With 1st class county fixtures already underway, attention now turns to club cricket as the start of the new season dawns.
April’s temperatures have been blowing hot and cold, but have made some ideal conditions for pre-season rolling. With increasing sunlight becoming more available and temperatures rising, we should be looking at producing some quality pitches. Be sure to plan the use of your pitches, starting with the odd numbers first, if that’s your preference, working across the square. May will see an increase in growth, so be sure to mow your square regularly. Applications of spring and summer fertiliser to your square and outfield will help stimulate the plant and keep it from being stressed. Take some pride in the way you present your facility - a well presented square and outfield will impress and encourage players to perform.
Diary compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Key Tasks for May
Most of your work this month will be focused on preparing wickets as well as your outfield, with pitch preparations and marking in full swing. Following the 10-12 day guidelines try to produce a consistent wicket with fast medium pace, ensuring you get your lines accurate and straight. A light verti-cut or scarification of the square to remove lateral growth following pre season rolling, whilst mowing the square regularly, will increase sward density. Outfields may also be in need of some attention if used for winter sport, with a light harrowing, aerating, seeding and top dressing. Height of cut for your outfield should be between 15-18mm.
Continue your pitch preparations by mowing the square at 10-12mm and the outfield to be boxed off or gang mowed at 15-18mm, making sure you avoid scalping. Re-commission your irrigation systems (if you can afford such luxury). Keep records of work carried out, such as core sampling, Fertilising the square with a higher nitrogen based fertilizer should be carried out to feed the plant to keep it from stress and disease. Be sure to water your fertiliser in; however resist applying in drought conditions.
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
Rolling: 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.
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 verti-cut, training the grass to grow vertically to produce a cleaner cut. Do not disturb the surface profile!! If you don't have a verti-cut options then use a drag brush or rake to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verti-cutting units 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 deep 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.
It is important to plan and programme your pitch requirements to ensure you maximise the square capacity to accommodate all fixtures. By preparing two to three pitches at any one time you will have the opportunity of moving fixtures in the event of severe damage due to wear and tear, vandalism or weather.
Due to the cold drying winds around the country, you may experience the drying of the square; Irrigate as required as moisture content is important to keying the surface as well as to consolidate the soils. Dry Patch is the development of localised and wide spread harder dry spots on the square and out field, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality.
This condition seriously weakens the turf leaving a thinner sward prone to invasion by moss and free seeding grass species and, in several cases, lead to death of the plant. Corrective measures based on regular watering by hand will help. In the case of fungal – induced dry patch particularly where no fungus is present regular treatment is vital.
Soil temperatures should gradually beginning to rise 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 ground.
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. 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.
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. Try and get on and give it a uniformed cut followed by some aeration and feed.
Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter pitches so the amount of work required to be carried out may be determined by whether the outfield has been used for other sports (football/rugby). If not, 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 helps to restore levels, reduce thatch and helps speed up the surface.
However, ideally 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. The outfield should be reduced to around 15-18mm.
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.
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 over a 3m level, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.
In recent years we have seen the development of GPS mapping devices that can measure, chlorophyll , moisture content and deviation in levels. 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.
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.
- Mark out boundary line or ensure rope is in place.
- Scoreboards are ready for use.
- Sightscreens repaired, painted and in place.
- Covers checked for damage and utilised.
- Practice nets cleaned, marked and in good order.
- Erect security netting around buildings to deter balls from damaging properties.
- Ensure stumps are correct size, bails and yardage disks are available.
All that is left to say is “Have a great season”.