Sports Ground Maintenance – Harlow Rugby Club end of Season Turf Renovation

In the summer of 2018, Harlow Rugby Club was preparing for its end-of-season renovation after its first season in its new club grounds. The club approached GCS to handle the renovations, so we worked closely with them to help them determine their budget and achieve the best specification.

We strongly recommended using a material called iron sand to treat the pitches. It’s significantly better than the standard specification soft-washed sport sand – the iron content adds strength to the plant, improving it's colour and hardening of the turf.

The club’s grounds are divided into four pitches. We advised using 100 tons of iron sand on Pitch 1, 80 tons on Pitch 2, and 40 tons each on Pitches 3 and 4 – the reason we recommended less on Pitches 3 and 4 was that there was already some sand showing on the surfaces of the pitches from the construction work, which had been completed fairly recently. We wanted to ensure the surfaces weren’t too sandy, as this would allow the seeds to develop into a soil loam, not sand. If roots develop into sand they don’t bind and tend to come up easily after playing – not ingredients for a good rugby pitch.

We used all our own equipment, other than a top dresser which we hired externally. We applied approximately 1,800kg of four-way rye grass seed, using a disc seeder that spread in three directions, encouraging a dense sward. Normally this would be a simple task, but we encountered a huge fly in the ointment in the form of the extended drought otherwise known as the summer of 2018. For months and months it simply did not rain, and this made it a hard task to get the seed growing efficiently. For us, this meant a lot of irrigation work – every night, without fail, a member of the team would be out on the pitches with a portable irrigation system, frequently spreading water in six-hour stints. This meant we couldn’t apply fertiliser, couldn’t do any grass cutting – we had no choice but to keep the water flowing.

Happily, we got it done. By the time the drought broke and winter rolled around, Harlow Rugby Club had four perfect, strong pitches ready for their 2018/19 season.