July was certainly a testing month for many groundsmen, with the weather dictating the extent of works required. Many parts of the country were experiencing extreme weather fronts, with some areas experiencing drought conditions whilst others were having heavy downpours of rain.
August will, hopefully, bring some better weather, however in terms of work load, August is often one of the busiest months of the year.
Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
|Early in the Month||1st - 15th August|
Soil and air temperatures should hopefully rise in August and help dry out soil profiles. It is surprising how quickly soils can dry out, usually within a few days of fine weather.
You may find yourself having to water the pitches; clay soils can dry out quickly and care should be taken to control the drying out of wickets. The use of covers will help.
As you move through the month regular mowing of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Make sure your machinery is up to the task with regular services.
After care of the wicket, with repairs and renovation to used pitches should be undertaken.
Pay particular attention to your foot holes as they may require more intense work. Do not neglect your out field either, as this the largest area of maintenance it still needs to be carefully managed.
|Later in the Month||16th August - onwards|
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme.
Check delivery schedules for end of season renovation programmes.
Pitch preparation, Fertilising and Irrigation. Foot-hole repairs. Outfield maintenance.
Outfields are often prone to drying; allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil and thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality. The uses of wetting agents (outfields only) have now become an integral part of the maintenance regime with applications on a monthly basis throughout the summer.
With schools closing for the summer term many groundsmen will already be undertaking wicket renovations, making good use of the weather conditions in August to help establish some good grass growth while temperatures remain consistent.
While on the subject of end of season renovations, most clubs will not be starting their renovation programme for another month or more. Use this time to plan and order your consumables. You do not want to find yourself left short or without loam or grass seed come the time you are due to begin your autumn renovation work.
Ensure any hired equipment is readily available and secured for use.
The amount of seed and loam required will depend on the condition of your square. In recent years we have seen an increase in the amount of seed being used for reseeding. Groundsmen are now sowing at rates of 50 grams per square metre, thus increasing the amount of grass cover going into the winter period.
Many Groundsmen are reducing the amount of loam being applied to their squares, generally now between 5-7 bags per strip. This prevents the build up of saddles at the ends and prevents the smothering of existing grass cover on the square.
Take care when applying fertilisers, there needs to be sufficient soil moisture present to activate these products. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
Applying fertilisers when ground conditions are dry and arid is not viable, as the plant cannot make use of the nutrients. Dry soils do not allow effective transport of nutrients into the grass plant. Soils have to be in a wetted state to enable efficient transfer of nutrients to the plant.
Care should be taken when fertilising the square, initiating green lush growth on a wicket you are about to prepare is the last thing you want to achieve, as it will have an affect on the performance of the wicket.
Useful Information for Fertilising
Mowing of the square and outfield should be undertaken on a regular basis to maintain heights of cut. The square should be maintained between 6mm and 14mm and the outfield between 12mm and 25mm. Continue to verticut, training the grass to grow vertically. If you don't have a verticut options then use a dragbrush to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verticutting units be careful not to mark/scar the soil surface, as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out.
Portable covers are very useful in protecting surfaces during inclement weather. Covers are used to control the soil moisture content of cricket wickets, especially when preparing for play.
Use heavy ballast rollers to help prepare the wickets for matches, making sure it is done under the correct surface conditions, when the soil is moist but not too wet. Carrying out a Proctor soil test will help determine the correct timing of rolling. A simpler method is to stick a knife or slit tine into the soil profile and see if it comes out clean. If it does, it's the right time to roll. Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play. Ideal rolling conditions would suggest the soil be in a state of plasticity or "plasticine". Consolidation will still be your aim throughout the season. The pitch is required to be consolidated throughout to a depth of no less than 100mm.
Proctor testing is used to evaluate the compaction characteristics of the soil. This test determines the maximum density the soil can be compacted to, and at what moisture content the soil is most prone to compaction. Proctor testing is useful in determining how compacted a soil is in the field.
Summary guide to a 14 day match wicket preparation:-
Day 14 -12 Mow out pitch to 6mm, hand rake in 2-3 directions to clean out bottom of sward.
Day 12-10 Soak until water is standing on full length of wicket.
Day 10-5 Light scarify with lawn rake, mow as required to keep sward at desired height (4-6mm). Roll wicket every day if conditions allow in 3 x 20 min spells with 1.5-2 ton roller to consolidate to release moisture.
Day 5-3 Continue to light rake to lift sward and mow. Keep wicket dry if possible, with flat sheets. Roll as required to achieve consolidation. Cover pitch where possible.
Day 3 Use raised covers, if available, to keep wicket dry but still allow air movement. Continue mowing & rolling.
Day 3-1 Reduce height of cut to 4mm; mark out using string lines for accuracy. Continue mowing & rolling.
