Turf disease can become quite prevalent in November 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 likelihood of disease attack. Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce this risk. Diseases commonly active at this time of the year are fairy rings and red thread.
As the weather closes in there is a risk that moss could now develop on the square. The use of an approved moss killer will check any growth quickly. Once the moss has turned black and it becomes dry enough, scarify the affected areas to remove the dying vegetation. One of the difficulties with spraying chemicals at this time of year is getting an accurate forecast to know that there is a dry period ahead. The last thing you need is to spray a chemical for it to be rendered ineffective by rain, these products are expensive to buy.
Air and soil temperatures will begin to decrease, reducing the respiration rate of the grass plant. The grass plant is now entering its dormant stage. Applying fertilisers during November and through the winter months is not normally a viable option. The plant cannot and will not be able to make good use of the fertiliser. Any growth produced by the plant may be susceptible to disease attack.
Most cricket squares should have been put to bed by now, however, the recent warm weather will have provided the opportunity to over seed any bare areas on the square where germination may have been slow to respond. Seed will continue to germinate whilst we have soil temperatures above 10 degrees C.
The use of germination sheets should help encourage the grass to grow, but be careful with the use of covers as there is a risk of disease. Remove the covers during the day to minimise the risk, and spray with a fungicide if disease is spotted.
Earthworm activity usually increases in November. Earthworms can survive in a wide range of conditions, but most activity is dependent on the quality of food available. Worms like plenty of Organic Matter (OM), therefore greens with a high thatch problem tend to encourage worm activity. Soil pH also affects where earthworms are found. In strongly acid or alkaline soils earthworms are rarely seen (pH less than 4.5 or greater than 8). The soil texture will also affect the number of earthworms found; they prefer clay soils and are less frequently found in sandy soils.
Worm activity inevitability leads to worm casts appearing on the playing surface. These worm casts can be very problematic, they tend to smear the surface, which in turn can affect surface water drainage capacity as well as providing a seed bed for weed germination.
Historically, earthworms have been controlled chemically, killing all earthworms in the turf. The most widely used chemical was chlordane, an organochloride, now banned due to it's wide ranging toxic effects and persistence in the environment. Other chemicals such as benomyl, carbendazium, thiabendazole and thiophanate-methyl (all of which are primarily fungicides) have an effect on earthworm populations. Research has shown that thiophanate-methyl is the most effective at reducing casting.
Soils can become saturated after spells of prolonged rainfall. A saturated soil is a condition of the soil when the air spaces in the soil become predominantly filled with water. When soils remain in a saturated condition they can easily be damaged/de-structured by traffic or use of machinery. It is essential you keep off playing surfaces when saturated. A programme of aeration will aid surface drainage.
It is essential you keep the surface open and free draining, aerating the playing surface with a sarel roller or some solid tines will be beneficial. However, only use machinery on the surface if you can operate without causing any smearing or damage.
Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependant on the need and condition of the ground. It is important to maintain a constant height of cut on both the square and outfield. The outfield should now be maintained at between 25-35mm. The square should be maintained between 12-20mm. Remember not to neglect the outfield; it too has a major effect on a game if unattended. The outfield should be treated the same as any other natural grass pitch, with aeration and mowing.
Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter pitches, and the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether it is being used for other sports (football/rugby).
Aeration of the square is often delayed until November, allowing the chance for the square to become wetter. Trying to aerate when the square is dry can lead to problems of root break. Ideally, you need moist conditions to enable a good penetration with the tines.
Some cricket grounds may have a number of mature deciduous trees nearby which will inevitably lead to some amounts of leaf debris lying on the square and outfield. It is essential to remove leaves from the square. If left to accumulate these leaves will become a wet mass that, in turn, will restrict light and air being available to the grass plant, thus putting the grass under stress and resulting in it turning yellow and then decaying. Sweep/rake up leaves on a regular basis.
It is good practice to erect some sort of protective fencing around the square, which not only protects it from animals but deters people from trampling all over it and disturbing the end of season renovations.
Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All structures can be stored away for the winter after use.
Tasks for November
Aeration /As required / Use of a sarrell roller can be used to keep the square aerated.
The outfield can be aerated using solid or slit tines when conditions allow. See article on aeration
Covers / Not required / All covers and Portable covers to be inspected for damage/wear and tear. Organise appropriate repairs or replacement.
Covers and sheets can be stored away now the playing season is finished.
Diseases (square and outfield) / Daily/ Turf disease can become quite prevalent in November 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 off 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.
Drainage / Weekly / Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working.
Germination sheets / As required / Germination sheets will aid seed germination and seedling establishment. Cover renovated square, but check daily for disease.
Fertiliser programme / If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured)
Air and soil temperatures are dropping reducing the respiration rate of the grass plant. The grass plant is now entering its dormant stage. Applying fertilisers during November and through the winter months is not a viable option. The plant cannot and will not be able to make good use of the fertilisers. Any growth produced by the plant may be susceptible to disease attack.
Fencing off the cricket square / At the end of the playing season
Many Groundsmen fence off the cricket square at the end of the season to protect it from pests (football players, rabbits, deer, foxes), vehicles and vandals.
Harrowing/raking (outfield) / When conditions allow / Harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open.
Cricket structures / As required / Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All structures can be stored away for the winter after use.
Litter/debris / Daily / November is a period when the leaves begin to fall from the trees. Inspect and remove debris from the playing surface - litter, twigs and leaves.
Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance) / Daily / Ongoing inspection and cleaning of machinery after use. November is an ideal time to send any machinery away for repairs or servicing.
Materials / As required / Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.
Mowing / As required / 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 outfield should now be maintained at between 25-35mm. The square should be maintained between 12-20mm.
Outfield / Remember not to neglect the outfield; it too has a major effect on a game if unattended. The outfield should be treated the same as any other natural grass pitch (aeration and mowing).
Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter pitches, however the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby).
Pest control / As required / Worm activity can be quite prevalent in November, 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.
Soil tests / Ideally once or twice a year, or as required.
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 tests to consider are:
Particle Size Distribution (PSD) this will give you accurate information on the soil type and it's 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 the soil at a pH of 5.5-6.5, 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.
Nutrient Levels. Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.
Once you have this information you will be in a better position to plan your season's feeding and maintenance programmes.
Artificial wicket and net Facilities
Artificial Grass Systems / Surface treatments
Sand filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.
Net facilities / post -season / Repair damaged structures and netting, order new if required. Strim and mow around structures.
All net and practice structures can be repaired and stored away for the winter.