The mild winter temperatures that brought in the New Year have given way to cold frosty, wet and, in some cases, snow covered terrain. With February marking the start of a new growing season and spring just around the corner, many grounds will take some time to recover, so patience is a practice that will pay dividends later.
The grass plant is a very resilient species so, once the ground has had time to drain and the surface dry out, it will soon kick on and recover. This will bring about a number of activities; brushing, verti-cutting, mowing, aerating, light rolling and fertilising to prepare the sward/grass surfaces for the forthcoming playing season. For some, it may be the first time you have been onto the ground this year, so an inspection of the facilities is your first priority.
Diary compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Key Tasks for February
Regular brushing should be carried out to lift the sward, keeping it upright to help dry the plant and reduce disease.
Where ground conditions and temperatures are suitable, mowing the square to remove its winter growth is one of the first tasks. You may need to raise the height of cut, so that you are just topping it off and not trying to remove too much grass in one go. A rotary mower, set at 25-30mm, would be best suited for this purpose, as clippings will be removed at the same time.
Sarrel roll your square after the first cut, as this will open it up and lightly iron out the surface. A low nitrogen, higher potassium feed (NPK 6:5:10 +6% Fe) will help green up the plant and, at the same time, contribute to control any moss that may have accumulated in the sward during the winter months.
As the month progresses, start reducing the mowing height on the square to around 15-20mm, subject to local weather conditions. A light verti-cut will remove any lateral growth caused by the snow or wet weather and clean out the surface. The less stress that is placed on the grass at this time is vital for better results going into the new season.
Keep an eye out for disease and worms, and spray accordingly.
Do not neglect your outfield: Outfields should be harrowed, aerated and a programme of solid or slit tining to a depth of 150-200mm will assist water movement and oxygenate the soil (vary the depths of penetration to prevent the development of a soil pan). Soil samples can still be taken, with findings used as part of your fertiliser programme. Keep on top of any grass growth; mow at 30mm in accordance to its usage; if left too long, it then becomes a struggle to mow.
Ideally, get your soils sampled for nutrients, organic matter content and pH. A pH of 6.5 is the optimum for a cricket square. Anything higher or lower would be too alkaline or acidic and have an impact on grass growth, recovery and pest invasion. This information will help decide on the appropriate course of action with regard to applying the correct NPK balance for your site.
To help kick start the grass into growing, you can begin to apply some low nitrogen based fertilisers. The application of a low nitrogen, higher potash feed (NPK 6:5:10 +6% Fe) will help green up the grass and, at the same time, help control any moss that has accumulated in the sward during the winter months. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. Only apply what your soil requires.
Disease can still occur in February, especially Fusarium, Anthracnose and Red Thread, during spells of mild weather. It is important to keep the sward brushed, the use of switching canes and brushes can be used to remove heavy dew deposits, particularly in the mornings. Knocking off the dew helps remove surface water from the plant, allowing it to dry out and prevent it from being vulnerable to an outbreak of disease.
Worm activity can be quite prevalent through the winter months, especially during periods of mild wet weather. Keep an eye on 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.
Systemic curative and protective fungicides can be used to control diseases; there are a wide range of products on the market that have the active ingredients chlorothalonil and iprodione. These fungicides are usually applied in liquid form using water as a carrier.
All personnel should be suitably qualified in the application of chemicals, having gained PA1/ PA6 certificates for hand held spraying or PA2 certificate for tractor or vehicle spraying.
With pests such as rabbits, foxes and moles, it is a case of identifying the problem and controlling their activities; employing approved pest control services to eradicate them from site may be a solution.
Outfields: - Turf disease can become 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 with a tractor mounted boom brush, following heavy dew will help prevent any attack of disease.
Some parts of the country may be experiencing heavy falls of snow. Snow cover can inevitably lead to disease outbreaks such as snow mould, so be vigilant after the snow has gone. Sarrel spiking will open up and dry out the surface allowing for much needed air to the roots.
Still some time left in February to send any machinery away for repairs or servicing. Keeping your cylinder mowers sharpened and serviced is vital to good groundsmanship; there is nothing worse than a mower that keeps breaking down, not starting or one that cuts poorly.
Stock a good supply of materials such as loam and seed for repairs and maintenance. February is an ideal time to contact sales reps and find out what products are available for spring renovations. Never leave it late to order materials.
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 a Cricket Pitch and outfield through Spring & Summer preparation and Autumn & Winter renovations. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of managing 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.
Our next Spring Renovation & Maintenance courses are taking place as follows:
Tuesday 10 March, Bishop Auckland Cricket Club, Bishop Auckland, DL14 7JU
Wednesday 18 March, Guildford Cricket Club, Surrey, GU1 4RP
Wednesday 25 March, March Cricket Club, Cambridgeshire, PE15 9RS
More details are available on our Groundsman Training website.
Check your sightscreens for damage; many free standing types often get blown over during high winds or, worse still, are stored underneath trees, resulting in green algae forming on the sheeting. Check and repair fences and scoreboards. Organise appropriate repairs or replacements. Covers will be required for use during pre season preparations, make sure they are ready. Allow time for cleaning and repairing.
Artificial Pitches: Keep all surfaces clean and safe, by regular sweeping and brushing to remove any algae and moss from surface. Ensure damaged batting and bowling areas are repaired. Ripped or loose material could cause injury to players and end users.
Net Facilities: Replace or repair damaged structures and netting, order new if required. Strim and mow around structures.