Managing sports turf post lockdown

Managing and maintenance of turf post lockdown

Sport facilities at clubs, schools and in open spaces were off-limits for a number of weeks due to COVID 19, but as we come out of lockdown Tom Shinkins, UK Operations Director at GKB Machines offers advice on managing and maintenance of turf post lockdown

During lockdown it’s most likely that grass has become over-grown. Understanding that the best way to overcome issues is regular maintenance through means of grass cutting and treatments is key, but this might not have been possible during the COVID crisis. To tackle the long grass you may need to consider mowing it in a different way, helping get your grounds back on track by allowing it to get back down to a manageable height again. So rather than using a rotary or cylinder mower as one usually would, consider using the cut and collect method – removing the excess grass from the surface through a cut and collection operation will help to prevent a build-up of dead grass. Failing to do this means risking thatch build up in the future. 

Abandoned community football pitches and closed sports facilities, especially those managed by local volunteers, have experienced perhaps the most damaging effects of lockdown. Many sports fields and grounds will have suffered due to the abrupt halt on the daily maintenance as facilities were forced to closed.

Those clubs lucky enough to secure funding through a grant scheme set up by the Football Association (FA) (now closed) would be wise to use this money to carry out necessary tasks such as aeration, top dressing and over-seeding as part of their renovations. For those that couldn’t take advantage of this particular FA grant, it is always worth keeping an eye out for other grants schemes, as these can help ensure such renovations can be carried out giving the grounds a larger window for recovering and putting them in good stead for next season. 

Golf greens have also had a rough ride over the past few months, open to multiple elements during and before lockdown. Greenkeepers have been dealing with one of the wettest winters on record to one of the driest starts to the season. Added to this is the impact of an increasing number of people using the greens for their daily walks as part of their permitted exercise, trampling an already stressed turf due to the extraordinary dry weather we have experienced.

During a dry period, it is important to raise heights of cuts to ease stress levels. In addition, having a good programme of wetting agents in place to assist water from irrigation to get into the surface is critical alongside aeration, top dressing and other thatch management practices. 

And as we hope for some cricket, even if a late-season start, we need to keep on top of the pitches now. If the outfield has become overgrown the best process would be using a cut and collect machine to get the grass to a manageable height. And if possible, the process should be followed by some aeration – for example, using the GKB Deep Tine Aerator, to go as deep as conditions will allow. Ideally, the grass hasn’t got too long on the square during lockdown, and playing surface so cutting and removing clippings would be beneficial and would prevent a build-up of thatch. If or when the green light is given by the English Cricket Board and the government for the cricket season to commence then normal pre-season routines should be followed by the grounds staff.

GKB Deep Tine Aerator, which will go as deep as conditions will allow

However, if continued social distancing results in the 2020 cricket season been cancelled, and the likelihood is that the pitches won’t be used, simply close them down and put them to bed as per normal end of season work. If no games have been played on the pitches, then this is the ideal time to renovate the square fully, remove the saddles and improve the levels. Often given the short window of time between the end of the season and the poor weather, clubs don’t get the opportunity to get this sort of work done, so to use this time effectively to renovate would be worthwhile.

Finally, for facilities that use artificial turf, it is just as vital to keep these surfaces cleaned and in condition as it is for natural turf.  With facilities being shut, now more than ever, is an ideal time to carry out some decompaction work. By decompacting infill, this will allow surface water to drain through, assist fibres in the carpet to stand up rather than lay flat, and assist in improving the levels of Infill. This process in partnership with a deep clean and a brush will have the pitch ready to go when it’s required.

For more on GKB Machines and their reliable and robust range of machinery for natural, hybrid and synthetic turf, please visit www.gkbmachines.com or contact Tom Shinkins on 07495 883617.