery on hand when you need it. Look at the overall condition and check for extra requirements needed to keep it compliant with current health and safety legislation (correctly functioning safety cut out switches, belt/chain guards in place etc.). Check also for things that may cause a problem in the future, such as fatigue fractures on handle bars or on grass box carriers etc.
Keep your machinery in tip top condition. Grease where you find a grease nipple, oil were you see a metallic moving part, check the oil, check the water. If in doubth consult the manufacturer's manual. Clean it when you've finished. All this may seem mundane but will keep your mower going when you need it and save you money in costly down time.
Key Tasks for October
Mowing / Brushing/ Verticutting
Continue cutting regularly 25 -37mm to ensure a good sward density. Check the cutting action of your cylinder regularly to ensure that the units are cutting and not tearing the grass.
Dragmatting and brushing: Continue the work of brushing to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant, particularly important for removing early morning dew and controlling disease. This will also help to reinforce the presentation of the pitch.
Verticutting: Will help to ensure that the sward is kept clean of lateral growth that may be appearing, and also help to ensure that good circulation of air around the base of the plant.
Useful Information for Mowing / Brushing/ Verticutting
Viewpoint - Forking around!
Football Pitch / Rugby Pitch Grass Seed
Start out with shallow spiking and, as the moisture works its way down the profile, you will be able to increase the depth you are able to spike at. Keep in mind that you need to regularly change the depth of spiking, as to carry out the operation to the same depth over a period of time can lead to a soil pan (a hard zone within the soil profile that both water and grass roots find difficult to break through).
Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting.
Those with access to a vertidrain of weidenmann spiker can use some heave in order to break through these conditions, but the soil still needs to be moist in order to achieve the optimum benefit from this type of spiking.
Useful Information for Aeration
Magpies - two for sorrow!
I have said this on many occasions - an accurate line that is bright and crisp can make such a difference to the finished presentation of a pitch. It is well to take your time to ensure that you walk a straight line (not very achievable if you are in a hurry) and, if the line you have to follow is not very straight, then don't be afraid to re-string it.
Spend time keeping your equipment clean and fit for purpose, try not to leave unused marking fluid in your machines. Always wash out spraying systems after use.
Be mindful, there are a wide range / choice of marking materials now available, choose one that suits your requirements and budget.
Also refrain from using weed killers in your marking fluid. Yes, it may enable a longer lasting line but, over time, the grass dies off and you end up marking bare soil, which doesn't give you a crisp white line.
Also, you can often end up with soil erosion in the line and you end up with a deep rut , which could become a hazard for players.
Useful Information for Marking out
I walk the line!
Line Marking Machines
Other Tasks for the Month
Divoting:- This is an obvious, but start as you mean to go on. At this part of the season, a little addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil will soon germinate and help to repair any deep scars
Equipment Checks:- Check weekly goals for loose bolts and tighten as necessary.
Check nets: make sure the net is properly supported at the back of the goal and are not sagging.
Check team dugouts are stable and anchored securely. Make sure that they are tidy and free from litter