With a mild winter so far, cricket squares should be looking in good shape with good germination rates and grass cover following all your renovations.
On return from your Christmas and New Year break, you are likely to find you may have accumulated some surface debris on the square (leaves, litter etc). It is important to remove them as the sward will not be able to survive and will be subject to lack of light and could encourage death of the plant, creating unsightly bare areas.
If you’re not able to work on the square, you could spend some time on the outfield (weather permitting). Regular brushing will help remove dew as well as lifting the sward after a bout of snow. Aeration is also a key activity that can be carried out too, along with some localised drainage/repair works to rectify any problem areas, such as depressions you have identified.
January is also a good time to carry out repairs and maintenance to resources such as sightscreens and other structures around the ground. You may get some favourable weather for painting and repairing these structures.
Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Key Tasks for January
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 during mild periods.
Do not neglect your square, it may be necessary to mow during the winter. Allowing the grasses to grow too long will encourage a weak leggy sward. Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependant on the need and condition of the facility. It is important to maintain a constant height of cut on both the square and outfield.
The square should be maintained between 12-20mm using a rotary pedestrian mower, as a cylinder could tear or rip out fragile growth. The outfield should now be maintained between 25-35mm.
Remember; the outfield too has a major effect on a game if unattended. The outfield should be treated through the winter the same as any other natural grass surface - aeration, fertilising and mowing should not be neglected.
The use of a sarrel roller to keep the surface free draining will also be beneficial to the square. Some Groundsmen may still want to carry out some deeper aeration work on the square; however, this policy is effective only where shallow rooting is a main concern and where pre-season rolling is not introduced until late March or early April. As a general rule of thumb, do not aerate the square after January.
Any fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested. Try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results. Only apply what your soil requires.
Winter months enable you to evaluate how well your maintenance regimes have 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.
Failure 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 have performed. The advent of the digital camera is a great tool for recording information. January is an ideal time to contact sales reps to find out what products are available for spring renovations; do not leave it late to order materials.
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.
Diseases can still occur in January, especially during spells of mild weather. It is important to keep the sward brushed, particularly in the mornings. Knocking off the dew helps remove surface water from the sward, allowing it to dry out and preventing disease attacks. The use of switching canes and brushes can be used to remove these dew deposits.
Worm activity can be quite prevalent during the winter months, especially during periods of mild weather. Keep an eye on the square and treat accordingly. Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. pH levels, organic matter and your cultural practices on the square need to be assessed. Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for supressing worm activity.
Systemic curative and protective fungicides can be used to control diseases; there are a wide range of products on the market that have the active ingredients chlorothalonil and iprodione. These fungicides are usually applied in liquid form using water as a carrier. All personnel should be suitably qualified in the application of chemicals.
With pests such as rabbits, foxes and moles, it is a case of identifying the problem and controlling their activities; employing approved pest control services to eradicate them from the site may be a solution.
Keep machinery in good order, clean after use and top up any oil/fuel levels.
Check cutting cylinders are at correct cutting height and are sharp.
Inspecting and cleaning of machinery - now 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.
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Cricket Pitches. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of Cricket Pitch (square and ourfield) maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a cricket square and outfield.
There are two separate courses - Spring & Summer Maintenance and Autumn & Winter Renovations.
Delegates attending the courses and using the accompanying manuals will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principles they set out. Included in the Course Manuals are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month.
Information on forthcoming courses can be found on the Groundsman Training website.
The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
Artificial pitches: 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.
Net facilities: Repair damaged structures and netting, order new if required.
Structures: Strim and mow around structures. Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All removable structures should have been stored away for the winter. With very little activity seen on the ground during January, winter work can be dedicated to repairing and painting sightscreens, fences, and practice net structures.
Materials: Keep an adequate supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.
Many clubs often erect temporary fences around their squares to protect them. It is important to ensure the fence remains in a safe and effective condition.