Day 1 Final mowing at 4mm, roll & mark out, set stump holes.
Preparation of the pitch should start 10 to 14 days prior to a game. Mark out your cutting area with string, nails, paint or markers to obtain a straight cutting line. Start by hand scarifying to stand the grass up, this tool will not mark the soil surface, cut the pitch once and repeat the process again. Dependant on weather, you may need to water. Ensure you irrigate to a good depth, you may need to cover to prevent evaporation. Your first cut should be as accurate as possible, because it becomes very difficult to correct inconsistencies when the pitch is cut more prominently.
Roll the pitch until the surface is visibly dry. Continue to roll each day in the run up to the match, checking the consolidation by bouncing a cricket ball on the soil surface or testing the resistance by inserting a metal rod into the surface. The wicket can be left uncovered unless you have weather that is too wet, windy or sunny. During these conditions the wicket should be covered.
Continue to reduce the height of cut until no more grass can be removed, without scalping the surface. Marking out the crease should be done with care, using frames or string lines to help achieve clear, straight lines.
After Care of the Wicket
After care renovation treatment must be carried out as soon as possible after the game.
As soon as the match has finished sweep and mow the whole of the pitch at final cut height to remove as much debris as possible, such as studs, from the surface so as not to damage your machinery. Then, thoroughly soak the pitch by hand in order to penetrate the surface, ensuring not to pass the 5 foot marks as the ends need to be kept dry at this stage.
When the surface has partially dried off, sarrel roll or spike with a similar type of equipment, this will help offset any compaction created by the heavy rolling during the preparation process; it will also aerate the surface and produce a good seed bed. Overseed the pitch with perennial rye grass by use of a mechanical or pedestrian spreader and apply a low nitrogen fertiliser at a rate recommended by the manufacturer.
By using germination sheets this will speed up the process of recovery of the pitch. It is of no benefit to merely scatter seed over the used pitch and leave it. In order that the seed has a better chance of germinating it is important that the seed is well worked or brushed into the holes created by the sarrel roller.
The next important step is to carry out repairs to the batsmen and bowlers' foot marks. These areas may be relatively deep, especially if repairs have not been carried out during 2 days or more of cricket on the same pitch. For repairs, use only the wicket loam native to your pitches. This will help in the binding of the soils during recovery.
Firstly, prepare a stock of preferred virgin wicket soil to just a damp stage but still quite firm. You should be able to squeeze it together in your hand like plastercine. If you had your topdressing delivered in bags there should have sufficient moisture to carry out your repairs, if not dampen while still in the bag and leave overnight or until required. If you are repairing the ends where the pitch is being taken out of play then add some grass seed to your mix, this will assist in the germination process and speed up recovery.
The tools required will be a lump hammer, fine spray water bottle, a rammer (elephant's foot used for tarmacing), a fork and a plastering trowel.
To start, sweep in the same direction as you would for intervals, paying attention to the foot holes created by the bowlers and the deep scars from the batsmen. Put the sweepings to one side. When swept ram the dry holes very firmly and any spots the bowlers may have moved. Hammering the edges to where the damages ceases is important as it will create an edge for the new soil to be rammed against as it is hammered into place.
When the hole is prepared, give the area a light watering and ensure all parts are dampened including outside of the foot hole. Let the sign of any water dry or soak well in before starting to fill the hole.
Using the fork prick the base to create holes for the topdressing to fill, this will help in the keying of the soils. Fill the foot hole with soil and hammer into the edges. This pushes the new soil against the edges you have prepared. Continue to add more soil, filling in the drill holes, you should be able to ram and hammer the soil with little or any soil sticking to the hammer.
If this happens the soil is too wet and you will need to use a drier mix. You need to know your soil to get the moisture right. When the hole is completely filled use the elephant's foot to ensure the edges are consolidated and there are no depressions in the foot hole. If so, continue to fill until level with the ground.
Always use a straight edge to level off the surrounds to prevent raised ends and a saucer shaped square! When you are satisfied, spray the surface with water. Using the plastering trowel, smear the surface until it is smooth and shiny, and cover with the sweepings you have saved.
The sweepings are much better than grass cuttings if you want the ends to dry quicker, but if it's germination you require then the ideal situation would be to use a germination sheet. It might be a good idea to keep some of your dried clippings on hand for future use if you have more than one pitch to repair.
It may require trial and error to get the moisture content just right for your soil. The time taken to do your ends will be about 30 - 40 minutes depending on the extent of the damage. The players and umpires will appreciate your hard work and efforts as well as a lot of self satisfaction.
Disease can become quite prevalent when turf is under stress, especially during dry periods. Lack of moisture in the soil often effects the transmission of nutrients to the plant, thus stressing out the plant and making it prone to disease attack. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.