Gardening Journal – Entry 2

Tuesday 15 September 2020

We were back at the park today, and it was absolutely roasting. There were moments where I could even see the swirls and waves of hot air coming off the sports pitches! The person training us was at one point wearing four layers, including a gilet and some black plastic waterproof trousers. It was hot just to look at him!

Today we worked primarily on line marking. This involved overmarking a football pitch, both ‘eyeballing’ by using the previous line as a reference, and the more precise string and stake method. We used a manual line marker and the typical watered down white emulsion paint typically used for this job. The line marker works using three rollers that are in contact with each other and pass the paint up from the reservoir and onto the bottom roller, distributing the paint on the grass. There is a brush feature on the roller, which can be used to regulate the amount of paint you apply. On dry days like today, there is no need for a reduction in paint flow. However, if it were a rainy day or the ground was wet, you may reduce the paint flow to 50% or 25%, to prevent the paint from spreading.

To set up the string and stake, you need some string on a line marking reel and two stakes. First, the reel is set up behind the beginning of the line, leaving enough space to work around it. Then the end of the string is pulled to the other end of the line, with a stake in tow. The string is looped onto the bottom of the stake and the stake is pushed into the ground on the corner of where the previous marked line was. You can then return to the reel at the beginning of the line and pull the string taught, to check if the line is straight. Once it is lined up, you can create a slipknot and stake the string at the beginning of the line, keeping the string as taught and straight as possible. On longer lines, it is worth walking to the middle of the line and ‘pinging’ the string, making sure it is not caught on any bumps in the grass.

Then it’s time for the fun(ish) bit – using the line marker! As there are stakes and reels in the way at the beginning and ends of the line, it is best to start about 1m in and work backwards towards the stake. After that, you can turn around and walk the length of the string, making sure the bottom roller is in line with the string at all times. I found it easier to check this by walking to the left of the machine, where the string was more visible, however, some people prefer to walk behind the roller. I’m just not a fan of the penguin waddle you have to do to keep from walking on the fresh paint!

We covered all the lines on the football pitch, including the circle and semi-circles, which had to be overmarked using the eyeball method. For the smaller corner curves, it is easier to lift up the back wheels and simply use the front wheel to keep the quadrant tight.

After that, we got into the maths portion of our day, as we marked out a rectangle for an events area. While it is helpful to know the width and height of the rectangle you are marking out, using Pythagoras theorem is the best way to ensure every corner is at a right angle.

Pythagoras theorem is an equation used to find the length of a triangle’s third side, when you know the lengths of two other sides. The equation is as follows (where x is the unknown side and y and z are the known sides):

x = √y²+z²

As such, when we were told to mark out a rectangle measuring 8m by 6m, we found the square of each side by multiplying 8×8=64 and 6×6=36. Then we added those together: 64+36=100. Finally, we found the square root of 100, which is 10.

This is how those numbers matter when marking out a right angled rectangle: once you have marked out the first line (8m) and staked both points, you take two tape measures, one measuring from the first stake and another measuring from the second stake. You know that the next side you are marking will be 6m, so you can measure this out. Then, you know that the diagonal line will have to be 10m, so you measure this out too. Finally, you pull the tape measures to the point where the 10m and 6m mark are overlapping. This is the exact spot where your next stake has to go. To finish off the rectangle, you simply pull the measuring tapes across to create another diagonal line and line up the 10m and 6m again. You have now staked out a rectangle!

To mark this out with the line marker, you pull a string tightly around the outside of all four stakes and pass the manual line marker around the outside of the string. You can remove the stakes and finish off any bare patches you may have missed.

We also worked on marking out a circle, which is significantly easier and faster! Once you know the diameter of the circle and where the centre of your circle should be, you place a stake in the centre point with some string looped to the bottom of it. Then, you halve the diameter of the circle to find the radius. Our circle had to be a total width of 4m, so we halved this (2m) and marked out this length on the string. Then we simply pulled this string around the stake, followed by the manual line marker, creating a circle with a radius of 2m and therefore a diameter of 4m.

Just as the sun started bearing down on us, we worked on creating a new cricket pitch, as an end of season booking had been made. This involved marking out an area… again. I can confirm that it was way too hot to be remembering measurements and working out squares and square roots, but nonetheless, we persevered. It is important to know the typical dimensions of a cricket pitch, although these can change depending where you work. Usually, a cricket pitch will measure 20.12m long and 3.05m wide, with a minimum of 1.22m behind the stumps. We worked to a width of 3.4m and lined up our wicket area with that of the adjacent pitch.

First of all, we used the string and stake method to mark the two long lines and this area was mowed using a cylinder mower, initially on a higher cut of about 8mm and then on the lowest cut of 3mm. Usually, this would be done over the course of two or three days, to allow the grass to recover. Unfortunately, we did not have much time before the cricket game, as a it was a last-minute booking. One thing that is important to note is that unlike mowing on amenity areas, or even the rest of the cricket square, a cricket pitch must be mown twice over the same line. In other words, there should be no decorative lines like you would find on other turf.

After passing over the grass with the cylinder mower, we used a calibrated frame to mark out the wicket areas. We used two long planks of wood lined up against the frame and sprayed in between the planks and the frame with white line marking spray paint, to create a sharp, straight line. Once everything had been sprayed in, including the middle wicket line, we were finished!

It was a long, but very informative day and I’m glad to be at home. I must say that I’m excited to return to our familiar depot and to not have to cycle across all of London. Nonetheless, I had a great time learning more about sports turf and cruising around the park in a golf cart.

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!