When you are in charge of caring for a sports pitch, spring is the busiest time of the year. Maintenance carries on through the winter, doing your best to keep away the worst damage from the weather. But spring is when the plants start to grow, the weather starts to warm and there’s lots of work to do.
Some of the work in March resembles the work done during the winter – keeping the grass cut and ensuring air is circulating around the roots of the plants. Divoting is also important, using a border fork and some top dressing with sand mixed in to help boost the high usage areas of the pitch, usually around the goal mouth. You can also continue to spike in alternation, with surface and deep spiking as well as slitting.
As the weather warms up a little, the threat of disease becomes more prevalent. Watch out for two particular turfgrass diseases that show up at this time of year – red thread and Fusarium. The former adds red needles to the grass blades that become brittle and spread the disease. The other creates orange-brown patches between 2.5-5cm in size that then lead to mycelium and spores that spread the infection to other areas of grass.
Some sports such as football and rugby are heading towards the end of the season while other sports such as cricket are just starting. Ideally, grass should be around 24-30mm in length with regular cutting to keep good density. Deep spiking is used to stop the soil compacting and use hand forking to ensure good airflow to plant roots.
Before games, remove any debris, leaves and make sure the surface is clear. After games, make sure you replace divots and use a brush on worst affected areas to remove work casts and restore the playing surface.
You should also make sure your weed treatment program is in place as this is the time of year where weeds start to grow and can damage your grass. Ensure any treatments are safe for the overall use of the pitch.
As the football and rugby seasons end, you can use this as a chance to do some work that will renew the pitch during quieter times. Scarifying is a technique that removes divots and takes out dead organic matter that builds up over winter to clean out the surface. Reduce the height of cut before doing this and aim for a finished height of around 13-20mm.
Fertiliser is ideal to help new seedlings root and should be applied when the new grass seed s added. Continue to spike to stop compaction of the ground and try going as deep as 300mm – you may need machinery to do this properly.
Warmer soil means more activity below the surface and this can mean nematode parasites infection of the grass. Look out for signs such as yellow and thin turf, premature wilting, turf that doesn’t respond to fertiliser or is less vigorous than normal. Treat quickly to avoid the problem spreading.