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December Cricket Diary 2013

The wind, rain and storms through November has seen flooding and torrential rain fall all around the country, with many grounds suffering from waterlogging or, at least saturated ground conditions, creating more problems than answers. However, those who fortunate to have a decent drainage system, it is important to go into the winter months with good germination and a healthy covering of grass.

Recent mild temperatures have increased the risk of disease with fusarium, red thread and fairy rings notably being common problems due to moist soil conditions. Brushing regularly, as well as aeration, is the best practical method of combatting the problem if your budget does not stretch to spraying.

Due to all the wet weather though, soil conditions should now be more favourable for deeper aeration work to encourage root development, as moist conditions allows easier penetration of tines without causing damage to soil structure or too much disturbance to the surface profile. Try and aerate both your square and outfields to improve soil porosity.

As we head towards the winter months, soil and air temperatures will be dropping and early morning frosts will become a familiar sight to most groundsmen. Some parts of the country have already experienced some snow cover on higher ground, so it is important not to walk across frozen ground as this will lead to turf damage.

With Christmas just around the corner, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Xmas and a Prosperous & Happy New Year.

Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Coventry

Key Tasks for December
Mowing
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Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependent on the need and condition of the ground. It is important to maintain a constant height of cut, on both the square and outfield. The square should be maintained between 12-20mm with the outfield maintained between 25-35mm. Remember; the outfield too has a major effect on a game if unattended.

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Outfields
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Too many clubs tend to neglect their outfields, it is important to undertake some work on these areas as they are an important part of the game, they need to be firm, flat and free from weeds. The outfield should be treated through the winter the same as any other natural grass surface - aeration, fertilising and mowing should not be neglected. Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter sports pitches, and the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby).

Ideally, on the outfields, aeration should penetrate down to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.
Depending on ground conditions, some clubs may be able to complete drainage or reconstruction works during the winter months. Existing drainage systems can be overhauled and cleaned out, and additional drainage systems may be added.

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Aeration
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Aerate your square and outfield, if not done so already. If your outfield is used for winter sport, link the work in with your management programme.

Sarrel rolling your square will help air movement and keep the surface open, allowing it dry.

Ideally, on the outfields, aeration should penetrate to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.

Depending on ground conditions, some clubs may be able to complete drainage or reconstruction works during the winter months. Existing drainage systems can be overhauled and cleaned out, and additional drainage systems may be added.

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Weeds, Pest and Disease
Red thread spores (2)

Turf disease can be quite prevalent when soil moisture levels increase, coupled with the presence of early morning dews. The combination of wet soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the susceptibility of disease attack. 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 - fairy rings, red thread and fusarium are the most commonly seen.

Worms can also be active this month. Keep an eye 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 may need to be assessed. Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for controlling worms.

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Soil Testing
Soil analysis

Ideally, once or twice a year, or as required. Soil sampling is an important part of grounds maintenance. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf. There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main test to consider is for Particle Size Distribution (PSD). This test will give you accurate information on the soil type and its particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.

Soil pH: It is important to keep an eye on your soil; a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is a suitable level for most grass plants.

Organic matter content: It is important to keep a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile. Too much and you run the risk of a soft spongy surface with slow pace and variable bounce.

Nutrient Levels: Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth. Once you have this information, you will be in a better position to plan next season's feeding and maintenance programmes.

Fertilising: When air and soil temperatures drop, this reduces the respiration rate of the grass plant. The grass plant is now entering its dormant stage. Applying fertilisers during December and through the winter months is not a viable option. The plant cannot and will not be able to make good use of the nutrients, and any growth produced by the plant may be susceptible to disease attack.

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Other Tasks for the Month
  • Inspect drainage outlets, culverts, channels and ditches to ensure that they are working. Winter months are a good time for carrying out ditch clearing operations; blocked ditches may affect the performance of playing field drainage systems.

  • Many Groundsmen fence off the cricket square at the end of the season to protect it from pests (rabbits, deer, foxes, and football players), vehicles and vandals.

  • Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All structures should be stored away or covered with protective sheeting for the winter.

  • Artificial pitches and net facilities - keep all surfaces clean by regular sweeping and brushing to remove any algae and moss from surface.

  • Sand filled systems also require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.

  • Repair damaged structures and netting, order new if required. Strim and mow around structures.

  • Remove all net and practice structures for repair and stored away for the winter.

  • Wind blown debris, such as litter, leaves and tree limbs need to be cleared from playing surfaces.

  • Inspecting and cleaning of machinery - December is an ideal time to send any machinery away for repairs or servicing. Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.

  • Evaluation - The winter months enables you to evaluate how well this year's maintenance regime has gone, which in turn will help you plan the work for next season. You may need to seek quotations for machinery and materials. Be prepared for next season. Fail to prepare - prepare to fail. It is important to keep records and diaries of the activities carried out, and how well the facility and each pitch has performed. The advent of the digital camera is a great tool for recording information.

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