Mother Nature is up to her old tricks again, heat wave in April, gales and heavy rain in May. Let’s hope for some sunshine in June.
As we approach the midway point of the Cricketing Calendar though, groundstaff will be working hard to produce good, quality playing surfaces for their clubs. Moisture levels will still be moderate, encouraging good growing conditions as temperature begin to rise. With weather conditions continuing to dictate the work required, tailor your fertilising programmes to your conditions so to give your square a head start when the weather turns.
As you move through the month, regular Verti- cutting, scarifying and mowing of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Repairs and renovation to used pitches should also be undertaken, paying particular attention to your foot holes, as they may require more intense work. With the drying winds and the rise in temperature, irrigation, so often ignored, is a key management tool, so it will be a case of watering little and often when you can.
Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports & Social Club
Key Tasks for June
Most of your work this month will be focused on preparing wickets, as well as your outfield. Pitch preparations such as mowing and marking should be in full swing. Using the 10-12 day guideline, try to produce a consistent wicket with fast medium pace. Be sure to get your lines accurate and straight, and start the month off with a good irrigation of the square if you haven't already done so. Remember to follow any feedback from your soil analysis if applying liquid or granular fertiliser.
Do not neglect your grass practice nets as they will also be in need of some remedial work. Try and rotate your netting bays so some recovery can take place to run ups and batting creases. Use the same process as with your foot holes, albeit may be on a larger scale.
You’re out field should not be neglected either, as this is the largest area of maintenance. It still needs to be carefully managed!
Continuing pitch preparations and mowing of the square @ 10- 12mm. The outfield should be boxed off or gang mowed @ 15-18mm, avoiding scalping. Fertilising of the square can be undertaken if not already done so, remembering to allow granular feeds to be well watered in.
With the drying winds and the rise in temperature, Irrigation is a key management tool so it will be a case of watering little and often when you can. Crickets clubs who do not have any water at all are often left in the lap of the gods. The use of covers or groundsheets to help protect pitches will increase the moisture content providing they are not left on to long. Facilities that do not have or use pitch covers will also be more vulnerable to the changing weather.
Evapotranspiration rates should begin to rise in the coming month, initiating the need to begin watering your facilities. The combined water loss from both the plant and soil surfaces will now be rising due to the warmer climatic conditions. Watering will be essential for wicket preparation and repairs. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied.
It is important to ensure that the water gets down deep into the rootzone, to a minimum of 150mm to encourage deep rooting. Check with a probe. Allow to dry and repeat the irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry for a period of time can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil and thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality.
The use of covers (flat or raised) will be invaluable during the preparation of match wickets; take care to ensure any surface water is prevented from running on to the protected pitch.
Keeping some additional grass cover will help retain some soil moisture, thus slowing down the soils capacity for drying out. You may want to consider raising the height of cut on the square by 1mm to maintain some additional grass cover.
Any period of rain will have stimulated the Poa grass species in the square, thus increasing thatch and procumbent growth; regular Verti- cutting will alleviate any thatch build up and stand up the sward prior to mowing.
With the drier weather now expected, the bounce and pace of the wickets should start improving. More and more Groundsmen are now taking the opportunity to measure and monitor the performance of their pitches. Having a better understanding of the condition of your square is paramount in deciding on what level of maintenance inputs are required.
The ECB have an excellent guideline booklet, TS4, which provides a wealth of information on construction, preparation and maintenance of cricket pitches.
The 10 -12 day prep shown below is only a guide; most grounds men will have their own interpretation.
Pitch preparation should start 10-12 days prior to the match. Following the guild lines below will help you achieve a good standard of pitch. Marking out the crease should be done with care, using frames or string to help achieve clear, straight lines.
DAY 1 String out pitch lines to ensure correct width, 10 ft; Mow out @ 8mm. Always double mow (up and down the same line), using an 8 bladed pedestrian cylinder mower for maintaining the square. Test the pitch with a key or knife for moisture. Water the pitch thoroughly in the event that the pitch has dried out through pre season rolling.
DAY 2 Brush / light rake, mow @ 8 mm, light roll to consolidate surface levels.
DAY 3 Scarify or Verti cut to remove lateral growth and surface thatch avoiding deep surface disturbance. Mows @ 7 mm. continue medium light rolling 1000 kg 10-15 minutes.
DAY 4 Roll pitches increasing roller weight to consolidate the surface.
DAY 5 Scarify with hand rake to raise sword after rolling. Reduce HOC to 6mm
DAY 6 20-30 minute’s with heavy roller.
DAY 7 Light scarify by hand to raise sward, mow @ 6 mm, increase weight of roller to 1500- 1700 kg continue rolling 30 minutes reducing speed to consolidate surface.
DAY 8 Continue rolling for 30 minutes at slow speed to achieve consolidation. Cover pitch over night to encourage moisture to rise to surface.
DAY 9 Brush / rake lifting any lateral grasses, reduce mower (with a shaver blade) to 4mm, try to avoid scalping. Roll using heavy roller slow speed (crawling) 30 minutes morning & again late afternoon where possible. Cover pitch over night.
DAY 10 Brush & mow pitch, roll morning and afternoon slow as possible (crawling).
DAY 11 Brush, mow & roll to polish surface, test bounce with an old ball along edge of pitch. Continue rolling to consolidate surface. Cover pitch over night.
DAY 12 Brush, mow & roll polish up pitch. Your pitch should effectively have take on a straw like coloration, a sign that the preparation has been achieved. String and mark out as in accordance to E.C.B guidelines. (TS4 booklet)
Mowing heights for the cricket square during the playing season should be:-
8-12mm April-September (playing season)
5-6mm Wicket preparation
3-4mm Final cut for match
A simple method for testing the ground for rolling is to insert a knife or slit tine into the soil profile and see if it comes out clean. If it does, it's the right time to roll.
