This wet autumn has shown us the shortcomings of our undrained football pitch (private school situation). We do not have sufficient funds for sand banding but have heard that mole drainage is just as good, yet a quarter of the cost.

Sand slitting — also called sand banding — involves cutting slits into the pitch and filling them with sand so that water can run into plastic drains and be removed from the facility. Because of the large volumes of sand required, it is quite costly. Additionally, it incurs an annual maintenance cost to ensure that the slits remain open. It is, however, a highly effective system.

Mole draining is an alternative to consider. This is where a bullet-shaped steel foot is pulled through the soil to make a drainage channel. If done using the right equipment and in the right conditions, it can be very successful and would slash the cost of developing your pitch. Pitches can also be brought back into play very quickly. However, there is a big "if". Mole drainage only really works well if the pitch is on heavy clay.

In 2005, Cranfield University undertook a research project to compare sand slit and mole drainage systems. Pitches at the university and other sites across the country were monitored. It was found that mole drainage, if done properly, is capable of providing similar drainage performance but at a much reduced cost. The research was published in Soil Use and Management, volume 23.

Your first investigation should be the nature of the soil with which you are dealing. If it is heavy clay — and it might well be if you are having drainage problems — then mole draining could be a cost-effective solution. If not, then you need to think about how often and when the pitch is played. There may be a management solution.

Of course, you could also do some serious homework on the availability of grants. But don't just look at money for developing the pitch. You should also look at grants for a synthetic pitch to help share some of the weight.

 


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