I am the head groundsman at a private school. We have the funding to construct a sand-filled carpet early next year. I want to submit a budget for the maintenance of the facility, but I have no previous experience of synthetic turf. Where can I get more information about the maintenance of synthetic turf and what sort of equipment should I be looking at?

There are lots of places to go for information regarding the maintenance of synthetics. The Institute of Groundsmanship, for instance, runs a course on the maintenance and management of surfaces. This covers sand-based, water-based and rubber-crumb-filled carpets, and looks at all sporting disciplines. There are contractors who specialise in the maintenance of synthetic sports facilities and you will also find a number of consultants offering advice. Equipment suppliers have a lot of knowledge and experience too.

It is important not to skimp on the equipment needed for maintaining the new facility and you should, if at all possible, dedicate equipment to that area. One of the most important aspects of maintaining a sand-filled carpet is to prevent the ingress of soil and dirt from outside. This means that tractor wheels, brushes and other kit that comes in direct contact with the surface must be clean. You will find life a lot easier if you can devote a small tractor for use only on the synthetic facility.

The popularity of synthetic turf means we now have an increasing number of companies specialising in the supply of maintenance kit and products. Some of those you may consider contacting include Charterhouse Turf Machinery, Sisis and Eric Hunter. SCH Supplies and Kerstern also supply brushes useful for regular maintenance tasks.

The programme and kit required will be determined by the specification of the synthetic surface and the amount of use, but much of the work will involve keeping the surface clean and level. This task will need brushing equipment. Sisis offers the handheld Dragbrush but more useful on large areas are the Zig-Zag brush, Varibrush and Flexibrush, which can be mounted to small compacts, plus the Osca - a pair of oscillating brush units for maintaining rubber crumb and sand-filled areas. Another option is the Robbi ride-on brush system. This has been designed specifically for sand-filled carpets and comprises three independent "S" brushes to give a 2.3m-wide sweeping effect.

Charterhouse offers a wide variety of equipment, starting with brushes such as the Verti-Brush and Verti-Broom to level and distribute infill and to groom the fibres and provide a striped effect. The company also supplies the Verti-Top to keep playing surfaces clean and bacteria-free, and to decompact the sand to allow water infiltration. The Verti-Top is available in a 1.5m-wide tractor-mounted model or a walk-behind version for use on smaller facilities. Also aiding decompaction and boosting drainage, the Verti-Air is a new product that utilises a rotary brush and compressed air to lift all material out of the turf, dry and filter the material, sift out the debris and return it back into the carpet.

New from Eric Hunter is the YVMO artificial turf sweeper. The machine will sweep, collect, roll and brush sand and rubber-crumb-filled artificial surfaces.

In addition to brushing, cleaning and decompacting equipment, you will also need to use top-dressers to top-up the infill and line-marking equipment.

Sally Drury has reported for HW and its forerunner GC&HTJ for 25 years, and has spent more than five years testing machinery for HW and What Kit? The advice in this helpline is independent.


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