Another bonus for those attending the Dennis/Sisis Groundsmans Seminar at the Swalec Stadium in September was the opportunity to hear Keith Exton speak about his maintenance methods, particularly his spiking of the square using the Wiedenmann XF Terra Spiker heave action aerator, along with witnessing the work being undertaken for this year's end of season renovations.
Keith was able to demonstrate his aeration technique on the day, and explain the benefits he gets from carrying out this work. Keith has perfected his technique over a number of years and is able to judge when and how deep he can go depending on soil conditions.
He sets a 5% heave on the machines and ensures the tractor is running at the right speed to maximise and control the tine spacings.
Keith is happy to aerate his tracks as soon as they come out of play. Once the strip has been used, he will cut down, clean up, scarify and overseed. When the seed has germinated, the Wiedenmann is put over the strip. He will then bottom dress it, applying fifteen bags of Ongar loam and brushing well down into the holes, leaving very little loam on the surface. This, in effect, helps to bulk up and increase soil density.Keith is then able to reuse the strip later in the season.
Following on from the rebuilding of some of the square last year, Keith is continuing with the process by having two further tracks reconstructed. Steven Pask is again carrying out the work, which was well underway way, with the strips dug out to a depth of 225mm. Keith says that it is critical to ensure the base is dug out to a consistent depth and, when backfilling with new loam, this is done in stages to ensure an even consolidation prior to seeding.
On the remainder of the square, the staff undertake their usual renovation programme. Cutting down, cleaning off debris with a power brushes, scarifying in several directions, finishing in the line of play using 1mm diameter tines set at 12mm apart to produce a decent key for the seed and loam to adhere too.
The whole square was sown with MM50 and fed with a 6:9:6 pre-seeding fertiliser.
Keith then used the Wiedenmann, fitted with 8mm tines, to aerate the whole square and, again, bottom dressed with Ongar loam applying between 12-15 bags per wicket and working in the loam by hand using a lute.
The main aim is, at every opportunity, bulk up the loam content in the square to ensure they have more bounce and pace.
For many who attended, Keith's methods were certainly being scrutinised, and I dare say some may try and emulate what Keith has achieved back on their own facility in the coming years.
On my way home I also took the opportunity to call in at Worcestershire CCC to catch up with Tim Packwood who unfortunately could not attend the Seminar himself has he was busy carrying out his renovation programme.
Tim's renovations were done in a different manner. Tim took the opportunity to remove some residues and algae that were evident in the square, a result of the ground being flooded twice this summer as the River Severn burst its banks.
Tim hired in the services of Phil Day, a local sportsturf contractor who specialises in renovating, constructing and maintaining sports pitches. Tim has used Phil for a number of years and is very happy with the relationship they have and the high standards of work achieved.
The whole square was fraise mown, taking off 6mm of surface vegetation, along with the surface algae and debris. All the material was disposed off site. The square was then scarified in several directions, finishing in the line of play. It was then topdressed with Surrey Loams' Gostd Supernatural and overseeded with Phil Day's own premixed DLF cricket seed mixture consisting of 50% Sirtaky, 25% Ligala and 25% Fandango. About eight bags of loam were applied per strip to restore levels.
Tim is also looking to vertidrain the square later on - October or early November - with the aim of getting deep into the soil profile, around 225mm, to open up the square .
Whilst on site, Phil Day's team scarified a number of net areas leaving the topdressing and seeding down to Tim's and his staff.
As for the outfield, Tim had some issues to address in terms of some old secondary gravel band drainage runs that had sunk. This involved his own staff adapting an old scarifier, creating a narrow band working width to root out a channel of debris from above the drain runs. This would help key in the new sand material used to top up the drains.
As with any renovations it all about timing and getting the work done as quickly as possible. With little over two weeks since his renovations, and with the seed just beginning to germinate, Tim was issued with a flood warning following the heavy rain storms that have battered most of the country. Some floodwater had entered the ground and was lying on the outfield but, to Tim's relief, had not yet reached the square.
After such a challenging summer it is not surprising that Keith, Tim and many of the other county groundsmen are due a well earned rest after what must been one of the wettest summers on record.