st georges park

End Of Season Pitch Renovations

Andy Gray, Head of Grounds & Estates at St. George’s Park, offers insights into the maintenance routine deployed at the National Football Centre.


As the regular football season draws to a close, many ground staff are gearing up to revitalise their pitches for the upcoming season.

Andy Gray, Head of Grounds & Estates at St. George’s Park, offers insights into the maintenance routine deployed at the National Football Centre. He also suggests alternative approaches tailored for grassroots clubs.

STEP 1 - Remove The Vegetation (April to June)
SGP - This involves removing 100% of the vegetation to a depth of approximately 10mm. This is done with a field top maker machine over 2 passes. This helps keep a clean surface year after year by removing any organic or algae build up along with removing any weed which may have infested itself into the pitch.

Alternative – Remove what you can, even if only 1%. Scarify, thin out, rake your pitch in a few directions removing any debris as you go with a ride on rotary collector. It is important not remove too much if water supply is a problem as it will need water to grow back the new seed.

STEP 2 - Top dressing
SGP – We would spread between 90-120 tonnes per pitch every year once the pitch has been stripped. This will improve drainage by working sand into holes made by verti drain (next job) along with helping to create a seed bed for new seed.

Alternative – Spread what you can afford - something is better than nothing. If you can only spread minimal amounts, focus on high-wear areas such as goal mouths, centre circle, in front of dug outs, players tunnel entrance (if this is away form the dug outs). The pre-match hand shake is also a high-wear area where people don’t always tend to notice. A minimum amount across a whole pitch would be 30 tonnes.

STEP 3 - Aeration
SGP – Sand-based pitches will receive both verti drain and pedestrian procore at approximately 19mm tines for both. This is to create holes for the sand to be worked into to help create drainage channels from the surface of the pitch. Passes depends on how much sand is used and how well the sand has been worked into them.

Alternative – Verti drain your pitch (one pass) whilst also relieving compaction some of the sand spread will also go down these holes, therefore helping to improve drainage.

STEP 4 - Seed
SGP – Due to removing all the vegetation we seed at 50g/m2 with 100% rye grass, we use a mix of 50% diploid and 50% tetraploid. We do this with 4x passes over the pitch in 4 different directions.

Alternative – If quantities available are low, concentrate on high wear areas. Try to ensure the seed is approximately 3mm below the surface. This can be done with a disc seeder or simply pricking the surface with a fork, spread seed and raking the sand dressing back over the top. A low seed rate across the whole pitch would be approximately 10g/m2 (approx. 4 bags) dependant on how grass was removed at the beginning. Seed rates in high wear areas, seeded by hand would be 50-70g/m2.

STEP 5 - Feed
SGP – We don’t tend to use pre-seed fertiliser. We wait until the seed has germinated then begin to feed with a series of liquid feeds before applying granular on week 4. At the seeding stage, we will apply an organic type of feed for the soil. This puts beneficial nutrient into the soil for the seed to better thrive once it has germinated and begins to root.

Alternative – Firstly, going right back to 2-3 weeks before the start, it would be beneficial to spray a weed & feed product to kill off any broad leafed weeds which may have appeared. This will ensure they are dead/dying by the time the thinning out happens. Otherwise a basic feed of 8-12-8 or similar would be beneficial at seeding as there is likely to still be a lot of grass left and you don’t want to apply too much otherwise you will be chasing your tail cutting it!