Find out how grass mats can be magic!
Finally, spring is just around the corner, we can all breathe a collective “sigh of relief. The trees that look so sad through the winter, have almost a green glow and it won’t be long before the Spring Equinox is here. We can look forward to long, light evenings riding in less clothes than a polar explorer! It’s has been a perilous wet winter turning paddocks and gateways into quagmires. With us negotiating this twice daily has left many of us losing shoes and boots, slipping over and planting on our bums! Some of us had to resort to our beloved steeds being in 24/7, because the retched mud was so bad. So, if you are at your wits’ end, don’t worry! Next winter it doesn’t have to be this way! With a little bit of planning and work, your gateways next year could be one less hurdle you have to endure.
What can be done?
We have three different solutions, depending on the severity of your muddy problem, which you might like to consider. The Grass Support Rubber Hollow Mats and Heavy-Duty Grass Protection Mesh both work by embedding in the root base of the grass. The HorsePave Pavers – although more labour intensive, offer a superior system which assists the drainage and helps in, the boggiest gateways. We will take you through each of the options. If you have any other questions then you can of course contact us on 01787 886929 or [email protected].
With all these products the timing is key, soil shouldn’t be sticking to your boots in clods the size of house bricks anymore, ideally barely at all. Grass starts growing when the soil temperatures reach between 5° to 6°C. Not that we suggest getting out your roast dinner meat thermometer for poking in your muddy gateways, (although for those particularly eager to get it right, you could!) Weeds thrive in poor soil and poaching, if you leave it too long, you’ll have nettles, thistles, ragwort, dandelions and buttercups poke their heads up. Weeds will stifle the growth of grass so it’s best to keep them down.
The grass mats / hollow mats are the most popular option as they can be used immediately after installation. With considered evaluation and a little bit of preparation they can solve the issues in many areas. There is no doubt they don’t suit every application and you should have realistic expectations of them. Importantly, if vehicles run over the area, this may not be the best product for you. When working out the area you want to cover, our advice is always do a larger area than the affected area. This isn’t to just sell more mats we promise! If you only do the poached area, often the problem just gets deferred back. We recommend going a little further out until you get to more stable ground again. For instance, an average 12ft gateway takes 8 mats at 1m x 1.5m, these will cover an area of 3m depth into the paddock and 4m across (a little either side of the gate). By increasing the size covered by a small amount in each direction you are maximizing the area where your horse turns out, therefore minimizing the hoof traffic over one area. Making sure you solve the problem!
Preparation is king with this product, its best to level the ground with a roller and harrow if you have it. If you don’t, you can fill any pits and holes with sharp sand and topsoil. Rolling afterwards if you can. If the area is a high traffic area, poorly draining or clay soil we recommend you use the stabilization mesh under the Hollow mats to give extra support to root base of the grass.
Installation is simple. Lay the Underlay mesh down over the prepared area then start laying the mats on top. Once you have them all down, cable tie them together using roughly 5 per mat. Then just pin through the mat, through the mesh into the ground. Using 5 pins per mat. You need to use extra pins around the edges of the area you are covering to ensure its securely fixed.
Once the mats are installed, they can be used straight away. Depending on what the long-term goal is, will determine if you do anything else to the area. If you had good grass growth before and would like it back, then keeping off the area as much as possible will help it out. Back filling the mats with sharp sand, topsoil and seed will also help. If the grass was bad and you are not too worried about having grass, just back fill with sand. This will make muck picking much easier and will still let the water drain off.
The Heavy-Duty Grass Protection Mesh (HD Mesh) has different idiosyncrasies to the hollows but in the right place is a fantastic product that is easy to install. The mesh is made of a combination an HDPE plastic and EVA. The EVA layer on the top is for extra anti-slip. Its supplied in roll form of different widths and lengths. This mesh is a good product to use if you must run vehicles over the area. It has an 8T axle weight rating, ensuring you can take your horsebox on it without fear. Again, we recommend covering past the affected area to ensure you get the best results. One side of an average 12ft gateway takes 1 roll of 2m x 10m – cut into 2 rolls of 2m x 5m. The material is pinned to the ground. We recommend using plastic pins for horses, so their hooves don’t get damaged.
