With the cooler air coming down from the north it feels more like autumn, and with it comes the heavy dews as ground temperatures create a microclimate for disease. Fusarium can be devastating this time of the year leaving large orange/brown patches all over your square and outfield. Switching or brushing to remove the moisture from the plant first thing will help prevent spread of the disease. Spraying can be costly but very effective where time management is important.
As the season winds down, those who still have some cricket left to play will be busy preparing end of season pitches, whilst others such as schools and universities will be turning their attentions to more important issues such as renovations, machinery hire and materials. A comprehensive renovation programme should be employed to de-compact and rejuvenate your square. The longer you leave your renovations though, the less likely you will obtain favourable germination rates as soil and air temperatures tend to drop in October, slowing down the production of grass growth. Most clubs will have their own methods of renovating their squares. In such cases, the level of work will be dictated by what budgets and resources they have available at the time, and what they are trying to achieve.
I notice there has been some discussion on the Pitchcare Message Board about renovations - you might want to have a look to see if you have any similar experiences - Message Board.
Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Key Tasks for September
Heavy morning dews can cause problems to your sward as the plant stays wet for long periods and is vulnerable to attack from Fusarium. Regular brushing to remove as much moisture from the plant will help in control of the disease. Spray where possible as prevention is better than a cure.
As we move through the month, regular mowing of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Continue with your “after care of the wicket”; repairs and renovation to used pitches should still be undertaken even with the season's end just around the corner. Player safety is paramount.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme.
Pay particular attention to your foot holes as they may require more intense work. Do not neglect your outfield either; as this is the largest area of maintenance, it still needs to be carefully managed.
Preparing for matches should be as normal, using the 12 day preparation programme as outlined in last month's diary.
If you have completed your season, set the HOC between 4 and 5mm and give your square a final cut to remove as much vegetation as possible.
Irrigate the square copiously to allow moisture to get down into the soil profile to aid machinery, such as scarifiers, to do their work.
Check delivery schedules for end of season renovation programmes
Start end of season renovation of the square.
September is usually a good month to carry out any additional ground works, particularly drainage, especially when using heavy pipe laying machinery. Ground conditions are able to sustain the weight and action of these machines without causing too much damage to the turf surface.
End of season renovations
As a general rule of thumb, 6-10 bags of loam are applied per wicket. It is important not to under or over dress your pitches, remembering that your ends must also be considered. Applying to the middle of the pitches only will create a crown.
Even in the current economic climate, it is best not to skimp on the amount of loam used. Too many club pitches do not perform well in terms of pace and bounce, as wear and tear is magnified during use. Generally, it is usually a combination of two factors that causes most problems: failure to remove enough thatch/debris material during renovations and not applying enough loam to increase the bulk density of the soil profile, resulting in slow and low pitches.
However, there is a fine line between too much and too little. It's important not to overdress the square, as you will not only be wasting the precious loam material, you may also be smothering your sward. The last thing you want to be doing is burying any vegetation, which will lead to future problems such as thatch layering.
The object of the renovation is to revitalize your square by restoring surface levels and encouraging new growth. Scarification is important to remove any unwanted build up of vegetation and organic matter, but also to produce a key for the new loam material to sit in.
The level of scarification required will be dependent on how much of a thatch layer you have generated throughout the playing season. The best way to identify how much you have is by taking a core sample. Then it will be a case of going through a vigorous scarification programme.
Scarify in at least three different directions, finishing with the line of play. Ensure you clean off all the thatch debris after each pass. Follow this by sarrel rolling, in four directions to encourage as many seed holes as possible, before over seeding the square using a suitable grass seed mixture; do not be afraid to try out new cultivars. Use a quality seed; cheap seed is a false economy. Sowing rates now range between 35-50 gm per square metre. In essence, you are aiming to establish new grasses into your square. Some may wish to carry out deep aeration to de-compact their squares at this point by solid tining, if ground conditions warrant it.
It is then a case of topdressing with loams compatible to native or existing soils to restore levels and to integrate new material into the soil profile. This will help to build up the clay content in your square. Irrigate to wash in new loams and to help speed up germination. The seed should germinate between 7-10 days weather permitting. The use of germination sheets will encourage new growth by retaining moisture and keeping the soil warm.
