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Coconut and sand (and biochar!) but no holiday for Forest Green Rovers' organic football pitch

Stewart Ward, Forest Green Rovers

Eight hundred litres of compost tea, 180 tonnes of sand, three tonnes of organic fertiliser – and six different types of tetraploid rye-grass being coconut-wetted, charcoal infused and fraise-mowed– the Forest Green Rovers’ groundsman is barely halfway through the process.

Preparations for Forest Green Rovers’ new season are well underway with groundsman Stewart Ward again taking The New Lawn pitch on the next step up the organic ladder – with an eye on the first home preseason game on 12 July 2013 against Swindon Town.

Ward said: “The pitch is looking good, the grass has come through two days sooner than last year despite the temperatures being worse. So it’s all hands to the pump from now until the first game against Swindon – we’ll be force-feeding the grass and giving it lots of fertiliser and water.

“The length of the grass will be that little bit longer in preseason compared to what we will play on during the regular season because we want the grass to have as much surface area as possible to take-in the fertiliser, improve root growth and thicken up.

“Leaving it a bit longer in preseason will ensure it’s in better shape at the back end of the season.”

No stranger to industry plaudits Ward picked up the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) award for Environmental Project of the Year in December and has once more been shortlisted alongside five other curators for the Football Conference 2013 Groundsman of the Year.

The process so far has seen:

* 90 tonnes of sand injected into the pitch to improve drainage.
* Fraise-mowing which removes the grass leaf but allows mature roots to remain and provide a “nursery” for new grass-seed.
* Another 90 tonnes of top sand.
* 15 bags of grass-seed containing six different types of rye-grass.
* 3 tonnes of organic fertiliser with seaweed, magnesium and soil improver. Over a tonne of which is from Carbon Gold.
* Watered with 800 litres of compost tea.


Next week will see:

* 20 litres of coconut wetting agent added which helps water flow evenly to all parts of the soil profile, prevents over/under-watering.
* Soil Improver (90% biochar) from Carbon Gold added to provide a carbon base for the good bacteria and fungus to cling to.

Ward said: “The charcoal and coconut are new. We’re still trying stuff that has never been used on a football pitch, but I’m confident that based on the results I’ve seen in other areas of horticulture that these organic products will benefit the pitch.” 

NB. This blog first appeared on the Forest Green Rovers FC website – click here to read the original version.

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