EDITOR'S BLOG: Planing ahead

Renovating grass surfaces
EDITOR'S BLOG: Planing ahead

The weather continues to test our skills and patience as practicing turf professionals.

April has brought its usual unpredictable fronts, with many parts of the country experiencing contrasting air and soil temperatures, mingled with typical April showers, frost snow and ice.

As you may have read in last week’s TurfPro blog, many groundsmen will be preparing to undertake their winter sports renovations as soon as the playing season finishes, carrying out essential work to rejuvenate their playing surfaces.

The level of work will be determined by the current state of the pitch. In the main most grassroots or club level rugby and football pitches will need to be aerated (decompacted) using either a Verti-drain solid tine spiker or linear disc aerator. Ideally also scarified to clean out any surface dead fibre, topdressed, fertilised and overseeded.

In recent years we have seen an array of soil conditioning equipment on hand to speed up the way we can renovate grass surfaces. Richard Campey of Campey Turfcare has over the years been instrumental in bringing to market a number of revolutionary sports turf renovation machines that sports turf contractors are now using to speed up and improve renovation techniques. Namely the Koro Fraise mower that can remove up to 25mm of vegetation by literally planing the top off. The Koro recycling dresser meanwhile, is a heavy-duty aerator and root-zone recycler that is able to aerate the underlying soil vertically and horizontally, removing the soil from the root-zone and re-distributing it across the playing surface.

The Recycling Dresser reduces the amount of new top-dressing required, therefore saving labour and material costs and promoting sustainable maintenance. Three different working widths are available in the new range.

Your choice of seed mixtures will be dependent on the sport you are playing and the price you want to pay. In general terms you should be looking to invest in a good quality sportsturf rye grass seed mixture. We have an excellent choice of suppliers and seed companies who over the years have developed top quality grass seed. Listed below are four leading suppliers of perennial rye grass seed for sports pitches.

  • Limagrain’s MM60 Grass Seed is suitable for the renovation and repair of winter sports pitches, racecourses and areas where fast germination and quick establishment are priorities.
  • A20 (Premier Ryesport) for winter sports pitches, the choice of many top groundsmen across the UK.
  • Johnsons J Rescue 100 is also suitable for winter/spring emergency overseeding on winter sports pitches, golf tees, polo fields and racecourses.
  • Rigby Taylor’s R14 100% Perrenial Ryegrass Blend Grass Seed 20Kg is also a very popular seed used by many groundsmen

Prices range from £75-£150 per bag, which is not cheap especially when you need between 8-12 bags per pitch. Giving you an average cost of around £1200 to seed a whole pitch, not wanting to waste any seed, it would pay to ensure you use a seed drill to plant the seed into the pitch and not just broadcast it on the surface.

The Vredo Disc Seeder and other similar machines are used for overseeding or sowing sports pitches and large grass areas. The disc system places seed under the surface, improving the rate of germination. The slits are then closed by the rear roller, leaving little disturbance to the surface.

One of the other key factors that determines the success of germination will be the fact that the pitch is kept watered. We would hope that nature can usually take care of this with some timely periods of rain soon after renovations have been completed. However, no doubt some parts of the country will experience dry spells, thus needing you to irrigate the pitch using sprinklers.

Many top end sports clubs and schools have in recent years invested in either, a pop-up sprinkler system or acquired a self-traveling sprinkler system to water their pitches.

Water is now becoming an expensive and valuable resource, with many water companies dictating a lot of restrictions on its use in certain areas of the country, especially during droughty conditions. Last year’s very hot summer certainly affected annual rainfall figures, resulting in many reservoirs becoming depleted. They usually fill back up during the winter months, however, there are a few who are still pretty low. Therefore if we were to get another hot, dry summer, then I’m sure we will see some severe watering restrictions coming into place. Water is no doubt becoming a valuable commodity and we should use it wisely.

I came across an interesting article by author, Giles Wardle CEng, BSc, MSc, on behalf of Irriplan Ltd. regarding FAQs for Irrigation Water Supply for Golf & Sports Turf Facilities - well worth the read.

With water now becoming a valuable and, in some areas, a scarce resource, we should as commissioners be more aware of how we can maximise its use and not waste it.
For those sports clubs and golf courses who rely heavily on their irrigation systems, they should ensure they inspect and carry out appropriate irrigation audits throughout the year - beginning with the first one due in the spring that encompasses getting the system inspected, checked and calibrated.

This usually entails priming up the system, running it to check for any leaks - calibrating and checking the sprinkler heads so that they are delivering the correct amount of water.
I also came across the UK Irrigation Association (UKIA) website. They are the only independent organisation representing irrigation in the UK. A very useful site with plenty of advice and information, as well as offering a series of booklets on water resources and use. 

Laurence Gale, TurfPro editor

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