The Groundsman

February 2014

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A sports surface that is failing to drain adequately may not just be unplayable it may also enhance the prospect of disease as well as damage the health of the soil and increase the likelihood of more serious flooding. There are various reasons why it may be occurring: high water tables; uneven contours; or a soil structure that fails to allow sufficient water to infiltrate and percolate through the profile. Or perhaps an installed pipe network has developed a fault and is failing to work. Possibly you do not know what is under the surface. Water movement is a complicated issue and local inspection and specialist advice should always be sought. However, it is useful to understand the basics of the problem. If the problem is a natural one you need to know what it is before acting – simply punching large holes everywhere is not a solution. If rain is flowing into a particular area because of surface undulations, you need to properly level the field. If water is moving from adjacent, perhaps impermeable areas, look to intercept it. A saturated clay-based soil where pore spacings are full of water will see slow removal of surface puddling. You can assist this by seeking to increase the available pore space and allowing gravitational pull to act. Slit drains cut into a surface and backfilled with sand can help. You need to be careful though; a saturated soil is unstable and permanent damage can be done by using machinery on the surface. Seek to reduce compaction and wear on wet surfaces and if the area is prone to this look for a longer term solution. If you have, or are seeking to install, artificial drainage then you need to look at the various components. Firstly where is the outfall? If the excess water running to a stream or ditch, could it be blocked? Make sure the water can reach it and leave. Assuming the design of the underground pipework is correct (and money spent on good design will save much more money on subsequent repairs) could there have been damage or movement of foreign objects into the network - I once saw an entire field damaged due to rats living in old clay pipes? Is the water actually reaching the pipes? If the soil/gravel above has become impaired, then you may have created a perched water table. The essence of this message is that time spent diagnosing the fault is vital, and actions should be targeted on a case by case basis with attention given to maintaining whatever you have rather than waiting for a fault to develop. The IOG's panel of experts answers your questions regarding groundsmanship issues, turf care advice, careers guidance or training matters Ask The Expert Please contact if you have a personal query or would like to share your views with our readers – we'd love to hear from you Sports field drainage is a particularly relevant at this time of year; can you provide some advice of how potential problems can be solved? Recent flooding at Oxford University Sports Centre IOG ADVICE 25 the Groundsman February 2014

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