Veteran groundsman Ho Kwok-wah's dedication while tending the turf at Happy Valley and Sha Tin racecourses over four decades has prompted the Jockey Club to bring him out of retirement after two years to help prepare equestrian venues for the Olympic Games Grass can talk, says Ho Kwok-wah, 60, who has worked with turf for almost four decades. Mr Ho was one of the first generation of workers hired by the Jockey Club in the 1960s to maintain its grass, their duties including watering, fertilising, mowing and otherwise tending the turf at Happy Valley and Sha Tin racecourses. 'Every morning when I come to the racecourse, the grass will talk to me, saying 'I need water; I need fertiliser',' says Mr Ho, who understands 'the grass language' by judging the lawn's colour and shape. 'Sometimes they will get mad at me,' he continues, talking about less healthy plants. 'They seem to be blaming me and asking why they cannot be as green and strong as other grass.' Calling himself a grass-planting farmer, Mr Ho worked from 6am to 5pm every day at the Happy Valley racecourse before he retired in 2004. The hard-working and passionate grass carer was often the last one to leave his workplace. But that was still not the end of his day with the grass, as he would often come back just hours later with his wife and two daughters for a promenade after dinner. 'I would take this chance to check the grass again. If there's any problem, I'll take it as the top priority to deal with the next day.' Thanks to his dedication, Mr Ho was invited by the Jockey Club to come back two years after his retirement to help tend the turf at the two Olympic equestrian venues - a training course at Penfold Park at Sha Tin racecourse and a competition course newly developed at Beas River, Sheung Shui. Both places will be used for the cross-country events during the Games in August. To present a first-class arena, a type of narrow-leaf Bermuda grass used widely on the Jockey Club's racecourses was selected as the main species for the turf at the Olympic equestrian venues. 'I've been planting grass for decades. I love this type the most.' Holding some grass samples in his hand, the sun-bronzed expert illustrates that the narrow leaves of the plant prevent drops of water from staying on their surface, which reduces the chance of horses slipping. In addition, the roots of the grass interweave with each other, ensuring the turf is strongly anchored and provides very good support for jumping horses. Introduced by the Jockey Club from Bermuda two decades ago, the warm-season grass is an ideal species to plant in a sub-tropical environment like Hong Kong. One of the great things about this grass, Mr Ho says, is it grows on sand instead of soil. 'Hong Kong often has too much rainfall in the summer, so how to drain the water and keep the turf course dry is crucial for the events. In this aspect, sand is fabulous.' To achieve the best possible drainage, workers first installed a layer of drainage channels, then layers of gravel, sand, fertilised sand and turf from bottom to top on the two Olympic courses. The structure has proved to be efficient in draining water, with little water collecting on the turf during the black-signal rainstorm last month. With only three months to go before the sports extravaganza, Mr Ho expects the grass, which has just 'woken up from hibernation', to be in perfect condition to welcome equestrian athletes from around the world. 'Growing grass looks easy, but actually it takes a lot of learning,' he says. Mr Ho and his colleagues will decide their maintenance plan for each day after examining the colour, height and shape of the grass in the morning. And sometimes, they also have some 'special assistants', he says. 'We will know that we need to do pest control for the grass if we see birds come down and peck at worms in the ground.' After spending almost a lifetime on caring for grass, the veteran feels very much attached to his job. 'I feel my heart opens up as long as I stand on the turf and take a breath of the fresh air mingled with the scent of grass,' he says.