Being proactive is crucial to maintain your football pitch. For example, many clubs choose to put off aerating their pitches and then change their mind when it’s too late and the damage is done. Planning and being consistent in your approach will result in a much healthier football pitch which could make all the difference in the next derby day!
Use this guide to understand the five basic principles behind maintaining a healthy football pitch all year round!
1. Cutting the Grass
There are a number of rules which should be followed when cutting the grass on football pitches:
- As a rule of thumb only cut a third of the length of the grass at any one time. Cutting it too short will weaken the grass and turn it brown in drier periods. Leaving it long will cause it to thin out and affect the ball roll and pace of the game which will be unpopular with the players
- In order to follow rule 1, it’s best to cut the grass little and often because this will lead to greater grass density whilst still being short. This will also help with the battle against weeds that don’t like being cut regularly and will allow the grass to dominate the sward.
- It’s best to let the grass clippings lie once it’s been cut rather than removing them but if there’s a lot they will need raking up or the clippings will smother the grass below, making it thin and weak…. Another reason to follow 1 and 2 above closely.
- If possible, cut the grass in alternating directions each time you cut so that the blades don’t ‘lay over’ in a particular direction which can negatively impact the ball roll and the appearance of the pitch.
- Always use well-maintained equipment when cutting your pitch, blunt blades or poorly adjusted equipment will result in bruised and tattered grass leaves which is detrimental to their regrowth and increases susceptibility to fungal infection.
2. Irrigation (watering)
Many football pitches don’t have the luxury of an irrigation system, but when the conditions do get dry, they would still benefit from some form of irrigation in the key areas such goal mouths and centre spots.
Whether it’s hoses and sprinklers, mobile sprinklers, or pop-up irrigation systems the principles of irrigation remain the same to return the soil to near field capacity (moist). To little water and the grass will struggle to grow, too much, and the grass will drown and suffer from fungal infections.
Getting air into the soil is as important as watering for the heath of the grass, and with winter pitches such as football, it’s the most likely cause of poor grass quality. The mere act of running around the pitch especially in wet conditions causes compaction of the upper few cms of topsoil which squashes the air out of the soil and reduces the ability of the soil to drain.
So regular scarifying (scratching of the surface, see our turf de-thatcher) to remove dead grass and moss. Slitting (pushing holes into the soil See our Sorrel rollers) or solid tining (bigger deeper holes using more specialist equipment) will help to relieve compaction and get both air and water into the surface to allow good grass growth.
Given regular aeration, the grass will be encouraged to develop a larger and deeper root system making it more resilient to drying out in summer and better able to take in water and nutrients resulting in stronger healthier grass. And remember the high compaction areas in the goal mouths and centre spots will benefit from additional aeration to the rest of the pitch.
Fertilisers are essential for good grass growth on a
5. Weed Killing and Disease Control
The compaction caused by winter sports can discourage grass growth and encourage weeds better suited to those conditions. These weeds can spread, covering the soil surface and preventing new grass from growing. So, it’s important to keep these weeds in check especially in the high compaction areas around the goal mouths and centre spots. Depending on the extent of the problem, spot weedkilling with Glyphosate or a more general selective weed killer will sort out the problem once the weeds are dead remembered to reseed the bare areas to get the grass back in those areas.
Remember to keep a lookout for fungal diseases especially in the autumn or spring. This is more likely given warm nights and wet conditions. These generally show as yellow/brown patches where the grass has been killed or weakened sometimes with a Reddy tinge. If your grass is weak from lack of water, fertilizer, poor aeration, or competition from weeds, it’s more prone to this type of attack, so if you keep on top of these, it’s unlikely to be a problem with football grass.
If you do get a fungal attack, speak to your local horticultural supplier for advice.
By following these five basic principles, your football pitch will look world class in no time! For more advice and to find relevant equipment and tools get in touch with Sportsmark today!