The first signs of spring have finally sprung, with large clumps of snowdrops appearing in my local woodlands - as ever an indication of spring is just around the corner.
February is a good time to start planning for the new growing season. Ensuring you have had your mowers serviced and repaired and ready for some spring renovations is a good idea.
It may seem early but most, if not all, of the county cricket groundsmen are already up and running, starting their pitch preparations for an early start to the season - with many clubs having matches starting in late March, early April.
Many sports facilities, particularly the ones who perhaps did not invest in some autumn renovations last year, are still seeing the after effects of last year’s drought conditions.
The net result of that dry weather left us with many dried-out surfaces with large areas of dead grass, bare areas, thatch and a lot of weeds such as broad leaf plantains. Without doubt it will take time for these swards to recover naturally.
We’ve still got to get through February before we see any improvement of air and soil temperatures moving into double figures. Grass only effectively grows once we get above 10 degrees.
The soil temperature needs to be between 9-12 degrees Celsius for seed to germinate. This usually occurs from March through until September.
We need to invest in some timely spring renovation work to help restore these natural grass playing surfaces. We will also have to control any moss and algae that may have infested our sward.
Ideally at the back end of March / early April, when temperatures rise significantly, will be an ideal time to undertake your spring renovations.
Key operations of your spring renovations will be to: -
- Apply moss killer
- Clean out surface moss and fibre
- Aerate/de-compact the soil
- Topdress with a sand/soil dressing to maintain surface levels
- Overseed with some new grass seed to repopulate the lawn, sowing at a rate of 35grams M2
- Apply a spring NPK base fertiliser
A pre-seeding fertiliser can be used to help promote some growth; something like an 8:12:8 NPK or even a 7:7:7 NPK at 35g/m2 will be ideal.
In fact, I will be attending a Dennis / SISIS Cricket Seminar at St Albans School in February which will focus on spring renovations and some practical demonstrations.
As for football and rugby clubs, their seasons will be coming to an end in May, therefore it will be important they have secured the relevant funding and services of appropriate specialist contractors to carry out their end of season renovations.
As a pitch advisor, one of the biggest problems for many grassroots clubs is the lack of investment in their pitches, especially in terms of carrying out some relevant renovation work. This can generally be seen as an expense and more often only completed once the pitch has deteriorated so much, they have no choice but to invest in some major repairs.
Clubs should try to secure a relevant budget to cover the expense of both a decent renovation and appropriate maintenance regime during the growing season.
We now have some tremendous products and services at our disposal we should make the most of and invest in them for the good of the club and its members.
Participating in a sport is essential for our wellbeing and has many health benefits. It does worry me when I see less and less youngsters remaining in sport. Many rugby, cricket and football clubs are running less teams these days compared to 10-15 years ago. In rugby we have seen a significant loss of teenagers leaving the sport, with many clubs struggling to run two teams. Cricket has also been hit with fewer youngsters staying on to play in the first team.
The lack of numbers makes it very hard for many of these clubs to remain viable and operational.
It is difficult to put a price on what these facilities bring to the community. From my experience they have played a part in educating, developing and producing well rounded adults who have the skills and abilities to be successful and contribute to our society.
It is imperative we ensure the future of these important assets. Local sports clubs and facilities are an essential hub of the community. We should encourage more participation and ensure these clubs remain sustainable for the next generation of sporting participants.