September will be a busy month for Cricket Groundsmen with the onset of end of season renovations. The success of any renovation work 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 the month.
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.
To help ascertain the level of work required on the square it will be best to take a number of core samples to identify the condition of the sward and soil profile. Looking carefully at the amount of thatch present.
Recent inspections of a number of local club pitches has revealed that too many clubs do no remove enough thatch from their squares during renovations. Also, some clubs are not putting enough loam back on the squares.
Also remember that outfield should receive some form of renovation as well.
The objectives of end of season renovations are:
* To repair worn areas.
* Prevent a build up of thatch layers (scarification).
* Restore surface levels (top dressing).
* 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 (during rain showers) because once the topdressing gets wet, it becomes very difficult to spread and brush in. You have to work with the weather. 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.
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 scarifier and aerator.
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 fertilizer products so that they become activated and made soluble enabling then to be taken up by the plant.
Types of machinery
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 the 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 club's choice of machinery is often what they have or what they can afford to hire.
Watering will be essential if you are faced with a dry period soon after seeding. Make sure you can water uniformly. The choice of sprinkler will be dictated by what water pressure you have on site.
Also, do not over water. I have seen instances where some clubs switch on their water systems every night without fail, thus ending up with a waterlogged facility.
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.
Knowledge and experience of the persons undertaking these works
Without doubt it is the experience and knowledge of the groundman that often dictates the success or failure of these renovations.
However, the overriding factor that nearly always dictates the level of renovations undertaken is what budgets are available.
First task is to clean up the square, mowing in several directions to collect any arisings/debris from the playing surface. Recently used wickets will still be very firm and will require some watering to help swell the clay soil allowing it to be worked and repaired.
The following activities are generally implemented during autumn renovations and usually carried out in the following order, when conditions allow. The sequence of operations and their intensity will vary from club to club according to the condition of the sward at the end of the playing season.
Mowing the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to between 2-4mm. The mower can then be used to clean up the square after scarifying has been completed.
Scarification, removal of unwanted debris. Collect and disposal of arisings. 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 to a previous scarification lines. 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, increasing the depth each time.
Aerate to relieve compaction and encourage root development if your soil is sufficiently moist. This operation is often 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. Depending on the turf's condition, you can choose to carry out hollow or solid tine spiking. Hollow tines are generally used on a bi annual basis or when you have a severe thatch problem.
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 usually spread between 4-10 bags of loam per pitch.
Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brush in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
Overseeding, restores grass populations. 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 an Autumn Fertiliser NPK 5:5:15 to help the sward through the autumn period.
Watering/Irrigation. It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.
Remember not to neglect the outfield. Ideally, you should be looking at completing 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. All 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.