Pitch care and sports facility maintenance

Sports Pitch
The care of a football pitch has been under the microscope recently, since the World Cup in Brazil, and pressure on clubs of all shapes and sizes, all around to produce a perfect playing surface; so it seems natural to share our advice about the care of pitches…

 

As with all aspects working in the British weather, not all aspects should be strictly held to; but with the application of common sense, the following is general good horticultural practice..

Months and the weather will vary, basic rules should hold forth. If in any doubt, cut less grass (raise the blades) and if necessary cut again. If any action requires repair, treat it in proportion to the wider areas concerned. Document all chemicals used in as much detail as possible. Remember to preach what you practise; coaches, referees and players will all contribute to the information you can share with them and conclude about the playing area to mutual benefit.

 

Spring (end of playing season – renovation) May and June

  • Raise mowing height to 15 to 20mm or higher before scarification, depending on conditions.
  • Scarify the pitch surface to remove debris, remove arising if possible. Consideration should be given to re-cycling green material. (See our pages on Compost.)
  • Irrigation – where the weather has continued to improve and surfaces are very dry you will need to irrigate to aid the preparation of the surface for maintenance work.
  • Maintain surface aeration to aid root growth. The end of season is the time to start deep spiking of the pitch, in order to relieve compaction (only if surface conditions allow). If soil exchange is envisaged, the use of hollow core tines, opposed to solid tines, will also relieve compaction.
  • Seeding – direct drilling is always a preferred option as it ensures optimum growth conditions and reduces loss of seed.
  • Soil analysis results from your pitch can suggest a variety of reactions
    • Fertilising
    • Verti-drain
    • Spiking
    • Top dressing
    • Drag matting/levelling off
  • Inspect for pest and disease infestation and spot treat as necessary.
  • Keep off until your pitch surface is 50mm long then top off to 35mm. 

Summer – (closed season and pitch preparation) June to August

  • Verti-cutting – most effective at this time.
  • Aeration – to assist growth and relieve compaction
  • Isolated pitch repairs – damaged turf replaced either by seeding or re-turfing
  • Irrigate – most efficient time is late afternoon/night – reduces plant demand and evaporation.
  • Mowing – regular light mowing will ensure a strong sward – Recommended height of cut 30 to 40mm dependant on facility.
  • Check for weed and disease infestation – selective herbicide and pesticide application – staff and equipment must meet legislation requirements, documentation and record keeping is key.
  • Worm control, which also limits mole activity, but only if absolutely necessary.
  • Fertilise after results of soil analysis
  • Check your pitch drainage systems and silt traps are fully operational.
  • Preparation of training areas and any individual match pitch should be similar – gradually lowering cutting height, towards playing season, set out pitches, identify goalmouths, prepare other equipment.

NOTE: Inappropriate player training on a pitch surface will cause more damage than match play!

Autumn (start of playing season – care and maintenance) September to November

  • Grass – the correct composition of sward is a major importance to ensure growth and resistance to wear and tear under adverse conditions. The pitch grass sward should be cut to the playing height, no lower than 25mm and ideally should be boxed off. Daily mowing will strengthen up the sward, allowing the ball to move better during the game.
  • Irrigation.
  • Setting and Marking Out – carried out with suitable material so as not to cause injury to players
  • Special attention must be paid to the erection of Goal Posts and securing them to the surface.
  • Fertility – fertile soil will produce a healthy sward. Apply autumn fertilisers (low nitrogen) when required.
  • Brushing when required. Again be on the look out for disease infestation.
  • Leaf clearing programme instigated, if necessary.
  • Surface aeration (to maintain root growth for as long as possible into the late autumn and winter) and deep spiking to maintain drainage, as well as divot replacement. The thin needle tines are best.
  • Irrigation systems, where not required, decommissioned for the duration of the winter, make absolutely sure they are drained down to prevent serious frost damage and expensive repairs.
  • Repairs – In very severe wear conditions consider the use of turf for repairs to goalmouths etc. – divotting and wear.
  • As the winter progresses the soil will become wetter so care should be taken when carrying out maintenance operations, consideration should be given to the use of low floatation tyres on vehicles employed on maintenance tasks, if in doubt avoid going onto the surface unless conditions are suitable. Avoid working the surface in frosty conditions no matter how light the frost may have been.

Winter (playing season – care and maintenance) December to February

  • Wear and tear to your pitch must be kept to a minimum; so all training should be carefully planned between coach, manager and groundsman. It is essential that training facilities be kept in the best possible condition to help prevent injuries. Match pitches, if possible, even better.
  • To help achieve this; rotating the training areas regularly is key achieving this.
  • As the surface deteriorates increased surface top dressing / sanding will be required, but do not over top dress.
  • Spiking – is a vital maintenance task, but only in suitable conditions, resort to hand forking in problem areas, if necessary.
  • Surface repairs to the pitch as required. Mowing should be kept to ‘topping’ the grass only to maintain playing height.
  • Careful selection of machinery is essential, the continued use of low floatation tyres is a must.

Spring (playing season) March to April

  • Mowing should be a regular task – recommended height of cut 25 to 35mm for football and 35 – 75m for rugby, but this will depend on the situation
  • Light scarification of surface. Maintain surface aeration to aid root growth, but only if surface conditions allow.
  • Irrigation – where the weather has continued to improve and surfaces are very dry you will need to irrigate to aid the preparation of the surface for maintenance work.
  • Fertilising as required after soil analysis.
  • Inspect for pest and disease infestation and remove as necessary.

It is wise to plan early for equipment replacement, facility improvement and possible pitch dimension alterations, especially when dealing with different age groups. Where space permits a slight variation in the positioning of a pitch layout will help protect those areas most vulnerable to wear and tear such as spectator areas, side lines, goalmouths, corners, centre and penalty spots.

 

We can maintain pitches or act as a consultant to any club or groundsman who need our assistance, let us know if there is a problem we can help to solve