How quickly the weather can change! Just last month we were told of hose pipe bans after the wettest April on record for some parts of the country, and games being cancelled; we now have soaring temperatures and a mini heat wave.

By now though, we should now be well into the cricket season, with groundstaff working hard to produce good 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.

Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Coventry

Early in the Month 1st - 15th 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 10-12 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 feed back from your soil analysis if applying liquid or granular fertiliser.

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.

Do not neglect your outfield either, as this the largest area of maintenance. It still needs to be carefully managed.

Later in the Month 16th June - onwards

Continuing pitch preparations and mowing the square at 10- 12mm. The outfield should be boxed off or gang mowed at 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.

Key Tasks for June
Irrigation
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Irrigation is a key management tool, so it will be a case of watering little and often when you can. Cricket clubs which 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 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 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 verti-cutting 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 what level of maintenance inputs are required.

Useful Information for Irrigation

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Pitch maintenannce
IMG 2084

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)

The 10 -12 day prep shown below is only a guide; most grounds men will have their own interpretation of these activities
DAY 1 String out pitch lines to ensure correct width, 10 ft; Mow out at 8mm. Always double mow (up and down the same line), using an 8 bladed pedestrian cylinder mower for maintaining the square. Test the pitch with a key or knife for moisture. Water the pitch thoroughly in the event that the pitch has dried out through pre season rolling.
DAY 2 Brush / light rake, mow at 8 mm, light roll to consolidate surface levels.
DAY 3 Power scarify or Verti cut to remove lateral growth and surface thatch avoiding deep surface disturbance. Mow at 7 mm. Remove biomass, continue medium light rolling 1000 kg 10-15 minutes.
DAY 4 Test for moisture. Roll pitch increasing to consolidate surface with 1000 kg roller if available.
DAY 5 Scarify with hand rake to remove any surface thatch build up Set and mow at 6 mm. roll.
DAY 6 Light scarify (lawn rake) to lift sward, mow, roll 20-30 minutes.
DAY 7 DAY OFF
DAY 8 Light scarify by hand, mow at 6 mm, increase weight of roller to 1500- 1700 kg continue rolling 30 minutes reducing speed to consolidate surface. Test for consolidation with key or knife for placidity.
DAY 9 Continue to mow and rolling at slow speed to achieve consolidation. Cover pitch over night to encourage moisture to rise to surface.
DAY 10 Brush / rake lifting any lateral grasses, reduce mower (with a shaver blade) to 4mm, try to avoid scalping. Roll using heavy roller slow speed (crawling) morning and again late afternoon where possible. Cover pitch over night.
DAY 11 Brush and mow pitch, roll morning and afternoon slow as possible (crawling).
DAY 12 Brush, mow and roll to polish surface, test bounce with an old ball along edge of pitch. Continue rolling to consolidate surface. Cover pitch over night.
DAY 13 Brush, mow and roll polish up pitch. Your pitch should effectively have take on a straw like colouration, a sign that preparation has been achieved. String and mark out as in accordance to E.C.B guidelines.

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.

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 Pitch maintenannce

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Outfield
Stowe Cricket

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. 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 10-14 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, 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.

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.

Useful Information for Outfield

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Pests and Diseases
Red Thread

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 dragmatting 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.

Pests: - Worm 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.

Useful Information for Pest and Diseases

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Mowing
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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)

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 option, then use a dragbrush or rake 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 manufacturer's 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 the irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems such as dry patch, scorching and death of the plant.

Useful Information for Mowing

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Other Tasks for the Month
  • 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.