Once you have completed your renovation programme on your square, devote some time to your outfield. This area does not get much attention in the way of aeration, topdressing, over seeding or mowing through the winter months. If you have not got a maintenance programme for the outfield, then you can't expect it to perform as well as your square. Mow the outfield regularly through the winter months where possible, at 30 -35mm every six weeks is a good start, this will help keep your levels and you will soon see improved performances next season.
On the square, however, you should look to maintain a cutting height between 12-30mm, and continue to brush off any early morning dew to keep the sward dry and disease free.
Aeration is a key operation to help improve the condition of the soil following a season’s play. Soil compaction is often the main contributing factor to poor grass growth; the lack of air in the soil profile inhibits many beneficial activities, such as retaining beneficial organisms, soil water movement and the washing in of fertilisers.
A programme of de- compaction of the soil is essential to re-introduce some porosity into the profile. Solid tining, hollow coring and linear aerating are a number of methods now being used to aerate soil profiles. These operations tend to be carried out on a frequency basis depending on the type and size of the tines being used.
Ideally, where outfields are of a concern, de-compaction should be to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting. Some groundsmen prefer to carry out a programme of hollow coring, which again increases porosity but can also help redistribute/recycle soil around the outfield which, in turn, helps restore levels.
The frequency of aeration activities will often be dependent on the resources available; money, time and machinery available. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the autumn and winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.
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 and red thread are the most commonly seen.
Worms can also be active, so keep an eye the square and treat accordingly. Worm treatments can be carried out if needed; but remember to ask your self why worms are present. pH level, 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.
Have your soil tested by an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results. Most ground managers will be looking to apply their autumn fertilisers in association with their end of season renovations.
Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all Groundsmen and Greenkeepers.
For many years, the turf industry has promoted the use of Performance Quality Standards PQS to ascertain the standard of sport pitch maintenance.
It is important to survey and measure the performance of your facilities. With modern technologies, tools and a camera, we can now measure all manner of aspects of the pitch/golf green or artificial pitch to ensure it meets any stated guidelines by the sports governing bodies. These can include measuring sward height, composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, levels, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.
Soil tests will also help determine soil type, nutrient status of the soil, organic matter content, CEC capacity and soil pH.
Keeping a record of these parameters will help you have a better understanding of what is going on within your playing surface, and enable you to make better decisions on what maintenance inputs you will need to undertake to maintain surface playability.
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, Fairy Rings 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 drag matting in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak. Fusarium article.
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. Red Thread article.
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. 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.
A useful article on Fairy Rings can be found in the Pitchcare articles section.
Worms can also 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.
Soil tempratures in September may still be favourable for one final application of selective herbicide to control any broad leaf weeds in your outfield.
Mowers, scarifiers, aerators, spreaders and dragbrushes/mats should all be to hand and in tip top condition in preparation for your end of season renovations.
• Spend time maintaining your equipment and machinery, regular servicing and cleaning will help prolong the life and performance of your equipment.
• Keep mowing blades sharp and well adjusted, check heights of cut are correct and uniform.
• Also spend time keeping your shed clean and tidy, not always easy, but good housekeeping is essential to help make your job safe and easy.
• Always clean mowers and equipment after use.
• Plan and organise your end of season material requirements (loam, seed, and fertilisers).
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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.
Our one day Autumn & Winter courses are taking place as follows:
Friday 18 September Salisbury & South Wilts Sports Club, Salisbury Hampshire
Tuesday 22 September Guildford Cricket Club
Thursday 24 September Banbury Cricket Club
Tuesday 22 September Bishops Stortford Cricket Club, Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire
Monday 5 October Binsted Sports Pavilion, Binsted, Hampshire
We now have a two day course, which includes more on field practical work:
Wednesday 9 & Thursday 10 September King George V Pavilion, Ferndown, Dorset
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.
Other Key Tasks
• Inspect flat sheets, covers and other cricket equipment whilst checking for wear and tear and that they are fit for purpose.
• At the end of the season, please remember to store away scoreboards, practice nets, sight screens and covers.
• Where necessary, fence off the cricket square at the end of the season to protect it from pests, (dog walkers, rabbits, deer, foxes), vehicles and vandals.