Cricket pitch off critical list
and back in excellent health
By Maureen Keepin
Gearing up to the new season, Len Smith, Head Groundsman of Glamorgan County Cricket Club, is putting the finishing touches to his pitches - which won considerable praise last year. They have been pulled back from the brink.
Less than three years ago, Len had complete loss of grass cover in key areas of his pitch following marquee damage.
"Adversity has been turned into victory," says Len, "and no one could be more delighted." Assessor for the ECB England and Wales Cricket Board and the IOG, Len has dedicated more than 20 years to working on the cricket grounds at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.
"In some areas there was 100 per cent grass destruction and monies were specifically allocated for repairs," says Len, "I started using Biotal products because I had nothing to lose. I liked the idea of using natural products on this county ground and have nothing but praise for their 'Restore the Balance' programme. They pulled me out of the mire and have been really supportive.
Now amazingly this ground is better than it has ever been in all the years I have been here," he says. Len was previously sceptical about the use of biological products and felt they were associated far more with golf, rather than cricket.
Always at the bottom half of the cricket table, last year Glamorgan CCC received commendations for their pitches and came close to winning the one day table and the four day Championship.
"I only treated half the outfield on the far side and left the other side under our normal maintenance regime.
On the two halves there is a distinct line, with the Biotal half producing better grass content and a much better
rooting system," says Len.
"At present we are slightly reducing the height of cut on the outfield in preparation for the season, and are down to 10mm," says Len. "Many clubs are leaving theirs at 1" or 3/4", but we like to get it down fairly early."
Over the last 8 weeks Len has verti drained the outfield, top dressed with 60 tonnes of sand, applied a worm control and Friday of last week put moss killer down.
Following over seeding, Len will again use the 'Restore the Balance' programme, which contains three key products.
First Microbalance is applied, which is a blend of UK microbes to help replace the protective microbes lost by constant chemical treatments. They help make the sward more resilient to turf diseases.
Micro booster, an organic plant extract, is then used to boost these beneficial microbes within the soil profile.
Bio feed is then applied -a natural extract from selected seaweed species which helps stimulate plant growth and aids good root development. "This programme strengthens the grass," says Len.
Rolling individual practice pitches, ready for the first practice session in April, was also underway. Len prefers to Union Jack the square with the roller, always finishing with the run of play.
"The square is better than it has ever been," says Len, "and I believe we had really consistent pitches throughout the season last year."
Previously with a 2" root break throughout the whole square the club now has 4 1/2" of solid root since the Biotal treatment. "I verti drained the year before last using pencil tines down to 14" - straight in, straight out with no kick.
This is something I had never used on a square," says Len, "but we needed it to open up the ground and it has worked wonders. It is not something I would advocate every year though," he says.
Len solid tined consistently throughout the winter with a GA30 ride on with 4" solid tines. "I might use this again in four years time," he says. Now with bounce and pace on his pitch - Len feels the ground has never been better and is looking forward to the new cricket season.