Autumn brings with it a new range of challenges and tasks for maintaining a synthetic sports surface. Being proactive in this period helps to ensure consistent playing characteristics, visual qualities and ultimately provides a safer facility for sport to be played. Steven Spence of Replay Maintenance explores the pitfalls and maintenance procedures that should be on any groundsman’s schedule.

There are three main issues that occur in autumn – these being leaves, worsening weather conditions and increased shade. Pitches and courts are frequently surrounded by trees so naturally at this time of year leaves, twigs and other debris will fall onto the surface on a daily basis. This problem is then compounded by stronger winds; heavier more frequent rain and colder conditions. Detritus from the trees gets wet causing it to decompose into the surface leading to a wet sludgy mulch that causes slippery, hazardous conditions. The other issue here is that the rotting organic matter provides a healthy nutrient base for moss and algae to grow and spread on those areas. As the sun doesn’t rise so high in the autumn/winter you may find that some ends or corners of your surface become permanently shaded by fences, trees or other surroundings. The lack of direct sunlight only further enhances moss problems, which thrive in these conditions.

Drainage issues will become far more apparent during wetter weather, therefore a pro-active planned approach to maintenance is necessary. By implementing the correct procedures at the right time the pile will be more fluid and the fill more mobile, both imperative where drainage is concerned. Keeping the rainwater free flowing will inhibit established moss/algae growth and in turn means a more open, de-compacted surface.

Maintenance is not just about what is on the surface but should also cater for what is in the surface. By far the most robust approach to synthetic pitch maintenance is to have strong synergy between ‘in-house’ techniques and specialist ‘outsourced’ processes.

The daily and weekly element of Drag Brushing and Leaf Blowing/Removal will greatly improve the look, feel and longevity of the surface. If you have your own ‘in-house’ grounds staff and equipment then so much the better, but a specialist maintainer can offer this type of weekly service if you don’t have this resource. However, outsourcing will invariably be required for the specialist element. When choosing a supplier make sure their process encompasses de-compaction, extraction of dusts, removal of dirt & detritus and redistribution of the infill – the Replay Revive® process is widely recognised as the industry-leading standard for synthetic maintenance techniques. This can take place during wetter periods, but in our experience should always be carried out as a proactive measure rather than a reactionary remedy.

Inevitably, the natural draining ability and safety of your surface will eventually be compromised. The point at which this happens will depend largely on the historic maintenance provision to that point. At this juncture Facility Managers can often think that the only option is to resurface but there is a much more viable alternative in the unique Replay Rejuvenation® process. This uses compressed air to alleviate carpet compaction and remove the contaminated infill, which is then replaced with new clean granulate (sand or rubber). The Rejuvenation process will return the surface to an ‘as new’ condition, adding 5 or more year’s useable life at a fraction of the cost of full replacement.