December heralds the time of "Thanksgiving & Goodwill to all Men", so may I take this opportunity to wish all readers of the diary a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The past few weeks has seen flooding and torrential rain all around the country. Many grounds will be waterlogged, or at least suffering from saturated ground conditions, creating more problems than answers.

When water levels finally recede and Noah's Ark has floated away, it will be all hands on board to clean up the mess. If you are unsure as to what steps to take, contact your County Board or Pitch Advisor; don't leave it to chance, you may even have some insurance cover to process.

However, those who are most fortunate and have a decent drainage system, it is important to go into the winter months with good germination and a healthy covering of grass.

Soil conditions should now be more favourable for deeper aeration work, to encourage root development, as moist conditions allow easier penetration of tines without causing damage to soil structure or too much disturbance to the surface profile. Try and aerate both your square and outfields to improve soil porosity.

With soil and air temperatures now dropping, early morning frosts are appearing on grass surfaces, so it is important not to walk across frozen ground, as this will lead to turf damage. Some parts of the country have already experienced some snow cover on higher ground. Ideally, try and keep off the grounds until the snow has gone and ground conditions improve.

Switch or drag brush your square to remove any surface moisture to discourage any disease.

Sarrel roll your square to keep the surface open. Inspect your ground regularly for disease and/or worm activity, and spray as required.

Mow the outfield and square as required. Check for broken fencing and drainage problems. Complete leaf collecting if not already done so.

Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club

Key Tasks for December
Spraying
Spraying.jpg

One of the difficulties with spraying chemicals at this time of the year is getting an accurate forecast to know when there is a dry window of opportunity.

The last thing you need is to spray a chemical for it to be rendered ineffective by weather patterns. These products are expensive enough to buy in the first place. Worm treatments can be carried out, if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. pH levels are usually the main factor, but organic matter and your cultural practices on the square need to be assessed. Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for controlling worms.

Useful Information for Spraying

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Herd of cows bring forward work on moving the square Cricket Cages & Nets
Mowing and Fertilising
TheLeys Cricket

Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependent on the need and condition of the ground. It is important to maintain a constant height of cut, on both the square and outfield.

The square should be maintained between 12-20mm with the outfield maintained at between 25-35mm. Remember; the outfield too has a major effect on a game if unattended.

When air and soil temperatures drop, this reduces the respiration rate of the grass plant. The grass plant is now entering its dormant stage. Applying fertilisers during December and through the winter months is not a viable option. The plant cannot and will not be able to make good use of the nutrients, and any growth produced by the plant may be susceptible to disease attack.

Useful Information for Mowing and Fertilising

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All in a day's work at Bath Cricket Club Cricket Outfield Grass Seed
Outfields
outfield

Too many clubs tend to neglect their outfields. It is important to undertake some work on the cricket outfields, as they are an important part of the game; they need to be firm, flat and free from weeds.

The outfield should be treated through the winter the same as any other natural grass surface - aeration, fertilising and mowing should not be neglected. Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter sports pitches, and the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby).

Ideally, on the outfields, aeration should penetrate down to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting. But, with the very dry summer experienced in some pats of the country, deeper aeration may be restrictive.

The frequency of aeration activities will often depend on the resources - money, machinery and time - available. In the main you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.

Depending on ground conditions, some clubs may be able to complete drainage or reconstruction works during the winter months. Existing drainage systems can be overhauled and cleaned out, and additional drainage systems may be added.

Useful Information for Outfields

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Pests and Disease
Fusarium2

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, red thread and Fusarium are the most commonly seen.

Pests:- Worms can also be active this month. Keep an eye the square and treat accordingly. Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. pH levels, 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.

Useful Information for Pests and Disease

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Soil Testing
Cricket SoilSample

Ideally, once or twice a year, or as required. Soil sampling is an important part of grounds maintenance. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf. There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main tests to consider are:

Particle Size Distribution (PSD). This test will give you accurate information on the soil type and its particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate topdressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.

Soil pH: It is important to keep an eye on your soil; a pH of 5.5-6.5 is a suitable level for most grass plants.

Organic matter content: It is important to keep a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile. Too much and you run the risk of a soft spongy surface with slow pace and variable bounce.

Nutrient Levels: Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth. Once you have this information, you will be in a better position to plan next season's feeding and maintenance programmes.

Useful Information for Soil Testing

Articles Products
The importance of Rootzone analysis Top Dressing & Soils
Other Tasks for the Month
  • Artificial pitches and net facilities:- Keep all surfaces clean by regular sweeping and brushing to remove any algae and moss from surface. Sand filled systems also require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.

  • Net facilities:- Repair damaged structures and netting, order new if required. Strim and mow around structures.

  • Remove all net and practice structures for repair and stored away for the winter.

  • Inspect drainage outlets, culverts, channels and ditches to ensure that they are working. Winter months are a good time for carrying out ditch clearing operations; blocked ditches may affect the performance of playing field drainage systems.

  • Many Groundsmen fence off the cricket square at the end of the season to protect it from pests (rabbits, deer, foxes, and football players), vehicles and vandals.

  • Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All structures should be stored away or covered with protective sheeting for the winter.

  • Wind blown debris, such as litter, leaves and tree limbs needs to be cleared from playing surfaces.

  • Inspecting and cleaning of machinery. December is an ideal time to send any machinery away for repairs or servicing. Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.

  • The winter months enables you to evaluate how well this year's maintenance regime has gone, which in turn will help you plan the work for next season. You may need to seek quotations for machinery and materials. Be prepared for next season. Failure to prepare - prepare to fail. It is important to keep records and diaries of the activities carried out, and how well the facility and each pitch has performed. The advent of the digital camera is a great tool for recording information.