Expected weather for this month:

Generally settled with above average temperatures

As weather conditions dictate the work required on your cricketing facilities; the experts are forecasting a hot spell for June and July, so keeping the square primed for moisture is vitally important in preparing new or used pitches Most of your work this month will be focused on preparing and renovation of used pitches, as well as your outfield. 

Planning the use of your pitches will limit wear, especially on small squares; starting with the odd numbers first, if that’s your preference, work across the square and try not to over use them this early in the season Try to take some pride in the way you present your facility, as a well presented square and outfield will impress visitors and encourage players to perform. 

Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Coventry 

Key Tasks for June

Key Tasks

Pitch preparations, mowing and marking should be in full swing. Following the 10-12 day guidelines, try to produce a consistent wicket with fast medium pace. Be sure to get your lines accurate and straight. Start the month off with a good irrigation of the square, if you haven't already done so.

Remember to follow any feedback from your soil analysis if applying liquid or granular fertilisers. As you move through the month, regular mowing of the square at 10-12mm will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. The outfield should be boxed off or gang mowed at 15-18mm, avoiding scalping. Repairs and renovation to used pitches should be carried out as soon as they come out of use, paying particular attention to your foot holes as they may require more intense work.

Fertilising of the square can be undertaken, if not already done so, remembering that granular feeds to be well watered in.

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

General maintenance

Irrigation is a key management tool, so it will be a case of watering little and often when you can, preferably at night so the water can reach the root system. Evapotranspiration rates should begin to rise in the coming month, initiating the need to begin regular syringing of the square. The combined water loss from both the plant and soil surfaces will 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. Watering in high, daytime temperatures will be less effective and could encourage shallow rooting as the water fails to get deep enough to stimulate the plant roots. 

Cricket clubs without a supply of water are often left in the lap of the gods. The use of covers or groundsheets is one way to help protect pitches and retain moisture, 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 climates and environment. Put an action plan together to get the best out of the weather conditions after a good shower or prolonged rainfall.

It is important to ensure that the water gets down deep into the rootzone to encourage deep rooting. Check with a probe. 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 when removing 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 1-2 mm 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 on what level of maintenance inputs are required.

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 is 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)

Pitch preparation

The 10 -12 day prep shown below is only a guide; most Groundsmen will have their own interpretations of these activities

Pitch preparation should start 10-12 days prior to the match. Following the guidelines below will help you achieve a good standard of pitch. 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 minutes 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 and again late afternoon where possible. Cover pitch overnight.
DAY 10   Brush & mow pitch, roll morning and afternoon slow as possible (crawling). 
DAY 11   Brush, mow and roll to polish surface, test bounce with an old ball along edge of pitch. Continue rolling to consolidate surface. Cover pitch overnight.
DAY 12   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 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 

After care of the wicket

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. 

Outfield

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. Applying a balanced fertiliser such as a 9-7-7, as part of your annual maintenance programme, will help stimulate growth and recovery. Aerating the outfield will help to increase aerobic activity, getting some much need oxygen around the plants roots system.

Regular spiking and, if possible, an application of sand dressings to the profile will definitely improve surface levels and soil water movement in the top 100mm.Ideally, regular mowing of the outfield is important to encourage sward density and reduce the infestation of weeds. Maintaining a cutting height of between 10-14 mm will encourage a fast smooth surface, but 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, where, as boxing off with a cylinder or a hydraulic gang mowers with floating heads can give a better finish. Outfields which are used for winter sports, and over seeded with perennial 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. 

Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all Groundsman/Greenkeepers. With the aid of modern technologies, tools and a camera you can now monitor the performance and the condition of your sward in many ways.

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 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 over a 3m level, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.

In recent years, we have seen the development of GPS mapping devices that can measure chlorophyll, moisture content and deviation in levels. 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.

Weeds are at their most prominent now, such as dandelions, daisies and plantains and should be treated accordingly as they will restrict grass plant growth and maturity by reducing light and air around leaf bade. Spraying with a selected weed killer will control the infestation. Remember, all personnel should be suitably qualified in the application of chemicals.

Worms may also be active after a very wet winter, so treatments can be carried out if needed; the use of Carbendazim is the only active ingredient for controlling worms. Moles can be active where worms are present and need to be treated as they can cause a lot of damage to the surface. 

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 drag matting 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.

Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php

All machinery should now have been returned from any servicing in time for use, with ongoing inspection and cleaning after use being vital. Breakdowns cost money as well as inconveniencing pitch preparations.

The workshop should be kept in a good order; good housekeeping is important, a tidy workshop reflects a tidy worker.

Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for pitch repairs and maintenance.

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.

  • Clean down machinery after use
  • Keep your workshop / garage / storage areas clean and tidy
  • Regularly inspect flat sheets, covers and other ground equipment for wear and tear, and that they are fit for purpose.