cricketWe would hope by now we are over the worst of the winter weather; soil and air temperatures should be creeping up into double figures now. The warmer weather and increased daylight hours will stimulate some much needed grass growth.

It is important to ensure your mowing equipment has been serviced and sharpened. Nothing worse than cutting your grass with blunt mowing blades.

Most outfield areas will be looking poor and in need of some attention, many have not been cut since last autumn. Try and get on and give it a uniform cut followed by some aeration and feed.

Aerating the outfield will help to increase aerobic activity and get some much-needed oxygen around the grass plants root system. Regular spiking and, if possible, the introduction of sand dressings will definitely improve soil water movement in the top 100mm of your pitches.

Some clubs hollow core their outfields and then brush the cores back into the surface (recycling the existing material) to restore levels.

The increase in daylight hours coupled with a rise in air and soil temperatures will stimulate grass growth. You will need to increase the frequency of mowing to maintain desired sward height between 15-18mm.

It is important you start you pre season rolling programme. Firstly, you need to ensure you can get the roller on to the square without doing any damage to the outfield. The square needs to be in a condition whereby the surface is dry but, when you press down with your thumb, some moisture is felt on the skin. This is a good indicator of when you can start your rolling.cricket mowing

Gradually build up the rolling weight by moving on to 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

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, this will allow for a much better standard of cut.

Light scarification or verticutting can be carried out at fortnightly intervals pre-season. Removing horizontally 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.maycricket2005roller.jpg

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.

Outfield

Check the outfield for damage, repair any surface damage caused by vehicle wheel tracks or pests. Rabbit damage can be quite severe once they become active looking for food. Rabbit scrapes must be repaired and overseeded.

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.

General

If you have access to a core sampler, then take a core from the edge of a pitch on a length, i.e. between 2 pitches. What are the roots like? Are they white? Are they 100mm or deeper? How do you think your square will play this season? Make notes because, without some kind of record, how can you improve?

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. cricketRegular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew from 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.

March Maintenance Tasks for Cricket

Natural Grass

Aeration:- No deep aeration should be taking place now. Only shallow surface spiking with a sarel roller to keep the surface open.

Brushing/Sweeping (square):- Prior to mowing, the surface should be thoroughly brushed, every time. Continue to brush square daily to remove moisture from the grass surface stopping the spread of disease and facilitating an improved quality of cut on the dry grass.

Drainage:- Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working.

Diseases including Moss and Algae (square and outfield):- Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.

Frost and snow:- Keep people and equipment off playing surfaces when covered in frost and snow.

Harrowing/raking (outfield):- Harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open.

Inspect Cricket structures:- Check and repacricketir fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens.

Litter/debris:- Inspect and remove debris from playing surface.

Machinery (repairs & maintenance):- Inspect and clean machinery after use, service and repair damaged machinery, prepare machinery ready for new mowing season.

Materials Inspection:- Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers for forthcoming season.

Mowing (square & outfield):- The mowing height on the square should be lowered to around 15-18mm by the end of March, subject to local weather conditions, but 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. The outfield height of cut should also be reduced to around 20-25mm by the end of the month, if not already shared with other sports.

Rolling:- If rolling hasn't started, then this should be initiated no later than the middle of the month-again subject to local conditions. Roll in as many different directions as possible, but always finish in the direction of play. Timing of this operation is vitally important. Start with your lightest mower, cutting the square. If you aren't removing clippings, disengage the blades, reducing friction and unnecessary wear on the machine.

Gradually build up roller weight by moving on to 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.

Marking out/season preparation:- The square must be "squared off" very soon. By using semi-permanent markings, this operation can be made very simple, use a 3,4,5 triangle to obtain the correct right angles.

Scarification - fortnightly:- Light scarification or verticutting can be carried out at fortnightly intervals pre-season. Removing horizontally growing grasses and surface organic matter are always beneficial for the onset of pitch preparation; together with brushing, this will improve the quality of cut.

Seed bare and worn areas on cricket square:- Seeding of the ends where the grass is weak, sparse or bare can be continued, and the rise in temperature will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases, remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed, as old material may not give you the required germination rates.

Pest control:- Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why do you have worms? Ph level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the square need to be assessed.

Fertiliser programme:- If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured), fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested. Try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results. Apply a spring fertiliser when conditions allow.

Outfield:- Remember not to neglect the outfield; it too has a major effect on a game if unattended.

Artificial wicket and net facilities:- Keep surface clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Remove any algae and moss from surface. Sand filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturers' recommended sand levels, and to keep the pile upright.

Net facilities - Pre -season:- Repair damaged structures and netting, order new if required. Strim and mow around structures.