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New Lawn Advice: Adam Witchell, Head Groundsman, Forest Green Rovers Football Club

May 02, 2019
New Lawn Advice from Adam Witchell

Your new build home is a blank canvas to personalise as you wish. The garden is a space where you can have an immediate transformative impact if you know what you are doing. If you aren’t quite confident with how to achieve a luscious new lawn, or want to know how to maintain it throughout the year, we have expert help for you.

Forest Green Rovers Football Club, The New Lawn.
The New Lawn, Forest Green Rovers Football Club
We caught up with award-winning Groundsman, Adam Witchell, of League Two Forest Green Rovers Football Club, located in Gloucestershire. Not only is their stadium appropriately named ‘The New Lawn’, but they also have the only organic, vegan football pitch in the World.

What is your history of professional lawn-keeping?

After I left the Royal Marines I started out as a Greenkeeper on the coast of mid-Wales at a club called Aberdovey. It is a beautiful links course. In addition to working at the golf course, I also had my own lawn care and gardening business. 

After 5 years I left and moved to Calne to take up a job on a local authority sports complex as Head Groundsman. Here, I oversaw 15 all-natural football pitches and a cricket wicket with 2 outfields in constant use.

The Forest Green Rovers groundsman job came up at the New Lawn 5 years later - and here I am today. I have now been at FGR for 3-years and we have won the Institute of Groundsmanship environmental award the last two years running.

Forest Green Rovers has a reputation for doing things differently as a club, how does that affect your pitch work?

The pitch here at the New Lawn is currently the only organic vegan pitch in the world. We use no chemicals, synthetic products and the pitch is fed on a plant-based diet geared around seaweed, bacteria, complex teas and sugars.

I think this is the best way to feed the pitch and a lot of other big clubs are now looking more into the soil biology to maintain their pitch. It can sometimes have its challenges as grass loves - and needs - a lot of nitrogen, but it's difficult to feed it this way as a lot of nitrogen fertilizers are synthetic.

What makes a good domestic lawn?

Overall, nice coverage of grass, no weeds or moss and a clean cut.

Dependant on what a homeowner wants, if you have little time but want a nice healthy lawn, use a reputable lawn care company. However, if you want an area to let the kids play and requires minimal maintenance, then artificial grasses are getting better.

If you have green fingers and find mowing the lawn therapeutic, then make sure your mower is cutting a good height, approximately 30mm. In other words, don’t scalp the ground and cut it too short or this will encourage weeds to blow in and grow moss.

Always make sure your mower is cutting the grass crisply and not tearing, as this will make the grass plant weak and you can attract disease.

At The New Lawn, you use a GPS-directed electric lawnmower, powered by energy harnessed from the sun, what about domestic robot lawnmowers?

The robot mower markets are gaining pace. In which case, look out for a little robot to cut your lawn. It just nips off the top of the plant, and it lets it drop. Subsequently, this will feed the microbes in the soil, so you can then save on feeding your lawn.

What lawn care should you undertake in the winter?

The best thing to do in the winter, when the grass plant has gone into dormancy, is to leave the mower in the shed. Above all, undertake some mower maintenance. An oil change or a bit of WD40 on the moving parts and make sure the blades are sharp. On the lawn, possibly apply some liquid iron and seaweed to help harden the grass plant against the elements.

What’s the secret to a world-class new lawn?

Seaweed. Seaweed is akin to a multi-vitamin for plants. It helps protect the roots and feeds the plant with all the trace elements nutrients it needs. Cold pressed seaweed from a sustainable source is the best.

Read on for front-garden inspiration to increase your “kerb appeal”.

*Images are credited to Forest Green Rovers Football Club.