May, as always, did not know if it was coming or going! We should now be well into the cricket season, with groundstaff working hard to produce quality playing surfaces for their clubs.

As weather conditions continue to dictate the work required on your cricket facility; keeping the square primed for moisture is vitally important in preparing new or used pitches.

The recent hot, dry and sunny weather may certainly have had an affect on the square, rapidly drying out the playing surfaces, and in some cases, cause some severe cracking of the soil profiles.

Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Coventry

Early in the Month 1st - 15th June

Start the month off with fertilising and a good irrigation of the square if you haven't already done so. Remember to follow any feed back from your soil analysis.

As you move through the month regular mowing of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. As the month progresses repairs and renovation to used pitches should be undertaken.

Pay particular attention to your foot holes as they may require more intense work. Do not neglect your out field either, as this the largest area of maintenance it still needs to be carefully managed.

Later in the Month 16th June - onwards

Key tasks this month include; Fertilising and Irrigation; pitch preparation, repairs and outfield maintenance.

Key Tasks for June
Irrigation.

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 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 out 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 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.

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)

Useful Information for Irrigation

Articles Products
Irrigation Auditing

Irrigation Products

Pitch Preparation

Summary guide to a 14 day match wicket preparation:-

Day Task
Day 14 -12 Cut down to 6mm, 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 10-5 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 (4-6mm).
Day 5 Keep wicket dry, if possible, with flat sheets.
Day 5-4 Use raised covers, if available, to keep wicket dry but still allow air movement.
Day 4-1 Reduce wicket height to 5mm; mark out using string lines for accuracy.
Day 1 Final mowing at 4mm, mark out, set stump holes.

Continue to verticut, training the grass to grow vertically. If you don't have a verticut options then use a drag brush to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verticutting units be -careful not to mark or scar the soil surface, as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out.
After care of the wicket

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.

Useful Information for After care of the Wicket

Articles Products
Cricket Wicket Repair

Grass Seed

Loam


Outfield

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. Carry out regular mowing, aeration, scarifying and feeding programmes to maintain a healthy sward.

The damp outfields may have been easily damaged by both the fielders and bowlers who have had to play in wet conditions. Bowlers run ups may particularly be bad, with strong depressions being made during games. There will be a need to infill and restore levels and overseed.

Other activities that should be considered this month is a machine service, by checking that spark plugs, oil, and air filters are cleaned and replaced will reduce down time and enable you to carry out the finishing touches to a well presented ground.

Other Tasks for the Month
  • Clean down machinery after use.

  • Try and 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.