Winter pitch care and maintenance.
As the Autumn and Winter seasons approach, clubs all over the UK are excited to begin a new season free from disturbances due to covid restrictions. As training sessions and pitch usage increases, the maintenance of your pitch is not only important in improving the quantity and quality of football played at your clubs' grounds, but it also contributes to a reduction in injuries to players.
As part of TeamFeePay's commitment to the development of our member clubs we have put together this blog to provide information on winter pitch maintenance to grassroots clubs who may not have access to qualified groundsmen or who rely solely on volunteers for the maintenance of their pitches.
Tips for Winter Months
- Start with the basics – cut the grass and keep the pitch looking presentable.
- Invest in a ride on rotary motor with a brushing unit and a rear roller attached (reasonably cheap and easy to maintain).
- Pitch usage and poor maintenance lead to poor quality of pitch.
Good drainage is essential for the maintenance of surface conditions throughout the winter months, which are predominantly the wettest months of the year. A drainage system, typically a basic pipe system at the grassroots level is important to allow for the removal of water from the pitch surface to prevent water logging. To further improve the drainage potential of your pitch ‘sand slits’ can be used. Sand slits are used to link up the drain runs and can be installed after the original pipe drainage system has been installed. Sand slits are normally placed 1 metre apart.
Example of a basic drainage system and sand slits.
Aeration – Compaction relief :
Soil compaction is one of the most common problems found on winter sports pitches. This is because pitches often experience high usage in wet conditions. If regular aeration is not carried out soil compaction will build up throughout the season. This can lead to the large pores within the soil that are used to influence the movement of water through the soil becoming lost or reduced. If water is unable to move through the soil and be removed, water logging of the pitch will occur during rainfall. This can indirectly lead to the deterioration of the grass surface.
The most important thing is to make sure that the whole of the soil profile is aerated, this will allow water to move through the soil and into the drainage system. There are a few different ways to aerate a grass pitch, the most popular being the Verti drain machine.
Verti draining will release compaction, keep the soil profile open and allows roots to move through the created cracks, improving the root zone. Slitting can be overdone, however. It is recommended that slitting is carried out every three to four weeks from September to January. Verti draining machines can be easily hired and can either be self-propelled or attached to a tractor or a basic ride on rotary motor.
Top Dressing :
Once aeration is complete, top dressing can be applied. This is a vital part of the maintenance process. Sand top dressing helps to retain the permeability of a pitch and provides a firmer surface in wet weather.
To learn more about the maintenance of a grass pitch during the winter, please refer to this article by pitchcare.com which gives an overview of the winter pitch maintenance process: Winter Pitch Maintenance : Drainage and Aeration | Pitchcare .
3G pitch maintenance :
If your club uses a 3G pitch there are also basic techniques used to maintain the pitch including: Brushing the pitch daily, aiming to brush the pitch for every 10 hours of use, deep cleaning quarterly to eliminate moss, clearing debris as necessary and performing a yearly ball bounce and roll test to maintain standards.
Knowledge on pitch maintenance can be built up through courses such as the IOG winter pitch maintenance course found here: Training | Grounds Management Association (thegma.org.uk) .
Alternatively, grassroots clubs can utilise the FA pitch improvement programme. This involves visits from expert groundsmen, advice on how to improve and maintain pitches, access and support to football foundation grant funding and more. Details of the FA pitch improvement programme can be found here: Pitch Improvement Programme - Amateur Football Alliance (amateur-fa.com) .