How to Maintain Your Sports Pitch in Winter
Maintaining a sports pitch is an all year round job with different seasons calling for different duties. In the winter, you can often find that the pitch is still frequently in use with football and rugby two examples of winter sports. So what tasks do you need to schedule in to maintain the pitch over the coldest months?
December is the darkest month of the year and this means that grass will only be receiving around eight hours of light a day at the worst point. Add into this frequent cloud and the plants can find it a tough time. Big football grounds have introduced light gantries to help combat the shade caused by stands and the low levels of light at this time of year so if you can afford them for your club, it is worth considering.
Applying sand to the pitch can help if you don’t have the best draining soil or a good drainage system. Add it in particular to high use areas such as around goal mouths. Seaweed-based products are also sometimes used to help with any potential turf diseases. Also, watch out for excessive worm damage and brush away the casts to ease smearing problems.
January can often see quite heavy rainfall and while rain is good, too much rain is bad. That’s why it is worth monitoring the moisture levels in the pitch and making sure it is fit for use before allowing a game to go ahead. When there is regular rain, you can spike the heavily used areas, often with a hand fork rather than machinery to help the water drain away.
Keep the grass at a height of around 24-30mm and make sure you don’t cut too thin as this can make the grass vulnerable to frost and ice. Also brush regularly to help the airflow around the base of the plant – this stops the roots becoming waterlogged.
If you do have frost or snow, try to keep everyone off the pitch. This will stop the potential damage caused by standing on the frozen plants as well as those potential accidents.
February can often see spells of slightly warmer weather and if this happens, watch out for potential fungal infections. Use approved fungicides to treat the pitch to make sure any spores are killed and to prevent them spreading. Red thread is another potential issue with rye grasses and meadow grasses being the most commonly affected. It is a sign of low fertility and can be controlled with the application of fertiliser.
Keep cutting the grass at this time of year, remember not to go too short. And brush to help with airflow around the roots of the plants. Alternate your spiking between surface, deep and splitting to help the soil and hand fork around goal mouth or high use areas.
Continue to try and avoid use if there is snow, ice or frost on the pitch to help protect the grass against damage when frozen.
Jack Moffett is the Marketing Manager at Haffey Sportsgrounds, sports pitch maintenance specialists with years of experience in keeping pitches playable throughout the winter months.