The weather seems to be holding up well for the majority who are in the midst of end of season renovations. In some parts of the country we are getting air temperatures well up to 18 degrees C, ideal weather conditions for seed germination. Indeed many Groundsmen are seeing their seed come up with seven days.
However, delays may have occurred, usually as a result of poor organization or being let down by contractors or suppliers.
The longer you leave your renovations the less likely you will obtain favourable germination rates. Air temperatures tend to drop in October thus slowing down grass growth. The use of germination sheets will help.
All clubs have their own methods of working and renovating their squares. In most cases the level of work will be dictated by what budgets and resources they have available at the time and what they are trying to achieve.
In the main most club groundsmen are now putting on between 6-10 bags of loam per wicket; it's important not to overdress the square, as you will not only be wasting the precious loam material but yoiu may also be smothering your sward. The last thing you want to be doing is burying any vegetation, which will lead to future problems.
The object of the renovations is revitalize the top growing zone and restore levels. Scarification is important to remove unwanted vegetation but also to produce a key for the new loam material to sit in.
Once you have put your square to bed devote some time to the outfield, an area often neglected.
Many outfieds will have suffered from the hot weather, showing the tell tale signs of heat stress with patches of dead and weakend grass being evident, particularly on the high exposed areas of the field. Aeration, scarification, topdressing and reseeding will be required to bring these areas back, with some of the really bad areas requiring some form of wetting agents to tackle these dry spots.
On the square you should look to maintain a cutting height between 15-30mm and continue to brush dew off in the mornings to keep the sward in a dry condition.
Aeration is a key operation to help improve the condition of the soil after a season of play. Soil compaction is often the main contributing factor to poor grass growth, the lack of air in the soil profile inhibits many beneficial activities in regard to soil water movement and retaining beneficial organisms.
A programme of de-compacting the soil is essential to re-introduce some porosity into the profile. Solid tine, hollow coring and linear aerating are a number of methods now being used to aerate soil profiles. These operations tend to be carried out on a frequency basis depending on the type and size of the tines being used.
Ideally, on the outfields, penetration should be down to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting. Some groundsmen like to carry out a programme of hollow coring which again increases porosity but can also help redistribute/recycle soil around the outfield which, in turn, helps restore levels.
The frequency of aeration activities will often depend on the resources - money, machinery, time - available. In the main you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.
However, there are a number of groundsmen who never aerate their cricket squares, they believe that the aeration holes formed can cause a weakness/stress line in the clay profile that could eventually break causing problems with the wickets. They believe that the clay's ability to shrink and swell provides the necessary voids to promote root growth. It would be interesting to find out what proportion of groundsmen follow this train of thought.
Mowing of the outfield should be undertaken on a regular basis to maintain height of cut, the outfield should now be maintained at between 20-35mm.
October is usually a good month to carry out any additional ground works, particularly drainage, especially when using heavy pipe laying machinery. Ground conditions are able to sustain the weight and action of these machines without causing too much damage to the turf surface.
Turf disease can be quite prevalent in October when soil moisture levels increase, coupled with the presence of early morning dews. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the susceptibility of disease attack.
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, fairy rings and red thread are the most commonly seen.
Worm activity can also be prevalent this month. Keep an eye the square and treat accordingly. Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. Ph level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the square need to be assessed. Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for controlling worms. Rigby Taylor's Mascot Systemic (Maff 08776. contains 500g per litre carbendazim), 1 litre will cover 2,500m2.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme, once it is safe to get back on the square. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
Most facility managers will be looking to apply their autumn fertilisers in association with their end of season renovations.
Many Groundsmen fence off the cricket square at the end of the season to protect the it from pests, (players, rabbits, deer, foxes), vehicles and vandals.
Other tasks will involve inspecting and putting away score boards, practice nets and covers.