Expected weather for this month:

Cool and below average temperatures at start, warming up towards the end

“Patience is a virtue” as the saying goes, but my word this year has tried the patience of a saint when it comes to Mother Nature. Just when you think it’s all over, another storm rolls in and we are back to square one again. But for those who manage to dodge the weather and got some PSR in, well done.

Squares that are lying wet though 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 favorable ground conditions.

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.

Planning your workload to meet your objectives will help in this task.

Diary compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Coventry

Key Tasks for April

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 course 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 for good consolidation.

Ensure you machinery & equipment is serviced, good condition and ready for use.

Wicket Preparations

Pitch preparation should start 10-12 days prior to the match. Following the guild lines below will help you achieve a good standard of pitch. Most groundsmen will have there own interpretation of these activities. Marking out the crease should be done with care, using frames or string to help achieve clear, straight lines.

DAY 1    String out pitch lines to ensure correct width, 10 ft; Mow out @ 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
DAY 2    Brush / light rake, mow @ 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. Reduce HOC & mow @ 7 mm. continue medium light rolling 1000 kg 10-15 minutes.
DAY 4    Roll pitches increasing roller weight to consolidate the surface.
DAY 5    Scarify with hand rake to raise sword after rolling. Reduce HOC to 6mm
DAY 6     20-30 minute’s with heavy roller.
DAY 7     Light scarify by hand to raise sward, mow @ 6 mm, increase weight of roller to 1500- 1700 kg continue rolling 30 minutes reducing speed to consolidate surface. 
DAY 8    Continue rolling for 30 minutes at slow speed to achieve consolidation. Cover pitch over night to encourage moisture to rise to surface.
DAY 9    Brush / rake lifting any lateral grasses, reduce HOC mow (with a shaver blade) to 4mm, try to avoid scalping. Roll using heavy roller slow speed (crawling) 30 minutes morning & again late afternoon where possible. Cover pitch over night.
DAY 10    Brush & mow pitch, roll morning and afternoon slow as possible (crawling). 
DAY 11    Brush, mow & roll to polish surface, test bounce with an old ball along edge of pitch. Continue rolling to consolidate surface. Cover pitch over night.
DAY 12    Brush, mow & 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 E.C.B guidelines. (TS4 booklet)
    
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 

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 vigor, sward growth and density. 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. 

Soil tests should be taken, ideally once or a year, or as required. April is an ideal time to obtain a soil analysis of the green, measuring for soil pH, nutrient levels and organic matter content, which are seen as good indicators of the condition of the soil. Once you have this information, you will be in a better position to plan your season's feeding and maintenance programmes.

Fertilising: Ideally, you should have conducted a soil analysis of your soil profile to ascertain the nutrient status of your green. This will help you decide on what fertiliser products to buy and apply.

Ensure you apply at the recommended rates and do not overdose the green or overlap when applying the products. There are plenty of spring fertiliser products available to meet your needs.

Most groundstaff will be applying a spring/summer NPK fertiliser, perhaps something like a 9:7:7 which will effectively get the grass moving during April. Then, towards the end of the month, or early May, apply a slow release fertiliser to see you through to June/July. However, the choice of feed and how well it works can be dependant on many factors - soil type, weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalysts for growth.

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.

 

Maintaining a cricket square requires regular mowing, so it is important to keep your blades sharp at all times. Back lapping 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.

Our spring courses are now available. Up to date information can be found on our Groundsman Training website.

Our next planned course is:

Monday 11 April 2016, Thames Ditton CC, Surrey - 1 day course

More information

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.