Following a wet and inclement August, the weather seems to be holding up for those who are considering their end of season renovations. In some parts of the country we are getting air temperatures well up to 18 degrees C, perfect weather conditions for seed germination. Many Groundsmen should see their seed come up within seven to ten days.
The longer you leave your renovations though, the less likely you will obtain favourable germination rates. Air temperatures tend to drop in October slowing down and reducing grass growth. The use of germination sheets will be a tremendous help if you have them.
All clubs have their own methods of working and renovating their squares. In most cases the level of work will be dictated by what budgets and resources they have available at the time, and what they are trying to achieve.
As a general rule of thumb, between 6-10 bags of loam is applied per wicket. It is important not to under or over dress your pitches, remembering that your ends must also be considered. Applying to the middle of the pitches only will create a crown.
Even in the current economic climate it is best not to skimp on the amount of loam used.
Too many club pitches do not perform well in terms of pace and bounce, as wear and tear is magnified during use. Generally, it is usually a combination of two factors when combined that cause most problems - failure to remove enough thatch/debris material during renovations and not applying enough loam to increase the bulk density of the soil profile results in slow and low pitches.
However, there is a fine line between too much and too little. It's important not to overdress the square, as you will not only be wasting the precious loam material, you may also be smothering your sward. The last thing you want to be doing is burying any vegetation, which will lead to future problems such as thatch layering
The object of the renovations is to revitalise your square by restoring surface levels and encouraging new growth. Scarification is important to remove any unwanted build up of vegetation and organic matter but also to produce a key for the new loam material to sit in.
The level of scarification required will be dependent on how much of a thatch layer you have generated throughout the playing season. This year has been very wet and grass growth has been prolific; there's likely to be a high thatch content, the best way to identify how much you have is by taking a core sample.
Then it will be a case of going through a vigorous renovation programme.
Scarify at least in three directions, finishing in the line of play. Ensure you clean off all the thatch debris after each pass, followed by sarrel rolling before overseeding the square using a suitable grass seed mixture. Do not be afraid to try out new cultivars.
The S.T.R.I. Seed booklet should give you some very good advice on what cultivars are available. Sowing rates now range between 35-50 gms per square metre. In essence you are aiming to establish new grasses into your square.
It is then a case of topdressing with loams compatible to native soils to restore levels and to intergrate new material into the soil profile. This will help to build up the clay content in your square.
Irrigate to wash in new loams and to help speed up germination. The seed should germinate between 7-10 days weather permitting.
The use of germination sheets will encourage new growth by retaining moisture and keeping the soil warm.
Once you have completed your renovation programme on your square, devote some time to your outfield.
This area does not get much attention in the way of aeration, topdressing, overseeding or mowing through the winter months.
If you have not got a maintenance programme for the outfield then you can't expect it to perform as well as your square. Mow the outfield regularly through the winter months where possible, at 30 -35mm every six weeks is a good start, this will help keep your levels and you will soon see a improved sward quality next season.
On the square however, you should look to maintain a cutting height between 12-30mm, and continue to brush off any dew in the mornings to keep the sward dry and disease free.
Aeration is a key operation to help improve the condition of the soil following a season's play. Soil compaction is often the main contributing factor to poor grass growth. The lack of air in the soil profile inhibits many beneficial activities such as retaining beneficial organisms, soil water movement and the washing in of fertilisers.
A programme of de-compacting the soil is essential to re-introduce some porosity into the profile. Solid tining, hollow coring and linear aerating are a number of methods now being used to aerate soil profiles. These operations tend to be carried out on a frequency basis depeding on the type and size of the tines being used.
Ideally, where outfields are of a concern, de-compaction should be to a depth around 200mm to promote deper rooting. Some groundsmen prefer to carry out a programme of hollow coring, which again increases porosity but can also help redistribute/recycle soil around the outfield that, in turn, helps restore levels.
The frequency of aeration activities will often be dependent on the resources available - money, time and machinery. In the main you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.
Towards the end of September is usually a good time to carry out any additional ground works, particularly drainage, especially when using heavy pipe laying machinery. Ground conditions are able to sustain the weight and action of these machines without causing too much damage to the turf surface
Turf disease can be quite prevalent when soil moisture levels increase, coupled with the presence of early morning dews.
The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the susceptibility of disease attack.
Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak. Many turf grass diseases can be active at this time of the year - fairy rings and red thread are the most commonly seen.
Worms can also be active, so keep an eye on the square and treat accordingly. Worm treatments can be carried out if needed but 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.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can continue to be applied in accordance with your annual programme. Have your soil tested by an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
Most ground managers will be looking to apply their autumn fertilisers in association with their end of season renovations.
Where necessary, fence off the cricket square at the end of the season to protect it from pests, (players, rabbits, deer, foxes), vehicles and vandals. Other tasks will involve inspecting and putting away scoreboards, practice nets and covers.
Massey Ferguson Sports Club