bloxwich rfc apr09 003.jpgThe cricket season is well underway with several matches now completed, so most of the work will be focused around preparing and repairing wickets. Trying to produce a consistent wicket with fast-medium pace is proving to be quite difficult in light of the recent poor weather, and especially at clubs with no cover facilities.

It is important to plan and programme your pitch requirements to ensure you maximise the square capacity to accommodate fixtures. Groundsmen should be preparing two to three pitches at any one time.

Also take some pride in the way you present your facility , a well presented square and outfield will impress and encourage players to perform.

Soil temperatures should continue to rise substantially in May, thus stimulating grass growth both on the square and outfields. There will be a need to increase the regularity of cutting to maintain designated cutting height. The application of spring fertilisers will also increase the vigour and rate of sward growth. You can begin to apply some higher 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.

Liquid fertilisers are becoming popular again. Modern products have been refined to act more efficiently, their mode of action allows the active nutrient ingredients to get into the plant tissue more quickly, and thus you tend to see a faster response to plant growth when using these products. Granular products have to rely on the granule breaking down, becoming mobile in the soil and then taken into the plant via the root system.See Pitchcare shop for a range of turf fertilisers and conditioners Shop

Wetting agents can now be applied to outfields, this is usually done on a monthly basis, The use of wetting agents will be a good tool for ensuring that any rain has the chance to soak deeper into the soil profile and not simply run off the playing surface.

Scotts Primo Maxx growth regulator has shown a lot of promise and may be a good product to control plant growth, whilst at the same time reducing the amount of clippings produced and also reducing the amount of water lost through the stomata by respiration.

Square

Mowing heights for the cricket square during the playing season are:-

8-12mm April-September (playing season)
5-6mm Wicket preparation
4mm Final cut for match

Outfield

To be maintained at a cutting height of between 10-14 mm ideally, however many outfields tend to be undulating and uneven, thus 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 hieght of cut can be achieved.

A simple method for testing the ground for rolling is to stick 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. Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play.

Rolling of the entire square should be carried out on three separate occasions during May, evenly 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. If you don't have a verticut option then use a drag brush to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verticutting units be 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, use at the manufacturer's recommended rates. Rye grasses are more wear tolerant when fed correctly. 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.

It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for pitch preparation and repairs. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied. It's 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 out and repeat irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality.

Below are typical wicket preparations starting 14 days prior to the match. Marking out the crease should be done with care, using frames or string lines to help achieve clear, straight lines.

Day

Task

Day 14 -12

Cut down to 8mm, hand rake in 2-3 directions to clean out bottom of sward.

Day 12-10

Soak wicket until water is standing on full length of wicket.

Day 10-1

Roll wicket every day if conditions allow in 3 x 20 min spells with 1.5-2 tonne roller to consolidate and release moisture from wicket. Mow as required to keep sward at desired height (6-4mm).

Day 10-5

Keep wicket dry, if possible, with flat sheets.

Day 5-1

Use raised covers, if available, to keep wicket dry but still allow air movement.

Day 3-1

Reduce wicket height to 5mm, mark out using string lines for accuracy.

Day 1

Final mowing at 4mm, overmark, set stump holes.


After match wicket repairs begin with the brushing and sweeping up of any surface debris, soaking the wicket, scarifying, spike, top dress 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, 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.

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, aeration and feeding programmes to maintain a healthy sward.