bollington cc june 09 010.jpgThe cricket season should now be well underway with several matches completed. Most of your work this month will be focused on around preparing and repairing wickets as well as maintaining the outfield.

Trying to produce a consistent wicket, with fast-medium pace, is proving to be quite a challenge in light of the recent poor weather, especially at clubs with no cover facilities.

In the light of the recent drought around the country, you may experience the drying of the square; remember that moisture content is important to keying the surface as well as to consolidate the soils.

It is important to plan and programme your pitch requirements to ensure you maximise the square capacity to accommodate 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.

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

artificials,egbaston,crog cricket 032.jpgSoil 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.

Weather permitting; 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

Outfield

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.

Scott's 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.

Ideally, maintain a cutting height of between 10-14 mm, however 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 mower with floating heads can give a better finish.

Square

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 ( Avoid scalping the surface)

bristol sisis day apr07 043.jpgA 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 verticut, training the grass to grow vertically to produce a cleaner cut. Do not disturb the surface profile!! 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 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 and repairs. 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. Dry patch is a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality.

Pitch preparation should start 10-14 days prior to the match. Following the guild lines below will help you achieve a good standard of pitch. Marking out the crease should be done with care, using frames or string to help achieve clear, straight lines.

Day

Task

Day 14 -12

Mow @ 8mm, hand rake in 2-3 directions to clean out bottom of sward finish in line of play.

Day 12-11

Soak wicket until water is standing on full length of wicket allow to penetrate soil to 100-150mm. Repeat

Day 10-6

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 5

Keep wicket dry, if possible, with flat sheets or roll on roll of covers. Continue light raking, mowing & rolling

Day 5-4

Use raised covers, if available, to keep wicket dry but still allow air movement. Reduce mower height to 5mm continue rolling.

Day 3-2

Reduce mower height to 4mm; mark out using string lines or a frame for accuracy.

Day 1

Final mow at 4mm, roll & mark out, set stump holes.


Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play. After match pitch repairs begin with the brushing and sweeping up of any surface debris. Soak the wicket, scarify and spike, top-dress foot holes 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, raking or verti cutting, aerating and feeding programmes to maintain a healthy sward.

Bob Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Ground
Coventry