CricketWet.jpgThe long spells of wet weather have certainly taken there toll on many cricket grounds, especially the ones which do not have covers to protect their squares.

Soils, when wet, are prone to damage, so there is likely to be a fair amount of damage to wicket ends and bowler run ups, and consequently the need for additional loam for repairs and renovations.

Consequently, there will be a higher than normal demand for renovation materials this year, so be sure you have ordered your loam and seed early. Renovations are extremely important; the success of these will dictate the performance of the square next year.cricket-diary-pitch.jpg

Most clubs will have already begun sourcing and obtaining materials and services to fulfil their Autumn renovation programmes. It is better to have your loam on site before you start the work. There were a number of occasions last year when some loam supplies did not turn up until late November, far too late for effective renovations.

The success of any renovation works is generally down to good preparation and timing, getting it done early on to make good use of the favourable weather conditions that usually prevail in September.

If you do decide to use external contractors to carry out your renovations, ensure you have checked their credentials and they have the relevant skills, experience and machinery to do the job. Obtain references.

The objectives of end of season renovations are:

To repair worn areas
Prevent a build up of thatch layers (scarification)
Restore surface levels (topdressing)
Alleviate compaction (aeration)
Re-establish sward densities (overseeding)
Application of pre seeding/autumn fertilisers to promote sward establishment

The weather will be an important element when carrying out end of season renovations, planning and timing of operations are critical. You do not want to be topdressing when inclement weather is about because once the topdressing gets wet it becomes very difficult to spread and brush in. You have to work with the weather. Also, putting on too much dressing in one go will smother the turf.

Keep jobs in proportion and keep an eye on weather forecasts.

The success of these renovations will and can often be dictated by a number of issues or factors:

Timing of operations
Weather conditions
Type and often the condition of the machinery used (aerators, scarifiers, overseeders and top dressers).
Choice of materials
Knowledge and experience of the persons undertaking these works.
Budgets Available
If you do decide to use external contractors to carry out your renovations, ensure you have checked their credentials and they have the relevant skills, experience and machinery to do the job. Obtain references.

It is important to ensure that all materials (seed, fertilisers, topdressings and any hired machinery) have arrived and are secured and stored safely on site ready for use. Often, when ordering materials late, you may be faced with delays on delivery or not being able to get the products you want in time for your planned works.

Timing of operations

The earlier you can get on with your renovations the better (mid September through to mid October are usually optimal times for renovations). It is important to make good use of the warm soil and air temperatures that will aid seed germination. Also, there needs to be some moisture in the ground to allow adequate penetration of both the scarifiers and aerators.

Weather conditions

It is important to work with the weather conditions, particularly when applying and spreading topdressing materials; the surface needs to be dry. Clay materials become very difficult to work when wet. However, there needs to be adequate moisture in the soil profile when applying granular fertiliser products so that they become activated and made soluble, enabling then to be taken up by the plant.

Types of machinerySeptember cricket diary 06 spiker

Choice of machinery is vital for successful renovations; ensure that scarifiers and aerators are fit for purpose and that the blades and tines are sharp, clean and of correct length. Also, check that they are safe to use and have the appropriate guards fitted.

There are many different makes and models of machines available, all of which offer different techniques or modes of action. Some scarifies are more aggressive then others.

Ideally, you need to take a soil profile of your green and measure the thatch layer present. If it measures 10mm you will need to ensure the scarifier is capable of operating to this depth, therefore being able to eradicate the thatch layer you have.

Aerators come in many different forms offering different tine spacing and depth and size of tines. Again, you need to choose the appropriate aerator for your needs.

In most cases the biggest factor dictating the clubs choice of machinery is often what they have or what they can afford to hire.

Choice of materials

It is important to ensure you use compatible topdressing materials. Changing materials can often have disastrous results. Layering of different materials can cause root breaks and interfere with the hydraulic movement of water through the soil profile.

Seed should be used from approved suppliers and be certified. The use of old seed (more than twelve months old) may decrease its germination rates.

Work Programme

cricket diary 06 loam bags

First task is to clean up the square, mowing in several directions to collect any arisings/debris from the playing surface. Lower cutting height to between 2-4mm to clean and prepare square for renovation operations.

Scarification - depending on the severity of the thatch, you may need to scarify several times in different directions. However, in most cases if regular verticutting/grooming has taken place during the growing season you would probably only be required to scarify in two directions. Do not scarify at right angles. Depth of scarification 4-10mm depending on thatch content.

increase your depth of scarifying in stages, trying to get full depth in one single operation often fails and causes damage to your machinery. Scarify in several passes, incrreasing the depth each time.The mower can then be used to clean up the square after scarifying has been completed.

Aerate to relieve compaction and encourage root development if your soil is sufficiently moist. This operation can also be carried out later in the year, mid November, when the soils have become wetter allowing the potential for deeper aeration (150-200mm depth) to be achieved. Aeration is the decompaction of soil, improving air and gas exchange in the soil profile.

Topdressing restores levels and improves surface drainage. Ensure you use compatible topdressing materials. There are many clay loam suppliers who can offer advice on which products to use, preferably a loam with a 28-32% clay content. Spreading of the materials can be achieved by several methods, utilising pedestrian or ride on disc or drop action top spreaders, or by hand using a shovel and a barrow. Best carried out during dry weather.

The amount of loam required for each square will be dictated by the severity of the renovations and how big the square is ( number of pitches on the square). Loam materials are generally supplied in 25kg bags, most club groundsmen spread between 4-10 bags of loam per pitch.

Brushing to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brushing in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.

Overseeding restores grass populations. It is important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed, good seed soil contact is essential for seed germination. Good moisture and soil temperatures will see the seed germinate between 7-14 days.

Fertilising provides nutrients for grass growth. Apply a low N nitrogen fertiliser product something like a Autumn Fertiliser NPK 5:5:15 to help the sward through the autumn period.

Watering/Irrigation is essential to ensure your seed germinates.

Remember not to neglect the outfield. Ideally, you should be looking at undertaking the above tasks on your outfield as well, budgets permitting. However, in most cases this does not happen. The outfield would benefit from some aeration and harrowing during the winter months to keep it open and free draining.

Other structures and net facilities can be stripped down for the winter, storing away nets and posts. Remember to inspect them for damage and order new if required. Site screens can be stored away, make sure they are stable and secure.