Gardening Journal – Entry 1

Monday 14 September 2020

Today, I worked at a different location – in an actual park! It was my third visit, after a site trip in February and two days working there last week. These work-away days give us some experience on sports turf maintenance, as the sites we work on day-to-day are for amenity use only.

We have just moved our boat to Little Venice so my commute has got significantly longer; instead of the leisurely 15 minute cycle I had started to get used to, I cycled for over an hour today! You know it’s going to be a scorcher when the sun is already beating down at 7am. And it proved to be really hot day – perfect for a spot of toiling outdoors and heavy lifting!

We worked exclusively on the cricket square today, starting our day off with a mix of brushing the turf, watering the drier patches of the cricket pitches and passing over the cricket square with a scarifyer. The machine we used to scarify the turf was a much older model of the one I’m used to. Between spewing out black smoke and flames from the exhaust (yes, actual flames) and its clippings collection box falling off at every turn, I felt myself missing our sleek scarifyer back at the depot!

The purpose of scarifying is to remove a buildup of thatch, which has a series of negative impacts on the sward such as not allowing rainwater to penetrate through to the soil and encouraging weeds and moss. Scarifying also cuts through the grass rhizomes on the soil surface, creating a stronger sward while also very lightly aerating the soil. Scarifying usually takes place at the end of the cricket season as part of the turf renovations. In the UK, this tends to be around September, when the football season really kicks off.

Following that, we worked on aerating the cricket square (excluding the pitches with less grass on them). We used a Groundsman spiker with solid tines. This is the first time I had used this brand of machine and I found it uncomfortable to work with, although doable. This, in part, was due to the hardness of the ground as a result of the warm, dry weather. Although we had watered the area beforehand and allowed the moisture to absorb over our lunch break, the ground still felt solid. This led to a lot of vibration and enough shaking to make your arms buzz for a good 20 minutes after. In some very dry areas, the machine actually rocked from side to side with the shaking. Maybe it was a combination of the heat and not enough sleep but Laurence and I couldn’t stop laughing at the sight of the aerator bouncing around the corners.

We used solid tines as we wanted to reduce the compaction in the soil resulting from a season of use in cricket games. Tomorrow, we may have time to use the machine with hollow tines, which remove cores from the turf, allowing for even more aeration, as well as creating an ideal environment for top dressing.

Last week, I spent two days at the site working on the cricket square and marking out a football pitch. I found it really helpful to use the line marker and set up a pole and string to get the line perfectly straight.

I’m excited for tomorrow, as I heard that we may be using the roller machine, which I have used once before. Why is it so much fun to drive a vehicle with a steering wheel knob? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the casual elegance of it. What I do know is that I need to improve my reversing when I have a go on it next as I was all over the place last time!

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