For most clubs finding funding for ongoing maintenance is often difficult. Even if you manage to secure volunteer help with the maintenance tasks, there is always going to be a cost for materials and sundries (seed, fertilisers, topdressings and machinery repairs) which, on average, can represent a cost of anything between £1000 and £2500 .
I see far to many cricket facilities suffering from the lack of appropiate maintenance and, in particular, proper end of season renovations being under taken, just because the club do not invest in appropiate machinery or services, which in many instances is purely down due to the lack of funds.
One of the biggest problems I come across is the fact that with many clubs, and I include other sports here as well (football, bowls and rugby), it would seem the pitch/green is always the last priority for funding. In fact, it should be the first proirty; without adecent pitch/green the club will suffer. Poor pitch quality will influence results and, in the long term, may affect membership.
In most cases it is all about educating people to understand that there is far more to maintaining sports facilities than they think. It is not just a case of mowing grass and marking out. Out of all the sports cricket pitch maintenance requires the most inputs to achieve the desired result (a safe consistent playing surface).
The message I am trying to convey is for clubs to realise there is a cost that needs to be met to ensure the club groundsmen have the appropiate resources and equipment to to the job effectively. I see far too many groundsmen struggling with old unrelaiable machinery and equipment.
No doubt all the recent wet, windy weather will have played havoc with your winter maintenance regimes. Many grounds will be saturated, preventing you from doing any work to the square. Clay soils at this time of the year can become plastic (destructured) especially after a lot of heavy rain. Whilst in this state the square is prone to damage from foot and mechanical activities. It is usually best to stay off the square and refrain from doing any work until it has drained and dried out.
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.
With regard to the maintenance of the square, there are a few tasks that can be completed. Providing the conditions allow, keep mowing the square to keep the sward at a uniform winter height (12-20mm). The use of a Sarrel roller to keep the surface free draining will also be of benefit. Some deeper aeration may be carried out when conditions allow with the use of a pedestrian or tractor mounted aerator.
Diseases can still occur in January, especially during mild weather spells. It is important to keep the the sward brushed, particularly in the mornings. Knocking off the dew helps remove surface water from the sward, allowing the sward to dry out and preventing disease attacks. The use of switching canes and brushes can be used to remove these dew deposits.
On your return after the Christmas holidays you are likely to find you may have accumulated some surface debris (leaves, litter etc.) on the square. It is important to clear it up.
If you are not able to work on the square you could spend some time on the outfield. Aeration will be a key activity that can becarried out along with some localised drainage/repair works to rectify any problem areas and depressions identified.
It is a also good time, whilst it is quiet, to plan and get yourself organised. What are your targets for this year? What do you want to achieve? Have you organised your spring renovation works? Have you ordered materials and machinery for the forthcoming season?
Aeration: Frequency - as required. Use of a sarrel roller on the cricket square during the winter months is useful for keeping the surface open and free draining.The outfield can be aerated using solid or slit tines when conditions allow.
Covers: Inspect and repair. All covers and portable covers to be inspected for damage/wear and tear. Organise appropriate repairs or replacement.
Diseases (square and outfield): Frequency - daily. Turf disease can occur 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.
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
Drainage: Frequency - weekly Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working. Winter months are a good time for carrying out ditch clearing operations, blocked ditches may affect the performance of playing field drainage systems.
Fencing off the cricket square: Many Groundsmen fence off the cricket square to protect it from pests (football players, rabbits, deer, foxes), vehicles and vandals.
Harrowing/raking (outfield): Frequency - when conditions allow. Harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open.
Inspect cricket structures: Frequency - as required. Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All structures should have been stored away for the winter. With very little activity seen on the ground during January, winter works can be dedicated to repairing and painting site screens, fences, practice net structures.
Litter/debris: Frequency - daily. Wind blown debris such as litter, twigs and leaves needs to be cleared from playing surfaces.
Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance): Frequency - daily or after use. Ongoing inspection and cleaning of machinery after use. It is a good time to check up on any machinery that has been sent away for repair or servicing.
Materials: Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance. January is an ideal time toc ontact sales reps and find out what products are available for spring renovations. Never leave it late to order materials.
Mowing: Frequency - as required. Do not neglect your square, it may be necessary to mow during the winter. 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 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 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.
Project Planning: The winter months give you some time to evaluate how well this year's maintenance regime has gone, which in turn will helpy ou plan the works for next season. You may need to seek quotations for machinery and materials. Be prepared for next season. It is important to keep records and diaries of the activities carried out, and how well the facility has performed. The digital camera is a great tool for recording information.
Rolling: The decision to roll the square will be dictated by the weather, air and soil temperatures and ground conditions. Timing will vary dependant on which part of the country you are in. The further north you are the later you are likely to start your pre season rolling. If possible, ensure it is carried out early, try to start towards the end of January or early February with a very light roller(24" mower), gradually increasing the weight until you are using your heaviest roller in late March.
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 understandingof the current status of his soil and turf. There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main tests to considerre:
Particle Size Distribution (PSD) will give you accurate information on the soil type and it's particle make up, enabling you tomatch up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity(drainage rate) of your soil profile.
Artificial wicket and net facilities: Keep surface clean with regular sweeping and brushing.
Remove any algae and moss from surface. Sand filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.
Repair damaged structures and netting, order new if required. Strim and mow around structures. All net and practice structures should be repaired and stored away.