The Groundsman

December 2014

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TOP TIPS 45 the Groundsman December 2014 Visit for more information and digital editions With the British weather, we often have to be flexible in our approach and carry out the work the day before if the weather is more suitable " " The MK Dons' groundscare team (for the stadium and the training ground) has historically been mainly myself and my son, Luke as assistant head groundsman, working in close partnership although earlier this year we took on a trainee groundsman. So far this season [until the end of November] 20 games have been played on the pitch, with four scheduled in December. Despite such high levels of use, we as groundsmen still aim to maintain our playing surfaces to the highest of possible standards. To achieve this throughout the winter months, we must: • Be proactive rather than reactive. This could simply mean that we consider forthcoming climatic conditions and ensure we are adaptable enough to alter the maintenance plan – perhaps by adjusting scheduled aerations so they are timed prior to heavy rain. • Have a focused emphasis on preserving the surface by conducting maintenance operations with great care and delicacy. The plant and surface conditions must be assessed and the probable result must be considered to be of clear benefit - before action is taken. We have all seen the results of badly-timed maintenance duties when surface conditions are adverse and the mud baths they can create! • Aim to keep the surface as clean as possible; remove organic/inorganic debris before they become integrated into the sward and begin to decompose. • Pay particular attention to surface repair and grooming. Ensure divoting is thorough, in order to retain surface uniformity. Lightly brush the sward to remove excess moisture from the leaf - this will reduce the potential of fungal diseases whilst helping to maintain an upright sward. Joe Aylett, who has been head groundsman of MK Dons since the club was founded in 2004, outlines how he and his team keep the stadiummk pitch in pristine condition stadiummk secrets of success Post-match operations These begin immediately after the final whistle – this maintenance repair work allows us to successfully present the surface for the next match. • Immediately rotary mow in order to remove debris • Divot and carry out repairs to the surface • Manually aerate and lift areas of concentrated wear and compaction • Aerate (using Toro Procore 648) if surface conditions allow. Pre-match preparation Ideally, the final double cut and mark are carried out on the day of play as this allows us to present the surface to its highest potential. But with the British weather, we often have to be flexible in our approach and carry out the work the day before if the weather is more suitable. Ultimately though, flexibility will only stretch so far as football is a commercial industry and the surface must be ready for use on the day of play. • The sward is cut to the desired height, depending on the time of year this may take anywhere between three to five operations to achieve the desired result • The pitch is overmarked in two directions • Match day fixtures, such as goals, are then put in place. TOP TIPS Joe Aylett (left) and son Luke on the stadiummk pitch

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