Leaves everywhere; it must be autumn. And wherever there is public access, there is almost always bound to be litter. There are dedicated sweeping and vacuum machines for clearing rubbish and debris from streets, other hard surfaces and from turf. There is also an increasing number of sweeping attachments to match tractors, skid-steer loaders and even ride-on mowers. But the area that has seen most activity recently is the development of equipment for cleaning synthetic sports facilities.
Driven by the need to provide more playing hours from fewer sites, irrespective of the weather, and with funding-aid from various sources such as the lottery, synthetic sports facilities have emerged as one of the "must-have" assets for most councils and many clubs, schools and universities. With them comes the understanding that synthetic pitches are not a no-maintenance provision. Their requirement is one of new skills and different equipment.
"A common misconception is that synthetic turf requires little maintenance. But regular attention is vital to ensure optimum playing performance and durability," says Charterhouse Turf Machinery sales manager Nick Darking. "The infill material used in synthetic systems must be kept level for consistency and the upper carpet fibres have to remain free of litter and leaves to avoid the accumulation of dirt and bacteria, as well as potentially harmful fragments such as glass and splinters."
Charterhouse Turf Machinery in Surrey is one of a growing band of companies supplying equipment specifically for synthetic facility maintenance.
When natural turf is damaged, it will repair itself. On the other hand, repairs to artificial turf can be expensive. The most successful facilities receive maintenance from the start of installation. Indeed, appropriate and approved ongoing maintenance programmes are increasingly stipulated as a prerequisite to uphold the validity of warranties written by the main installers - a factor that has fuelled the design and development of synthetic-turf care equipment.
Regular brushing is the key, complemented by the collection of surface debris before it becomes unsightly or contaminates the fibres. With this in mind, Sisis Equipment of Macclesfield has teamed up with synthetic-turf producer TigerTurf in an informal partnership to encourage the maintenance of synthetic surfaces.
TigerTurf manufactures artificial turf for football, rugby, hockey and tennis, as well as multi-use games areas and landscaping applications, and is the only FIFA-licensed manufacturer in the UK. The company is keen to ensure its synthetic pitches are well maintained to give optimum performance and to prolong their lifespan. As part of the installation package, TigerTurf is supplying Sisis machinery and is recommending the equipment to existing customers. Sisis will handle demonstrations and provide after-sales support.
TigerTurf sales and marketing director Steve Hewitt says: "Regular and good- quality maintenance is imperative to ensuring artificial grass gives optimum performance and stays looking its best. We offer our customers guidance and support when choosing their carpet and now we can do the same for their maintenance equipment."
Sisis has supplied kit to TigerTurf and its distributors for several years. Its main products for synthetic turf are the Sisis ride-on brushing system and the Sisis SSS/1000 sweeper. The company can also supply a wide range of other tractor-mounted machinery.
New to the range of equipment from Charterhouse Turf Machinery is the Verti-Top Vac, designed to offer groundsmen a cost-effective solution for cleaning and maintaining sand and rubber-infill synthetic sports surfaces. Tractor-mounted, the unit uses a larger rotary brush to sweep the surface and collect material from within the carpet, which is then placed on an oscillating sieve to separate debris from the infill. Larger pieces of debris move along the sieve into the collection hopper, while the infill is returning and brushed into the surface. Lighter pieces of debris, such as dust, hair and loose fibres are collected into a bag on top of the hopper via a vacuum attachment. The vacuum effect takes place above the sieve, removing potentially harmful materials from the infill.
Adjustable tines at the front of the Verti-Top loosen and decompact the surface ahead of the brush, while a floating top link adapts to surface undulations.Working width is 1.5m, with hopper capacity of 170 litres and dust collection bag of 20 litres. Different sieve sizes can be specified for different infill, while a solid sieve allows the Verti-Top Vac to be used for sweeping and collecting.
Entering the UK marketplace through distributor Eric Hunter of Maidenhead, French manufacturer of grounds- care equipment YVMO makes a 1.4m-wide machine for the sweeping and regeneration of artificial turf. The unit combines five operations - de-compacting, sweeping, collecting, rolling and brushing-in of sand or rubber crumb particles - in one machine and it has a minimum power requirement of 18hp. The YVMO is equipped with a rear-view mirror so the operator can monitor the work without stopping. Forward speed is up to 3.5mph (5.6km/h).
