What is scarifying?

Mel Pooley in Cricket

The term scarifying means different things to different people. If you were a gardener you would be giving the lawn a good scarifying in the spring to remove any dead grass and improve the quality and appearance of the lawn.

Mel3.jpgSo, what does a gardener actually do? A gardener would use a rake or a cassette in his mower to remove the dead foliage. This would be in the form of a spring tine rake or a spring tine cassette in the mower. This type of 'scarifying' would not damage the soil surface, and would not matter if it did.

But, what about the amateur groundsman looking after a bowls green? In the spring he would be expected to carry out a form of 'scarifying' to reduce the lateral growth in the sward, and also remove the dead foliage.

For this, a cassette would be used in a professional mower or a specific machine designed for this purpose. These machines use a series of three-pointed sharp blades that will cut the lateral growth and thin the sward to encourage new growth. Again, if the blades mark the surface of the soil, it will not cause any serious problems because a bowls green is usually a high sand content soil.

Mel1.jpgNow, we come to the amateur cricket groundsman. What happens in the spring on a cricket square? Again, some form of 'scarifying' is likely to take place, but the problem arises as to what method of scarifying should be used.

During the autumn renovations vigorous scarifying takes place to remove thatch - an organic matter build up at the surface of the soil. This needs to be removed to ensure a good playing surface for the following season.

The gardener's lawn also benefits from thatch removal in the autumn as this will help nutrient, air and water to enter the soil profile, and will also help to reduce the activity of casting worms.

The same applies to the bowls green and the cricket square. The machine designed for this purpose has a series of tungsten tipped blades strong enough to enter the surface, and remove the thatch. This does not cause any lasting damage to the surface as a topdressing of suitable soil is applied, and overseeding takes place. The surface has the whole winter to regenerate and recover, with no lasting damage.

Now, back to the spring on a cricket square. If any marking of the surface takes place at this time of year the damage will be detrimental to the playing quality of the surface, and could take a long time to recover. The question is what type of 'scarifying' should take place. In the spring I would not recommend using a bladed scarifier or verticutter that is used on a bowls green, unless you are a very experienced person and have a very level surface.

Mel2.jpgThe soil on a cricket square has high clay content and, if it is slightly marked with the cutting blades, will cause fault lines in the soil. When the soil dries it will crack along those lines, causing an unpredictable surface. This can be seen on some cricket squares as the 'cubing effect'.

I have encountered this problem on more than one occasion when inspecting cricket squares in the spring. I suggest that a lawn rake be used to remove the dead organic matter, at this time, to avoid damaging the soil surface. This should also be used in the preparation of pitches throughout the season, together with the brush attachment or a power brush.

When deciding to 'scarify' at any time, think about the type of work you need to do and the surface you are working on, taking into account the time of year the work is to be carried out.

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