If you find you may not have completed your pre season rolling, don’t despair, rolling of the entire square can still be carried out on separate occasions during May, spaced out between one another with a roller weight between 1000-2500 kg. The first pass should be across the line of play, returning along the same path until the whole square is rolled. Choosing and using the correct weight of roller is also critical for preparing cricket surfaces.
Continue to verticut, training the grass to grow vertically to produce a cleaner cut. Do not disturb the surface profile!! If you don't have a verticut options then use a drag brush or rake to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verti-cutting unit,s be very careful not to mark/scar the soil surface as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out.
A spring/summer fertiliser should now be applied to encourage top growth, using manufacturers recommended rates. Rye grasses are more wear tolerant when fed correctly. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual maintenance 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.
It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for pitch preparation, repairs and the health of the plant. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied. It's important to ensure that the water penetrates into the rootzone to a minimum of 100- 150mm to encourage deeper rooting. Check with a probe. Allow to dry and repeat irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems such as dry patch, scorching and death of the plant.
Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play. After match pitch repairs begin with the brushing and sweeping up of any surface debris. Soak the wicket, scarify and spike, top-dress foot holes and overseed. Additional work may be required to repair foot-hole damage.
Seeding of the ends where the grass is weak, sparse or bare can be continued, as 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.
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, carrying out regular mowing, raking or Verti cutting, aerating and feeding programmes to maintain a healthy sward.
A light harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open. Apply balanced fertilisers such as a 9-7-7 as part of your annual maintenance programme to help stimulate growth and recovery. 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, an application of sand dressings to the profile will definitely improve soil water movement in the top 100mm.You may wish to Hollow core your outfields and then brush the cores back into the surface (recycling the existing material) this also helps to restore levels, reduce thatch and helps speed up the surface.
Ideally, whilst maintaining a cutting height of between 10-14 mm, many outfields tend to be undulating and uneven preventing close mowing at these heights and in reality most are probably mown at a height between 12-25 mm. Also the type of mower used will dictate what Height of Cut can be achieved.
Rotary mowers tend to scalp undulating ground, where, as boxing off with a cylinder or a hydraulic gang mower with floating heads can give a better finish. Outfields which have been predominantly over seeded with rye grasses are subject to stress if mown to short. Fescues and Smooth stalked meadow grasses are quite tolerant to close mowing and are less likely to be stressed out.
Taking a number of soil samples on a regular basis helps monitor the condition of your soil profile, enabling you to see for yourself any problems that may be occurring, such as root breaks, poor root growth, soil layering and depth of thatch. All of which can be rectified by appropriate actions. With the advent of digital cameras we now have an excellent tool for recording what we see.
Keeping records are essential; the ECB booklet also promotes the use of Performance Quality Standards (PQS) as part of your management strategy; there are three categories of measurement that relate to the overall quality of a facility:
* The Physical Structure (the profile make up)
* The Presentational Quality (the visual impact)
* The Playing Quality (the performance ratings)
Always keep an eye open for turf disease. Prevention is always better than a cure. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can make the plant susceptible to disease attack. Many turf grass diseases such as Fusarium and Red Thread can be active at this time of the year.
Symptoms of Fusarium (Microdochium nival), the most common and damaging disease, are orange/brown patches 2.5-5cm across increasing in size under suitable conditions as the disease progresses. Active patches have a distinctive 'ginger' appearance when viewed early in the morning. Creamy white mycelium resembling cotton wool can be seen in the centre and towards the outer edge of the patch.
Grass in the active patches is often slimy; once the disease is controlled the scars will remain until there is sufficient grass growth to fill in. Regular brushing, switching or drag matting in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak.
Red Thread is ill-defined bleached grass with Pink mycelium visible in early morning dew. Close inspection will reveal red needle like structures which are attached to the leaf blades. The needles become brittle upon death and are easily detached allowing fragments to spread the disease.
Systemic curatives and protective fungicides such as Chlorothalonil and Iprodione, applied in liquid form with water as a carrier, can be used to control any outbreaks. By mixing two or more products in the same tank can help reduce the potential for disease resistance developing. Fungicides are selected with different modes of action so that resulting mixture will attack the target disease on two or more fronts. This makes it more difficult for the pathogens to develop resistance to treatments.
Pests: - Worm can be very active at this time of the year so treatments can be carried out, if needed; the use of Carbendazim is the only active ingredient for controlling worms. All personnel should be suitably qualified in the application of chemicals. Moles can be active where worms are prevalent and need to be treated as they can cause a lot of damage to the surface.
All machinery should now have been returned from any servicing in time for use, with ongoing inspection and cleaning after use being vital. Breakdowns cost money as well as inconveniencing pitch preparations. The workshop should be kept in a good order; good housekeeping is important, a tidy workshop reflects a tidy worker.
Time to repair and recommision raised covers systems and cricket net areas ready for the new season.
Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Cricket Pitches. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of Cricket Pitch (square and outfield) maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a cricket square and outfield.
There are two courses - Spring & Summer Maintenance and Autumn & Winter Renovations.
Delegates attending the courses and using the accompanying manuals will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principles they set out.
Included in the Course Manuals are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month. The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.
Pitchcare also provide a range of courses suitable for tennis clubs. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.
Some of the courses available are:
Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31
H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)
Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)
Pesticide Application (PA courses)
Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)
Basic Trees Survey and Inspection
More details about all the courses can be found here, or you can email Chris Johnson for information.
• Clean down and carry out service of machinery after use.
• Keep you garage and storage areas clean and tidy.
• Inspect flat sheets, covers and other cricket equipment, checking for wear and tear and that they are fit for purpose.
• If you use a white line for your boundary, make sure it is clearly visible for match days.