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Maintenance Summary for Rugby Pitches

To cover the maintenance of any playing surface throughout the year, we must pick up the operations at a convenient time. We will start at the beginning of the season, and assume that the spring renovations were completely successful.

This summary is based on a soil-based pitch; many changes should be made if you are managing a sand based pitch.

Twickenham Head Groundsman Keith Kent teaches about grass at Trojans rugby club

Photo: Getty Images

Autumn

  • All operations carried out during the autumn months should be aimed at producing a well-structured soil, and a healthy growing sward. Work should never be carried out during inclement weather, when the site is water logged or the soil is over compacted.
  • Erection of posts; if resources are available posts can be painted, sockets checked and replaced if necessary.
  • Mark out the pitch. It is important that the pitch is “Squared up” and the lines are straight and clear.
  • Mow the pitch. This should be done once a week until the grass stops growing; this will help to keep the sward thick. The pitch is either boxed off or gang mowed depending on the standard of the pitch. Height of cut should be 25 – 50 mm.
  • 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.
  • Aerate as often as possible. The surface requires aerating once every fourteen days to relieve compaction and enhance root growth.  Any type of spiker, whether drum or vertical tine action, is acceptable as long as a depth of 150-200mm is being achieved (this will depend soil conditions).
  • Brush as often as possible in order to keep air circulating around the blades of the grass, and prevent any attack of fungal disease.
  • Harrow once or twice a week in order to maintain a surface.
  • Scarify the pitch if required and remove debris.
  • Apply an application of autumn fertiliser if a programme of slow release has not been used.
  • Re-mark the pitch prior to each match; paying particular attention to goal lines, 5-metre lines, centre lines and 10 metre lines.
  • After each match, divot and tread the divots back into position.
  • Repair the worn areas as required.

Winter

  • If required, cut the grass in order to keep it at a manageable and healthy length.
  • Aerate as often as possible, to aid drainage, to a depth of 150-200mm.
  • Harrow once or twice a week in order to maintain a surface.
  • Brush to remove dew, and lower the risk of fungal attack.
  • If required, top dress with sand, with particular attention to worn areas and
  • 10 metre lines. Check the type of sand used, e.g. pH and particle size/shape.
  • Mark out, as and when required. If conditions are poor you may need to change the method of marking out to dry line marking.

Spring

  • Brush or drag mat as often as is necessary.
  • Spike as often as possible, to 150-200mm.
  • Scarify as and when required and remove debris.
  • Roll when conditions allow; be careful with the weight of the roller and aerate after rolling.
  • Cut to keep the grass an even length, increasing the frequency as the grass starts to grow.
  • Fertilise in order to give the grass a boost in the spring.
  • Harrow to maintain a surface, and encourage tillering.

End Of Season Renovation

  • The purpose of end of season renovation is to restore appropriate levels and re-establish the grass coverage.
  • Establish levels in worn areas; break up pans, which will have formed during the playing season. If required import topsoil, checking the quality of the top soil, e.g. soil texture. 
  • Relieve compaction over all the pitch; deep spiking, vertical aeration with heave or sub-soiling can do this.
  • Top-dress the pitch. The type of topdressing will depend on the existing soil type, the soil type desired, and the finance available.
  • Over seed the pitch with greater attention to bare areas, this can be achieved using a contravator or disk harrow. Overseed with a 100 per cent perennial rye grass mixture at a rate of 35gm2, using three or four cultivars to increase sward density.
  • Harrow to work in the top dressing and to level the surface.
  • Apply an application of fertiliser based on a soil test, to make nutrient   available to the young grass plant.
  • Irrigate if required

Summer

  • Cut the grass once or twice a week as necessary, this will keep the sward thick and encourage tillering.
  • Apply an application of selective weed killer at an appropriate time, following the manufacturers recommendations and Health and Safety Legislation.
  • Aerate to prevent the surface capping and encourage deep rooting.
  • Apply an application of summer fertiliser.
  • Scarify and remove debris if required.
  • Irrigate as and when required (where possible).
 

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