March Cricket Diary
Prior to mowing, the surface should be thoroughly brushed-every time! The mowing height should be lowered to around 15-18mm by the end of the month on the whole square, remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut. The less stress that is placed on the grass at this vital time, the better the results further on into the season. The outfield height of cut should also be reduced to around 20-25mm by the end of the month.
If rolling hasn't already started, then this should be initiated no later than the middle of the month. Roll in as many different directions as possible, but always finish in the direction of play, so timing of this operation is vitally important. Start with your lightest mower, cutting the square, if you aren't removing clippings, disengage the blades, reducing friction and unneccessary wear. Gradually build up roller weight by moving onto the next size of cylinder mower and so on. Ideal rolling conditions would suggest the soil be in a state of plasticity-or "plasticine" like. Consolidation is your aim and the quality of pre season rolling will show when you produce your early season pitches. The pitch is required to be consolidated throughout to a depth of no less than 100mm. This can only be achieved with gradual build up of roller weight.
The square must be "squared off" very soon. By using semi-permanent markings, this operation can be made very simple, use the 3,4,5 system to produce your right angles.
Continue to brush daily to remove moisture from the grass surface and also this will allow for a much better standard of cut.
Light scarification or verticutting can be carried out at fortnightly intervals pre season. Removing vertically growing grasses and surface organic matter are always beneficial for the onset of pitch preparation, along side brushing, this will totally improve your quality of cut.
Seeding of the ends where the grass is either weak, sparse or bare can be continued and the rise in temperature will help germination, along with germination sheets, remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases, remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. If the germination is still poor by the end of the month on the ends, then don't worry as this autumn/ winter has been a shocker for grass growth and the proliferation of moss!
Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, carbendazim is the chemical used. But please remember to ask yourself why do you have worms? Ph level, organic matter and your cultural practices need to be assessed-honestly. If this industry wants to be taken seriously then we must constantly ask ourselves questions that may be uncomfortable occasionally.
If you have access to a core sample taker, then take a core from the edge of a pitch on a length, ie between 2 pitches, what are the roots like, are they white, are they about 100mm or deeper, how do you think your square will play this season? Make notes, both good and bad because without some kind of record, how can you improve?
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. What, you haven't got a fertiliser programme? Get your soil tested soon and you can then judge if you are putting on the correct feeds and tonics. ALL fertiliser companies will help with a quality and correct programme, if they don't, we will find out and report! Alternatively try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
Your covers, are they ready for action, no repairs needed, all machinery in good order? Remember covers are used a hell of a lot in our climate for protecting the pitch under preparation from both rain AND sun.
Remember not to forget the outfield, it too has a major effect on a game if unattended.
Written by Jon Buddington. ECB PITCH ADVISOR (East Yorkshire).