The Groundsman

October 2012

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36 FEATURE the Groundsman October 2012 From football to rugby – in a month Put yourself in the shoes of DW Stadium Head Groundsman, Ian Forshaw. As soon as the Wigan Athletics FC Premiership season ended in May, he had to plan for high-profile Wigan Warrior Rugby League matches – so, he faced a challenge to bring winter worn playing surfaces up to exacting summer league rugby standards, in around a month Up until this season, the routine was to re-turf the pitch every other year and overseed in the interim. But Ian suggests this approach was not necessarily delivering the results demanded. "We decided to adopt a different approach for this season. On May 16, we deep fraised the surface down to the rootzone and imported 100 tonnes of coarse sand to improve drainage. The stadium is built on an old marsh so drainage, and methane gas, are persistent problems." The next job was to re-seed with a Johnsons J Premier Pitch grass mix. This was carried out with four criss-cross passes with a slit seeder followed by a final pass with a dimple seeder. By May 24, the fruits of this labour were seen, with strong germination across the pitch. "We were spot on with the grass seed ratios," adds Ian. "I could see individual plants developing and building up. If we had put in too much seed we would possibly have run into problems with fungal disease, but we had to also ensure we would get exactly the right coverage to cope with play in just four weeks." The fast developing sward was mown to a height of 75 mm with a rotary mower, with prophylactic fungicide applications to counter the mild but wet growing period. Progress was closely monitored, with high profile matches booked at the stadium for June 25 and 29. "The first game was going to be a stern test of the newly seeded pitch but it stood up really well. Of equal importance, the grass looked good for a game on the following Friday. We continue to check for leaf spot as this had played havoc with previous grass mixtures we have used, but it has not been a problem with the Premier Pitch mixture. Overall, we are really pleased."

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