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Early Season

An early season (September to November) maintenance programme is designed to prepare the pitch for play and to encourage the following points:

  • To promote a well-structured, free draining soil profile: This will encourage deep root growth, support a healthy plant and promote the quick movement of water from the surface
  • To encourage a dense healthy grass sward and root density: A dense grass sward will support more matches, have better wear tolerance and a quicker recovery
  • To maintain a playing surface: Maintaining grass coverage will help keep a playing surface. A well rooted grass will reduce divots promoting a safer playing surface

Twickenham Head Groundsman Keith Kent inspects the pitch at Trojans rugby club

Photo: RFU Archive

Health & Safety

Please ensure that all machinery and equipment is in good working order and confirms to the regulations under Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98)

Mowing and height of cut

The pitch should be maintained to a height of 50mm/2 inches. This height will encourage a thick and healthier coverage with good root density. Mow on a regular basis at least once a week; the golden rule of mowing is only remove a third of the leaf blade at a time. Mowing can be undertaken with either a cylinder or rotary mower. Clippings can be removed on better standard pitches. If large amounts of grass clippings are left on the surface, this will lead to a layer of organic matter, which will slow down surface drainage and encourage worms and other pest.

Rolling

Roll if necessary to produce a surface. Great care must be taken as rolling with too heavy a roller or rolling in poor conditions can damage the soil structure, and cause compaction. The weight of a normal 36-inch box mower is sufficient in most cases.

Chain Harrowing

Chaining harrowing should be completed once or twice a week or after games in order to maintain a surface. Complete the process corner to corner of the pitch to level the surface and lift the grass. Chain harrowing maintains a surface without capping the soil surface and reducing the drainage rate.

Aeration

There are many types of aeration equipment on the market, but please take advice. Aerate as often as possible. A slit tine aerator is the quickest method. Try to get in to 150mm – 200mm in depth, dependent on soil texture, structure and conditions.

Feeding

Base all fertiliser programmes on a soil test. A basic programme is an application of 3 - 12 - 12 NPK at 70 grams per metre squared after aeration. This will last for approximately 6/8 weeks depending on rain fall.

Slow release fertilisers are also on the market, which give a release of feed for up to 6 months. If your pitch is sown with Perennial Ryegrass then remember that the grass will only be wear tolerant, give good recovery and growth if well fertilised.

Marking out of the pitch

It is important that the pitch is “Squared up” correctly and that the lines are straight and clear. To help achieve this, use a rotary mower with the height of cut set lower than the pitches grass height. (Approximately 30mm/1.5 inches). Cut the lines out with the mower prior to line marking. Please only use an approved material and marking equipment for marking out the pitch, for example Line Mark UK, Fleet Line Marking.

Divoting

After each match, divot and tread the divots back into position. This will remove any bare soil which allows weeds and weed grasses to germinate. Filling in divots with seed soil mix will help to maintain a better grass coverage.

Erection of posts

Prior to installation, paint goal posts and check sockets. To aid future removal apply some grease to the sockets before erecting. Remember to support the base of the post and not lift the post without help. Never lift more than your limit.

Please attempt all operations in the correct ground conditions. Trying to complete an operation when the ground is not suitable can cause a detrimental effect to the pitch and equipment.