Colin Wilson, Grounds Manager at Coventry City, has been explaining the process of renovating the pitches at the Club’s Ryton Training Ground.
After the end of the 2020/21 campaign, the work to prepare the pitches for the 2021/22 season got underway almost immediately, firstly at Ryton and then the Alan Higgs Centre too. Colin talked through the work that has gone on so far at the pitches at Ryton, explaining the process that has to be undertaken to get the pitches ready for the start of July.
“The first-team had their last training session on the Friday and we got the contractors in on the Monday,” said Colin.
“This year we decided to do a fraise mowing which is taking off the grass surface and leaving the crown of the remaining pitch there, which is the crown of the plant. This means that we’ve got some of the old pitch there and then we’ll have the new seed growing through that.”
“The best of the old pitch is left and then the new pitch goes on top incorporating the healthy remains of the old pitch, so it should give us a good surface and help with the establishing phase with the short period that we have between the end of the season and the pre-season which is currently about 7 weeks - traditionally if we had korod off the complete surface it would have taken roughly 11 to 12 weeks for the new seedlings to come through and establish themselves to a standard of pitch that would facilitate pre-season training.”
Explaining the process further, Wilson added:
“We fraise mow the pitch which leaves the grass looking like, a badly shaved beard. We then apply the top dressing which amassed to 180 tons of dressing across the two pitches and training grids. The dressing is a moist sand that’s made specifically for sports pitches. We follow that up with drag matting which is a steel matt which pulls the sand around to get it as level as possible, prepping the ground for the disc-seeder to go over effectively planting the seeds.
“After that we verti-drain the pitch. Vertidraining is the decompaction of the subsoil allowing the air and water to get down and provides space for the grass roots to grow down into giving us longer growing roots. It relieves all of the compaction over the season. Once the vertidraining is completed, they go over with the drag mat again just to pull some of the sand into the vertidrain holes, and a final levelling up of the sand surface.
“The disc-seeder comes in and we applied 40 20-kilogram bags of seed over the two pitches and the grids in a three-way pattern. Once the seed is planted, we then apply a pre-seeder fertiliser and then irrigate and we also apply a wetting agent to help with the absorption of water and hold it into the surface.”
The next thing to do is wait and let nature take its course, and the grounds team at Ryton have been assisted by the wet weather in May.
“It has helped immensely with bringing the growth through and literally on seven days we have started to see the first red tips of the rye grass of the new seedlings coming through, and that will soon catch up and knit in with the original remnants of the pitch from last season.
“Overall we are very happy with where we are we could do with a few warmer days but we don’t want to moan too much because I’m happy with the rain and currently we’re having the irrigation done as well.”
The irrigation at Ryton is being looked at for the first for many years, with a new bore hole being drilled and sprinklers being fixed too.
“Nothing had been done with the bore hole since 1971,” said Colin.
“We had a new bore hole drilled in the same location as the last one, but a lot deeper, this one was 30 metres and the old one was only 18 metres.
“We’ve got a great supply of water coming into the water storage tank, previous to that we were really struggling with water and to add to that the irrigation system was past its best.
“The irrigation contractor has come in now and started work on making repairs across site, which is something that has been missing for a few years, so hopefully we’ll be back on the automatic system and have a regular water supply.”
“I’ve been here three years now, it’s steady progress, but it sort of goes along with the Club and the rise through the leagues.
“We’ve been from League Two and gone up to the Championship and we’re about to have a second season in the Championship. Things have just got better and developed like they should as the standards are being raised.”