Piste maintenance once built
So, you have followed all the instructions and advice and have a lovely new piste all ready for action. Well, the piste will take a bit of time to settle in. No matter how much you compact the surface of the piste it will still settle of its own accord. This takes time. The top finer layers of gravel will settle into the larger sub structure. This can be due to rain, walking on the piste as well as playing on it. We are trying to recreate a dusty French courtyard with rock and gravel so it may take some time. With the British weather this can be up to 2 years to get a nice compact even but not level surface to play Petanque on. The absorption of the top fine layers into the piste will give a nice hard surface but you may need to have a little extra top layer so the piste can be fed. The addition should not make the piste too deep but it will need to be carried out. The main thing to remember is the sub structure may settle at different rates and the impact of boule into one area may cause the lower larger stone to come up through the top layers. This can be annoying as it looks like the piste is breaking up. The solution is to hammer these stones back into the piste and firm down the surrounding area. One of the reasons this happens is the players always take the circle to the back of the piste to start an end. This means the boule tend to land in the same place when thrown and these constant impacts upset the balance of the sub structure. A new piste needs to be played on all over so be aware the circle may need to be placed in different places when practicing to ensure even impact on the piste. Practicing shooting on a new piste is ok but you will need to ensure the target boule is not in the same place all the time as this can destroy a new piste. If the sub structure comes up and is not replaced into the piste then you will have a hole or dip form in the piste. This may be an ideal home advantage, but this hole will grow like a pot hole over time. The ground will give natural contours as the piste settles so you will still have home advantage.
Other things to watch out for are build up of finer gravel along the edges and ends. After play the piste should be raked so this extra gravel is placed back into the centre of the piste. This will protect the substructure and ensure a flatter piste. Use a leaf rake for this for the first two years. A normal rake will snag on the substructure and pull it out of the ground as you rake.
After the piste has settled you could take some of this top level away if you want a faster piste but for the first two years it is best left. Players may complain the piste is too deep but this is a step that is needed to ensure a superb piste in the future.
If the piste has not settled or you wish to harden the playing area, sweep the fine topping off the piste and then give it an industrial wacker plate treatment and then sweep the top layer back over the piste. This allows the wacker plate to impact on the lower areas of the substructure rather than bounce off the layer of fine gravel.
Once you are up and running the piste will need only occasional work in the autumn.
A little leaf clearance and some maintenance carried out during this time will prepare and free up time when the summer returns to actually playing the game we love. Remember leaves piled up at the side of pistes will rot the wood boundaries if you are not careful over the winter. A quick rake up and maintenance at this time of year is a lot easier if players are not trying to practice shooting! Do not make the mistake of lighting a bonfire on your pitch, the ash will be difficult to remove after the fire has gone and may ruin the drainage. It will leave soot and ash on the piste which will make players hands dirty. Also any wood burnt will throw out the most amazing amount of nails and screws to be left on the piste for the summer.