March Cricket Diary
By Laurence Gale Msc
When this cold snap is over, it will be on with the rolling and consolidation. Gradually build up the rolling weight by moving onto the next size of cylinder mower and adding weights to the grass box. The roller should be coming out of the shed to really get consolidation right for the season. 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.
To help kick start the grass into growing you can begin to apply some low Nitrogen based fertilisers. Ideally get your soils sampled for nutrients, organic matter content and soil pH. This information will help decide on the appropriate course of action with regard to applying the correct NPK balance for your site.
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, alongside brushing, this will improve your quality of cut.
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.
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. 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.
Seeding of the ends where the grass is either weak, sparse or bare can be undertaken, 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.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme then get your soil tested soon, otherwise how do you know if you are putting on the correct feeds and tonics.
Worm treatments can be carried out, if needed, use carbendazim.
The outfield height of cut should be reduced to around 20-25mm by the end of the month.
Harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open.
Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter pitches, the amount of work required to be carried out, may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby).
As with the square, a fertiliser treatment in accordance with your annual programme.
Your covers - are they ready for action, no repairs needed, all machinery in good order? Remember, covers are used a lot in our climate for protecting the pitch under preparation from both rain AND sun.
Keep an eye open for turf disease. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the susceptibility to disease attack. Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew off the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak.
Ongoing inspection and cleaning of machinery after use. All machinery should now have been returned from any servicing in time for use.
Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance. Materials for spring remedial works should be booked to avoid disappointment or delay.
Check structures and netting for any damage.