Following another long season of Football League action at The New Lawn, renovations are already under way to get the playing surface ready for the 2019/20 campaign.
We caught up with head groundsman Adam Witchell to learn the process behind pulling up a pitch, what makes the turf at The New Lawn special and what he and his team have in the pipeline for summer.
The pitch is being taken up as we speak, what’s the process behind that?
We’re taking the surface of the pitch up and going down by about 15mm. It allows us to get rid of all the weeds. Some of the old sand that was put in last year needs to come out, so we’re digging down a little bit deeper than I would have done normally. We’ve also hollotined the pitch to bring a bit of the sand to the surface so the machine can pick it up and get rid of it because it wasn’t a decent grade of sand.
We’ve had to replace the drains we put in last year and we have added two more coming from the centre because, as we all saw, it was holding a lot of water last season. Another drain has also been added behind the goal in front of the North Stand as that wasn’t draining very well either.
Does it also give you a chance to start afresh, and grow the pitch how you want it to be?
The pitch wasn’t good enough last year, the players weren’t overly happy with it and neither was the manager and I wasn’t happy enough with it on a personal level. The works that went on last year were poor but the contractors we have in this year are absolutely fantastic and they are aware of the problem areas from last year.
As part of the ethos at FGR, all the water is recycled isn’t it?
All our water that lands on the surface is filtered through the pitch and it’s pumped into the water tank in the corner of the ground and when it leaves it travels under a UV light just in case of any legionella bacteria before being put back onto the pitch through the sprinkler system.
After the renovation, it would be nice to have a little bit of rain to start topping that tank up. Then we’ll put that water on and cut the grass ready for the season.
Explain the term ‘vegan pitch’.
A lot of organic fertilisers are made up of animal manure, whether it be cow, turkey or chicken, but the problem with that is it goes against the vegan ethos of the club so I tend to use plant-based fertiliser instead.
What are the challenges that come with those methods?
It’s tricky to get nitrogen into the pitch. I use a bacteria that helps to get nitrogen that is trapped in the soil or in the atmosphere to try and boost the numbers but besides that, as long as you feed the plant everything it needs little and often, I don’t see why it can’t match a synthetically fed pitch.
What else will you be doing over the summer?
We will be strimming the grass banks around the stadium and keeping on top of the wildflower borders at the front of the ground. I also want to flatten out the area where we keep our machinery and the warm-up goals but that is about it. Soon the grass will grow, and we’ll be back to cutting it every day.
I want no issues for the start of the season, I want the pitch to be perfect.