With spring on its way and summer just around the corner, soil temperatures will soon begin to rise, thus stimulating some much needed growth. This is the busiest period for groundsmen. With pitch preparation and outfields to maintain, time management is vitally important.
Many of you will be under pressure to get your facilities up to speed now, with probably less than a fortnight before your first game; you will soon catch up as the weather improves.
The recent good weather we had in March has helped enormously, enabling groundsmen to complete their Pre Season Rolling in time for the forcoming playing season .
Planning your workload to meet your objectives will help in this task.
Squares that are lying wet are best left alone until they dry out enough to get on without smearing the soil. You will do more damage trying to work on the square in these conditions. Rolling whilst the soil is saturated will not achieve any consolidation. It is best to be patient and wait for more favourable ground conditions.
Key Tasks for April
Maintaining a cricket square requires regular mowing, so it is important to keep your blades sharp at all times. Backlapping them will help prolong their lives, but they should be sent for re-grinding with your bottom blade replaced at the same time, especially a shaver blade.
Check your ground for foreign objects, such as studs or stones which can cause considerable damage to machinery and have a cosmetic effect on the presentation.
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.
Structures: Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. Finish off any painting that may have been delayed due to bad weather.
Artificial Pitches: 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.
Other work to consider :-
- Mark out boundary line or ensure rope is in place.
- Scoreboards are ready for use
- Erect security netting around buildings to deter balls from damaging properties.
- Ensure stumps and bails are correct size, yardage disks are available.
- Check sightscreens, covers and machinery as breakdowns could be time costly.
- Artificial netting facilities should be checked, cleaned and marked out ready for use.
Soil and air temperatures should begin to rise substantially as we move into April. The application of a spring and summer fertiliser will also increase the vigour and rate of sward growth. Ideally, get your soils sampled for nutrients, organic matter content and soil pH where possible. 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.
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. Today’s 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 Wetting agents can now be applied; 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.
Also, the 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.
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.
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. 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 attracted to areas where worms are prevalent; these need to be treated as they can cause a lot of damage to outfields and other surrounds.
Towards the end of April you may want to consider applying a selective weed killer to your outfield to control any broad leaf weeds.
Planning your workload to meet your objectives will help in this task. Squares require a lot of time management, scarifying, mowing, rolling and marking out; not to mention your outfield; which will require aeration, raking or harrowing to raise the sward after a winter of heavy rain and of coarse mowing.
It is not necessarily about how much Pre-Season Rolling you carry out, it is ensuring that the rolling is undertaken during optimum conditions by having enough moisture in the soil profile to allow good consolidation.
Ensure you mowing equipment is serviced and ready for use.
The Square and Outfield
By now you will have completed your P.S.R. Aerate the square by sarrel rolling when finishing your Union Jack pattern to keep the surface open. The square now needs to be "squared off" as well as locating each pitch to be used. The 3-4-5 system or right angled templates are best used. A light verticut or scarification of the square to remove lateral growth whilst mowing the square regularly at 12-15mm will increase sward density. Pitch preparations should be started following the 10-12 day guidelines. Carry out renovation to bare areas such as ends and foot holes.
The ability to control the drying out of the soil profile is essential in the production of good wickets. However, there is a considerable skill in using covers. Knowing when and how long to keep them on, ideally, having access to either flat or raised roll-on roll-off covers enables you to have greater scope in controlling the needs of your square. Flat sheet covers are usually used at the start of pitch preparations to control the moisture during your early rolling, whilst the raised covers are used primarily for drying out the pitch before play.
If your facility is used for winter sports games, outfields will also need some attention, once they have dried out; a light harrow, aerating, top dressing and mowing at 15-18mm will bring them back to normal. Keep records of work carried out such as core samples, fertilising, mowing and rolling. Last but not least, don’t forget your boundary line!
Soil and air temperatures should begin to rise substantially as we move into April, 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 heights. The application of spring and summer fertilisers will also increase the vigour and rate of sward growth. You should be able to begin to apply some low Nitrogen based fertilisers. Ideally, get your soils sampled for nutrients, organic matter content and soil pH where possible. 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. Aerating the out field prior to this operation is required but not necessary, but is always good management practice.
The 10-12 day prep shown below is only a guide; most groundsmen 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 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 consolidating surface with 1000 kg roller if available.
DAY 5 Scarify with hand rake to remove any thatch build up Set and mow at 6 mm. Roll.
DAY 6 Mow, roll 20-30 minutes.
DAY 7 DAY OFF
DAY 8 Light scarify by hand to raise sward, 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 rolling for 30 minutes 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) 30 minutes morning and again late afternoon where possible. Cover pitch overnight.
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 coloration, a sign that the preparation has been achieved. String and mark out as in accordance to ECB guidelines. (TS4 booklet).
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.