The preparation for the HD mesh is generally the same as the hollow mats. If you are laying onto existing grass and you already have good, strong, established, growth, the mesh will embed quickly, and you will be able to use the area quicker. You do have to cut the grass as short as possibly before laying the mesh clearing up any cuttings. If the grass is worn away or has dip’s, rut’s or holes. Fill these first with sharp sand topsoil and seed compressing or rolling afterwards.
Installation is quick and painless, if it’s sunny, even better! Unroll the roll and lay it out in the area you are looking to cover. Cutting where needed. Then leave it for a while, this will let the plastic relax and start to mold to the ground. Then start one end of the roll and start pinning and moving down the roll as you go. We pin 4 across, then move down 25cm, pin 3 across and then repeat. Following the initial installation, if you watch the area the mesh may expand, causing bubbles/ lumps to appear. Just bang another pin in to keep it tight to the ground.
Post installation is where this product needs the most care. It works best by embedding in the root base of the grass. If you can stay off it until it has disappeared. If you can’t you can lead your horse over the area with care. Don’t leave the horses loose on the area until the grass is established. While the grass grows through the mesh it is best to keep mowing the area, this will encourage grass growth and quicker embedding. A good guide is 3-4 cuts of the grass but once you can’t see the mesh then you can use as normal.
The Horsepave Pavers (Pavers) are the “belt and braces” of all our solutions. They are not suitable for everyone as they require more work, however they do mean, muddy boots are a thing of the past! The Pavers are super heavy duty with a weight loading of 260T per square meters. They frequently used in commercial car parking because of their hard wearing and drainage properties. Each tile is 495mm x 495mm square and 45mm thick, each clipping together.
Paver preparation is quite extensive however, it does give a fantastic finish. First you need to plot out the area you are looking to cover and mark it out. Then get digging! You will need to dig down between 100-125mm depending how much subbase you require. Once the surplus soil has been excavated, you need to put in a retaining border or “curb”. We normally use wood for light vehicle use and horses, however, for commercial car parking or heavy vehicles, concrete curbs are required. Lay between 25-50mm of MOT type subbase (depending how much you need; very boggy areas may require more) and level with a compactor. Then to suppress weeds, lay a membrane, which if using a wooden retainer, can simply be stapled to the wood.
The first step of the installation is sand. We use sharp sand as it compacts tightly and is cost effective. Start in a corner, doing a “test patch” to get the levels right. On average a minimum of 30mm of sand is required, however, it can be a little, “trial and error” to establish the correct depth, adding a little or taking some away. Lay a section of sand, put a paver on and compact it. Ideally the paver top will be 1-3mm under the height of the edge board. With the first paver installed, where you are happy, drag the sand out to the correct depth. Then, lay the pavers on top staggering like brickwork and clipping together. Compact the area with a Whacker plate to ensure it is solid. Back fill, the pavers with topsoil and grass seed, covering the area entirely, then Whacker plate the area again ensuring the soil is compacted into the pavers. It is also possible to fill the cells of the pavers with pea shingle or woodchip.
The area can be used straight away. However, if you would like a grass track or area, we advise staying off it for as long as possible, allowing the grass to establish. Should you need to use the path straight away, simply section off one side until the grass is grown and then swap over. Like the other products, if using with grass the pavers sit just under the surface, embedding in the root base of the grass
Still not sure?
This has been a brief overview of the three products we use and recommend, to combat poached fields, walkways and gateways. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic wand and there is not a solution that suits everybody. If you would like some advice on which is going to be best for you, your field and steed. You can call or e-mail. Equally if you want a more in-depth knowledge of installation give us a call. The best number is 01787 886929 and the e-mail is [email protected]. You can also catch us on Instagram and Facebook.