With the season only a couple of months old, the British weather lives up to expectations as wind, rain and, yes, a mini heatwave has played its part this summer so far. As we approach the midway point of the cricket season though, groundstaff will be working hard to produce good quality playing surfaces for their clubs, however, with weather conditions continuing to dictate the work required, tailor your fertilising programmes to your conditions, giving your square a head start when the weather turns.
Moisture levels will still be moderate following the very wet winter, encouraging good growing conditions as temperatures rise. As you move through the month regular mowing of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Repairs and renovation to used pitches should 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 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 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 10-14 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 they same process as with your foot holes, albeit may be on a larger scale.
Do not neglect your outfield either, as this is the largest area of maintenance. It still needs to be carefully managed.
Continuing pitch preparations and mowing the square at bewteen10-12mm. The outfield should be boxed off or gang mowed at between 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. Cricket 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 too 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 weather. Watering will be essential for wicket repairs and preparation. 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 soil's 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 verticutting 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.
Rolling & Repairs
The purpose of rolling is to squeeze any remaining air out of the pore spaces and to consolidate the surface up to 100mm. Rolling is best performed when there is sufficient moisture in the pitch before the ground dries out. In the event of drought, syringing is advisable to assist keying the surface and helps polish the pitch.
After Care and Attention
This is the time of the season when most groundsmen will have had a month or more of cricket on their squares. The after care of the pitch is just as important as the preparation. Renovation and repairs should be carried out as soon as possible following the conclusion of a game. After match wicket repairs begin with the brushing and sweeping up of any surface debris, soaking the wicket, scarifying, spiking, topdressing and over seeding. Additional work may be required to repair damage to foot-holes. It is important to carry out good repairs, as you may be required to use this wicket again later on in the season.
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, raking or verticutting, 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 10-14mm, 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 12-25mm. Also the type of mower used will dictate what Height of Cut can be achieved. Rotary mowers tend to scalp undulating ground, whereas 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 too short. Fescues and Smooth stalked meadow grasses are quite tolerant to close mowing and are less likely to be stressed out.
Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all Groundsman/Greenkeepers. With the aid of modern technologies, tools and a camera, you can now monitor the performance and the condition of your sward in many ways.
For many years the turf industry has promoted the use of Performance Quality Standards PQS to ascertain the standard of sport pitch maintenance.
It is important to survey and measure the performance of your facilities. With modern technologies we can now measure all manner of aspects of the pitch/golf green or artificial pitch to ensure it meets any stated guidelines by the sports governing bodies. These can include measuring sward height, composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, levels, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.
Soil tests will also help determine soil type, nutrient status of the soil, organic matter content, CEC capacity and soil pH.
Keeping a record of these parameters will help you have a better understanding of what is going on within your playing surface and enable you to make better decisions on what maintenance inputs you will need to undertake to maintain surface playability.
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.
Worms 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.
June is a good time to apply a selective herbicide to control broad leaf weeds ensure you use the correct approved products for the type of weeds you need to control .
- Spend time maintaining your equipment and machinery, regular servicing and cleaning will help prolong the life and performance of your equipment.
- Keep mowing blades sharp and well adjusted, check heights of cut are correct and uniform.
- Also spend time keeping your shed clean and tidy, not always easy, but good house keeping is essential to help make your job safe and easy.
- Always clean mowers and equipment after use.
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 ourfield) 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.
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
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.