A vital dimension to summer maintenance

Maintaining grass in the summer is a matter of common sense – so many of the uninformed believe.  It simply incorporates a combination of mowing, aerating, soil conditioning, fertilisation, top dressing, pest control and irrigation – all standard operations.  However, with today’s exacting demands of grassed sporting surfaces, the planning and execution of general maintenance has become so exacting that many competent greenkeepers and groundsmen fail where others succeed.  So where is the complexity?  Is there more to cost-effective maintenance than carrying out a sequence of standard set of treatments when felt to be necessary?


While treatments and applications may appear to be standard undertakings they need to be specific in planning to achieve what is desired.  The objective must be clear.

The condition of the equipment, its capability, the settings and the actual application determines the success of the undertaking – not to mention the proficiency of the operator. 
Understandably, the operation must achieve what is intended.  Scarifying means the removal of significant top growth and thatch and yet so often the result is little more than a light verticutting.  Aeration objectives must be clearly defined before selection of equipment.   Close spaced deep pencil tines, shallow solid tining, star slitting, use of the sarrel roller, earthquake and vertidrain all create a degree of aeration but to different depth and intensity.

Applying chemicals whether fertilisers, biotic stimulants, soil conditioners or pesticides is a precise task.  Success with an application depends on the right equipment, proper calibration and competent application as well as the choice of the correct product for the task.  Preparing a seedbed whether on bare ground or into weakened grass cover demands special attention.  Distributing seed without adequate soil cover or not into clean or sufficiently set-back grass cover has little chance of success.

In all, however simple the operation, a sensibly thought out plan of action is vital if an application or treatment is to achieve in a single effort the objective envisaged from the start.


What is done in soon forgotten – yet the treatment or application is an integral part of year-round maintenance needed to create the best grass cover possible.  So many factors determine the success or failure of the operation.  Recording can be painful but tabulated essential information is as important in a scarifying or fertilising operation as it is in a COSHH controlled application of a pesticide.  Apart from the date, type of equipment and name of operator, the settings however basic become essential if future treatments are to be repeated or adjusted.

Prevailing grass, soil and weather conditions


Every treatment or application, however well planned and executed is influenced by the prevailing environmental conditions.  Few seem to realise the importance of regularly measuring rainfall, maximum and minimum temperatures, the soil temperature, humidity and wind.  Yet all have a profound effect on the treatments and applications made to grass cover.  Whether scarifying, fertilising or applying a pesticide, all these measurements will to a degree influence the result.The condition of the grass cover too can strongly influence the result.  Grass cover under stress suffers when an added shock is given – whereas strong vigorous growth is stimulated and responds to even drastic cultural treatment.  The soil condition, particularly the upper depth in which roots are active, further sets the stage for success or failure in many instances.  The moisture content and health of the top 100mm should be recorded facts.  Knowing and recording the soil and weather conditions along with the grass cover and pertinent details of the application all form a sound base on which to later judge the result.



Monitoring results


Seldom is inference made to the outcome is recorded information of a treatment.  Simple and unnecessary as it sounds, a few comments provide valuable information for further application of the treatment.  Judging the time in which the objective is achieved and particularly the degree of effectiveness that resulted becomes vital for future planning.


Tabled treatments in chronological order allows easy reference.  Mixed notes in a diary, often without the pertinent facts, offers little help when it comes to diagnosing the failure of a treatment or application.  Thought should be given to the setting out of the details of the application and prevailing conditions in a way that monitoring can be comparative.  The judgement of one treatment over another can only be properly assessed when all the facts are clearly tabulated in an easy-to-read format.


Monitoring essential criteria such as thatch depth, root growth, vigour, shoot density, root zone condition and moisture content at least four times a year gives a good indication of progress made.  Hence, being able to quickly assess the reasons for success or failure of treatments carried out provides a final ‘tool’in judging the maintenance performance.



Maintaining grass cover can be a simple undertaking but to be cost-effective, planning, recording and judging are three vital considerations that should always be made if desired progress is to follow.

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