Spurred by the popularity of rubber-crumb-filled synthetic surfaces Thornton Sports, involved in the manufacture, installation and maintenance of synthetic sports surfaces, has designed equipment for day-to-day use on its own contracts. The G3 Groomer is the firm's answer to the maintenance of full-sized pitches, small multi-use games areas and five-a-side areas where access is limited. Its functions include de-compaction to cater for all aspects of maintenance of rubber-filled surfaces.
It is agreed that regular maintenance of synthetic surfaces is essential if playing performance is to be kept high and the life of the carpet extended. There is now a sufficient choice of equipment so there is no excuse for falling standards and disappointed players.
FOR THE REST OF THE GROUNDS
Muck-truck is a four-wheel drive pedestrian micro-dumper. Supplied by the firm with the same name, it can be fitted with various attachments, including a redesigned vacuum unit. With improved airflow, this new unit also has simplified emptying.
The Kawasaki petrol engine forms a vacuum in the 350-litre container, creating suction through the 125mm-diameter pick-up hose. The container is made from high-density durable plastic and empties easily by removing the rear tip and tipping out the contents. The vacuum is intended for use in paddocks but can also be used on low revs to collect leaves from gravelled surfaces. The vac attachment costs £1,095 ex VAT.
New to the range of cassette options from Turfworks International is the Greens Triplex Brush. Daily brushing of greens increases smoothness for a true ball roll, while reducing grain and the need for frequent verticutting. The fully adjustable brush head can be set into a "lock position" to allow standard triplex use without having to remove the brush, and its synthetic bristles resist wear and environmental degradation. Durable steel construction and powder coat to the frame make for a longer life. The Turfworks Greens Triplex brush fits all current models of Toro, Jacobsen and John Deere greens mowers.
Pinnacle Power Equipment has a new range of vacuum sweepers to replace the Billy Goat KD machines. Upgraded from the previous models, the 68cm KVactions have zipperless collection bags and optional on-board hose kits. They require little maintenance and are quieter and more powerful than their predecessors. Powered by 6.5hp GSV Honda or 6hp Briggs & Stratton Quantum engines, the vacs have five-bladed steel impellers with debris-reducing knives for shredding and optional shredder screens.
Self-propelled models have a system where the drive to the rear wheels is increased as the bag fills over the drive-wheels and therefore the traction is also increased.
To enhance manoeuvrability in tight spaces or on undulating ground, the machines have 30cm wheels with semi-pneumatic turf tyres. The top-of-the-range TKV model also incorporates a chipper facility to take branches up to 50mm in diameter. Prices start from £723 ex VAT for push models and £1,017 for self-propelled.
New from Kersten, the K200 Pro two-wheel power unit has low noise and vibration levels. Attachments for this machine include mowers and a 1m hydraulic sweeper with collector, plus the Kersten weedbrush from cleaning block paving and path edges.
Kersten also offers synthetic sports-turf maintenance machines for cleaning and presenting sand and rubber-filled surfaces.
CASE STUDY: TAKING MAINTENANCE IN-HOUSE
Watton Sports Club, in Norfolk has invested in Redexim Verti-Top and Verti-Groom maintenance machines from Charterhouse Turf Machinery and has eliminated £5,000 a year of contract costs.
Head groundsman Peter Smith explains: "We were able to agree a three-year finance package with dealer Ben Burgess for the Verti-Top and Verti-Groom, which will cost a little over £5,000 a year. In three years the machine will be ours and we will save £5,000 a year, which can be spent on other facilities at the club - including contributing to a new third- or fourth-generation pitch."
The saving is especially important as Watton Sports Club is self-funding and runs without assistance from the local authority. However, the machinery also means Smith can maintain the pitch more frequently and thoroughly - and that should increase the life of the facility.
"We have had our pitch for 10 years and have looked after it well, but I am estimating that we will get another five years out of it as we are able to maintain it on a more regular basis," he says.
In daily use, the artificial pitch is worked hard, particularly on Saturdays when it can host up to five matches for the local hockey club.