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“Working with the Xtra grass system will certainly test our skills as groundsmen”

A height of cut of 25mm has been maintained since the season started and the aim is to retain this height throughout. The root zone is only 125mm deep, therefore aeration practices are limited to this depth. Only a couple of aerations have taken place so as not to disturb the pitch too much in its early development. Compaction should not really be a problem yet as the pitch is still settling down.

Michael is also spending a lot of time monitoring his feeding programme. He intends introducing some seaweed products to help break down the backing of the Xtra Grass system. The quicker they can get the backing material to break down the quicker the root system can establish itself deeper into the rootzone profile.

A 14-21 day feeding

programme has been devised by Scotts who have been working closely with SIS and Michael. Greenmaster and Sierrablen Fine fertilizer products have been used to establish some longer term growth patterns, followed by some regular liquid feeds every 4-6 weeks

depending on soil analysis. A winter feed of Seaweed had just gone on, with a NPK ratio of 8:4:16, to maintain colour and some growth during favourable soil temperatures. At the time of the

interview the soil pH was a tad high at 7.7 but Michael was planning to reduce this to 6.5 over the following months.

FIVE staff work with Michael to help him manage the Arena pitch and training grounds. His deputy is John Ledwidge (20) who has worked his way up to this post having first becoming involved at the age of thirteen when he use to help out on match days. John then took up a fulltime career in groundsmanship at the age of 16, making good use of his school grades to help him move swiftly through and pass NVQ

levels 2 and 3 at Warwick College, Morton Morrell. The


members of staff are John Baker, Andy Lee, Neil

Matts and Dave Rees who, like John, are currently enrolled on a course of education at Morton Morrell to improve their knowledge and understanding of the sports turf industry. Michael spends most of his time at the Arena, often enlisting the help of John to prepare the pitch for matches. However, on match days, if required, all the staff can be called in to help prepare the pitch. Michael nearly always does his final match preparations on the morning of the match, usually starting work at 7am with a routine of inspection, mow/roll, over mark and water, if required. During the summer watering prior to games did take place, however, since September, only occasional irrigation regimes have been required due to the climate conditions. Once the

game is over the staff commence divoting, with the aim of getting it all repaired before they go home. In the main, divots are few and

mainly consist of slight surface scars. However, Michael has noticed that bladed boots are more damaging than studs. “Studs go in and come out, whereas blades cut off a swathe of turf,” he said. “Blades are becoming a big concern for groundsmen at all football league clubs.”

The onset of the recent cold weather has allowed the undersoil heating system at the Arena to be tested. The system is shared with other parts of the ground and, at first, there were a few teething problems. Michael is now happy that these have been sorted, “The system has now been running for a couple of weeks, maintaining a soil temperature of about 8 degrees C at the surface and about 10 degrees C at the base

(125mm) depth. The

intention is to

maintain these

Michael Finch, Coventry Arena’s

Head Groundsman (right) with his deputy John Ledwidge

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