Our head groundsman, Matt Hallam, has provided an update on the progression of this year’s pitch renovation.
With no football scheduled for the foreseeable future as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and with significant uncertainty remaining over future scheduling, we seized the opportunity to begin work on the Meadow Lane playing surface a week ago.
And, while the project has transpired to be a little different to what was originally planned, Matt is pleased with the progress so far.
“When Covid-19 first impacted the season we didn’t know how long we were going to be affected,” he said. “We couldn’t start work on the pitch until we were confident we’d have at least six weeks to get it ready.
“But it soon became clear that it’s very unlikely any football will be played until June at the earliest, so we took the decision to go ahead last week.
“Before coronavirus hit, our original plan had been to conduct a major renovation this summer which would have seen us replace the top 25mm and add more fibresand, which would have made the roots stronger and create better growing conditions under the surface.
“But we’d have needed around nine weeks to get the pitch playable after that, so we’ve had to scale back our plans a little to make sure we’re ready if this season can resume.
“So far we’ve taken the top 8mm off the surface which got rid of all the unwanted organic matter and any weed grasses, which have weaker roots and make the surface cut up easier resulting in players losing their footing.
"Removing this is essential and we’ve replaced it with really good-quality MM40 sand, which will help with drainage and have a huge impact on how this pitch performs throughout its lifespan.
“22 bags of seed have been spread across the surface and we’ve used our verti-drainer to punch seven-inch-deep holes into the ground which will get air to the roots and help them bed down further.
“That’s been one of our biggest priorities this year – trying to encourage the roots to go deeper to improve the pitch’s strength. We’ve used a special fertiliser to help with that, too.
“Once all that was done we applied germination sheets to the pitch on Saturday. The idea behind the sheets is to trap moisture under the surface which will keep the seed wet and in turn accelerate growth.
“While the recent weather’s been brilliant in terms of allowing us to get on with all the manual work, we’d ideally have liked a little more natural rain. We’re using the sprinklers to apply around 6mm of water to the pitch per day but, due to PH levels, rainwater would be better. We would also benefit from some increased night-time temperatures - but we can’t have it all!
“We’ll keep an eye on the germination process and lift the sheets in a week or so, give the pitch another roll, fertilise again and then give it its first mow a fortnight or so afterwards.
“Overall I’m confident we’ve made the best possible decisions given the circumstances and I’m confident that next year’s pitch will be far stronger and healthier. We can always revisit our major renovation plans next year.”