January's weather can be fairly unpredictable, with snow, rain, along with freezing temperatures that are not always conducive to your planned winter maintenance regimes. Many grounds may well be saturated, preventing you from doing any work to the square or the outfield.
Clay soils at this time of the year can become plastic (de structured) especially after a lot of heavy rain. Whilst in this state the square is prone to damage from foot and mechanical activities. It is usually best to stay off the square and refrain from doing any work until it has drained and the surface has dried.
Many clubs often erect temporary fences around their squares to protect them. It is important to ensure the fence remains in a safe and effective condition. With regard to the maintenance of the square, there are a few tasks that can be completed.
On your return after the Christmas break you are likely to find you may have accumulated some surface debris on the square (leaves, litter etc). It is important to remove them as the sward will not be able to survive and will be subject to lack of light and could die.
If you are not able to work on the square you could spend some time on the outfield. Aeration will be a key activity that can be carried out along with some localised drainage/repair works to rectify any problem areas such as depressions you have identified.
January is a good time to carry out repairs and maintenance to cricket sitescreens and other structures around the ground. You may get some favourable weather for painting and repairing these structures.
Key Tasks: Cultural Practices
Brushing: Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak. Many turf grass diseases can be active at this time of the year.
Mowing: Do not neglect your square, it may be necessary to mow during the winter. Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependant on the need and condition of the facility. It is important to maintain a constant height of cut on both the square and outfield. The outfield should now be maintained at between 25-35mm. The square should be maintained between 12-20mm using a rotary pedestrian mower, as a cylinder could tear or rip out fragile growth.
Aeration: The use of a sarrel roller to keep the surface free draining will also be beneficial to the square. Some Groundsmen may still want to carry out some deeper aeration work on the square, however, many do not aerate after January. The outfield can be aerated using solid or slit tines when conditions allow.
Pest and Disease: Diseases can still occur in January, especially during spells of mild weather. It is important to keep the sward brushed, particularly in the mornings. Knocking off the dew helps remove surface water from the sward, allowing it to dry out and preventing disease attacks. The use of switching canes and brushes can be used to remove these dew deposits.
Worm activity can be quite prevalent during the winter months, especially during periods of mild weather. Keep an eye on the square and treat accordingly. Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. Ph level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the square need to be assessed. Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for controlling worms.
Systemic curative and protective fungicides can be used to control diseases; there are a wide range of products on the market that have the active ingredients chlorothalonil and iprodione. These fungicides are usually applied in liquid form using water as a carrier. All personnel should be suitably qualified in the application of chemicals.
With pests such as rabbits, foxes and moles it a case of identifying the problem and controlling their activities; employing approved pest control services to eradicate them from site may be a solution.
Fertilisers: Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics 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. Only apply what your soil requires. However, the application of a low nitrogen, higher potash feed (NPK 6:5:10 +6% Fe) will help green up the grass and, at the same time, help control any moss that has accumulated in the sward during the winter months.
Structures: Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All removable structures should have been stored away for the winter. With very little activity seen on the ground during January, winter work can be dedicated to repairing and painting site sightscreens, fences, and practice net structures.
Materials: Keep an adequate supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.
Planning: January is an ideal time to contact sales reps to find out what products are available for spring renovations; do not leave it late to order materials.
Massey Ferguson Sports Club