You really want to go into the winter months with a good sward cover and any loam dressings will, by now, have settled down. Soil conditions are now more favourable for deeper aeration works.
The moist conditions allow easier penetration of tines without causing too much disruption to the surface profile. Try and aerate both your square and outfields to improve soil porosity.
Soil and air temperatures are now dropping, early morning frosts are appearing on grass surfaces, so it is important not to walk across frozen ground as this will lead to turf damage.
Some parts of the country may be experiencing some snow cover. Ideally, try and keep off the grounds until the snow has gone.
It is good practice to erect some form of protective fencing around the square; i.e. Orange barrier fencing is the most common as this is easy to erect and dismantle when working in the confinements of the square.
Equipment/ Fixtures and Facilities
The winter months is the ideal time for getting many repairs completed. Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All structures should be stored away for the winter. Scoreboards, practice net posts and fences around the ground can be repaired, painted or stained.
Boundary ropes (if fortunate to possess one) need to be stored in a dry, safe environment so not to rot over winter, and where rats or other pests cannot damage them. All fixed and portable covers should 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.
Depending on ground conditions, some clubs may be able to complete drainage or reconstruction works during the winter months. Existing drainage systems can be upgraded, overhauled, cleaned out, and additional drainage systems installed. Inspect drainage outlets, channels and ditches regularly to ensure that they are working. Winter months are also a good time for carrying out ditch clearing operations; blocked ditches may affect the performance of playing field drainage systems.
Turf disease can become quite prevalent when soil moisture levels increase, coupled with the presence of early morning dews. Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew off the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of any disease outbreak. Many turf grass diseases can be active at this time of the year.
Fairy ring and red thread are the most commonly seen on predominantly rye grass squares but, where fescues have been sown, fusarium can be a problem. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the susceptibility of disease attack. Aeration, using a sarrel roller, during the winter months is a useful tool for keeping the surface open. The outfield can also be aerated using solid or slit tines when conditions allow (100-30mm deep tines).
Air and soil temperatures are dropping, reducing the respiration rate of the grass plant. The plant is now entering its dormant stage. Applying fertilisers during December 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.
Inspect and remove wind blown debris from the playing surface - litter, twigs, leaves etc.
December is an ideal time to send any machinery away for repairs or servicing. Employ some good housekeeping standards using ongoing inspections and cleaning of machinery after use. Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed on hand for repairs and maintenance.
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 square should be maintained between 12-20mm.
Remember not to neglect the outfield either; it too has a major affect on a game if unattended. The outfield should be treated the same as any other natural grass pitch (aeration and mowing). The outfield should now be maintained at between 25-35mm.
Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter sports pitches; however the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby).
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 may need to be assessed.
Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for controlling worms. See Pitchcare shop for Worm Suppressants
The winter months enable you some time to evaluate how well this year's maintenance regime has gone which, in turn, will help you plan the works for next season. You may need to seek quotations for machinery and materials. Be prepared for next season. Failure to prepare, then prepare to fail. It is important to keep records and diaries of the activities carried out, and how well the facility has performed. The advent of the digital camera and laptops are great tools for recording information.
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:
PSD (Particle Size Distribution) 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.
Nutrients. 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 next season's feeding and maintenance programmes.
Artificial Wickets and Net facilities
Artificial. Keep the surface clean, regular sweeping and brushing is essential. Remove any algae and moss from surface.
Sand filled. These systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.
Nets. Repair damaged structures and netting, order new parts if required. Strim and mow around structures.
All net and practice structures can be repaired and stored away for the winter.