It has been an incredibly challenging spring for most grounds professionals and volunteers up and down the country.
With soil and air temperatures mainly remaining in single figures, coupled with the fact we have received little over 7mm of rain throughout March and April, it has made it one of the coldest and driest springs for a number of years. Grass growth and seed germination has been extremely slow to get going. Once these cold easterly winds die down and the likelihood of frosts start to diminish in May, we then should start seeing some much-needed grass growth and recovery.
The above weather graph (courtesy of Mark Hunt, Headland Amenity) clearly shows the slow growth recorded this April at their Great Dunmow weather station. Clink here to access Mark's informative weekly weather report - it's always a good read.
This timely change in the weather will certain help many of the football clubs who soon will be undertaking their end of season renovation works. With many contractors starting to get busy, it is imperative you contact them as soon as possible to book your work.
A typical end of season renovation for many grass roots clubs usually sees the pitch scarified in 2/3 directions, vertidrained, top-dressed with 60 tonnes of sand / rootzone, overseeded and fertilised. This work is vital to help clean out unwanted lateral and dead growth, whilst at the same time introducing some new grass materials into the pitch. Once this work has been completed and the regular maintenance regimes start again (feeding, spiking and mowing), you should see a transformation in pitch quality.
May- June time is also the time to consider pest control methods to prevent future infestations of chafer and cranefly. I read with interest that Syngenta have been given Emergency Authorisation to supply Acelepryn to target chafer grubs for the 2021 season. This authorisation permits use of Acelepryn on affected greens, tees and fairways, along with horseracing courses and airfields. The sale of Acelepryn for chafer grubs is permitted up to 4th August 2021, with the treatment period up until 31st August.
A further Emergency Authorisation has also been submitted by ICL on behalf of the turf industry for the treatment of leatherjacket infestations later in the season. The regulatory authorisation system only permits a 120-day use period, which requires a separate submission for leatherjackets to target later application at peak pest timing.
The Emergency Authorisation permits Acelepryn use in situations where there is an acknowledged instance of economic damage, or risk of bird strike on airfields, and where the product has been recommended by a BASIS qualified agronomist.
On the parks front
This week on the Parks Management Forum's website there is an interesting article written by Matthew Appleby of Horticulture Week magazine about Peter Fawcett, a professional award-winning gardener of 52 years experience who has written to local politicians to highlight the value of parks ahead of council elections on 6 May.
Fawcett, who worked for 32 years for Kirklees Council Parks Department, asked four questions to West Yorkshire Mayoral candidates and says they should be asked to every MP and councilor in the country.
"During the pandemic, parks became more popular than they have been for over five decades and were there for people to enjoy and keep their spirits up in the difficult times,” says Peter. “There was a big increase in public interest and visitors to the parks and horticulture. This is set to continue. Parks and their gardeners have never been more important in these difficult times.
"The park's staff has been reduced year after year. For instance, 10 years ago my own parks area in Spenborough had a total of 18 gardeners now it has but 7. It has become impossible for them to do their work to the high standards of yesteryear.”
Peter asked politicians if they support the work that the public parks departments do and their value to tourism, whether they agree that parks bring in visitors to towns, and whether they regard parks as being important to the everyday lives and wellbeing of the general public? Finally he asked will they support and work to champion the reinvestment and revitalisation of our public parks?
These are ,any of the same core issues that I, and many other parks managers and professionals. have been asking for years Let hope his questions do not fall on deaf ears.
These principals have also been indorsed by Richard Mckeever from the Fields in Trust charity, who said colleagues may be interested to see the Fields in Trust Parks Protectors Pledge campaign around the May elections. “We are encouraging Members of the Scottish Parliament, Members of the Senedd, London Assembly Members and all elected Mayors throughout England to commit to the six points of the Pledge and champion, support and protect Parks and Green Spaces,” said Richard. “We have had around 60 candidate pledges so far which are mapped against their constituency maps on our website.
“We have prepared a manifesto detailing the value of our green spaces and the role they play in delivering health, wellbeing and community benefits. We’d be very grateful for any support in spreading the word and persuading your election candidates to take the pledge.”
And finally, I saw advertised on the GMA website two newly created roles of key account managers, one for Rugby League and the other for Rugby Union to join the existing team in supporting the delivery of the Pitch Advisory Service Programme (formerly the Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement Programme – GaNTIP).
Both roles will encompass liaison with their respective national sports governing body as well as the other national sports governing bodies who are partners in the Pitch Advisory Service Programme along with other stakeholders.
A challenging job which I believe will be important for the development, management and maintenance of rugby club pitches.