After the rain came the snow, then more rain, then a bit of dry weather and just when you thought it was safe to go on the grass – more snow, just in time for Easter! The result is that the ground has never had a chance to recover and most areas of the country are still at field capacity which makes the prospect of starting the season a sticky one. Whilst good drainage alleviates most flooding, a regular program of aeration goes a long way to keeping amenity grass in good health. Unfortunately however, cut-backs are seeing less and less of these operations happening in our parks, open spaces and even school playing fields.

You could argue that it’s a waste of time to aerate these areas as they are not prime sports grounds and so what benefit would you get from it?  A fair point perhaps, but when you consider the amount of compaction these sites are subjected to, it’s amazing that any grass grows at all! The constant pounding of footfall traffic, push chairs, bikes and not to mention mowing machines shows just how resilient a plant grass is – but consider the effect of all this traffic.

If the site doesn’t have the luxury of adequate drainage it can become waterlogged and unusable.  If a hidden compaction layer allows water to pond then the affected area could be rendered unusable and require reinstatement to bring it back into use. This becomes a bigger issue on sloping land; if water can’t percolate into the ground then it has no option but to run off the surface with the potential to cause flooding by overwhelming water courses which could affect local housing areas.

let it breathe 1 would more regular aeration have prevented this mess?

So whilst prime sports grounds get the attention they need, a decline in public spending is seeing the traditional homes of Sunday league, knockabout pitches in the parks and school playing fields, quickly turning to mud baths that nobody wants to play on. The potential loss of these facilities to the local community needs to be a big consideration.  If there is nowhere to play football or rugby because the ground is sodden, the public loses out.  Where there are managed facilities with paid-for pitches there can be a loss of revenue for the council that owns the land – meaning less to spend on maintenance next year.

If it boils down to the cost of the operation then why don’t we look at things differently?  Rather than drive up and down with our tractor mowers for thirty weeks of the year cutting grass, then drive over the same areas spiking in an attempt to alleviate the compaction we have caused – why don’t we consider a combination of the two operations?

The average tractor trailed mower combination is around 85hp pulling a 4.5m mower of some type, cylinder, rotary or flail.  The main draw on power comes from the PTO rather than the physical pull of the mower, so is there then a case to look at the addition of spiking units to the rear of the mower?

You’re probably thinking “he needs to stop smoking that stuff, that’s a ridiculous idea,” but is it?  We have plenty of power and we’re driving over the ground (hopefully) in a reasonably straight line, so what’s wrong with doing two operations in one pass? Actually, what’s stopping us fitting a piggyback frame to allow us to fertilize and mow and in one pass?

Doing two or even three jobs in one pass is not new; the agriculture industry has been doing it for years.  Not only does it reduce trafficking and so by default compaction, it reduces fuel consumption and emissions resulting in Global Warming (supposedly the main reason we get all the rain in the first place).

let it breathe 2let it breathe 3 

Is combining these tasks really so far-fetched?

 

Angus Lindsay

Group Head of Assets and Fleet

Angus