Expected weather for this month:

Unsettled in the north, with drier, sunnier periods in the south

As predicted Mother Nature has the last word on the weather. A mini heat wave, as well as the sprinkle of “April Sowers” followed by cold northerly winds that has assisted the squares to dry out. The unexpected high temperatures experienced has boosted Pre Season Rolling and helped to dry out the ground in readiness for the start of the new season. With increasing sunlight now becoming more available, soil and air temperatures should gradually increase. Planning the use of your pitches will limit wear; 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.

May, should see an increase in grass growth, so be sure to mow your square regularly. Applications of spring and summer fertiliser to the square and outfield will help stimulate the plant and keep it from being stressed. Try to take some pride in the way you present your facility, as a well presented square and outfield will impress and encourage players to perform. 

Diary compiled by Robert Stretton 
Massey Ferguson Sports Club 

Key Tasks for May

Maintenance Regimes

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. A spring/summer fertiliser should now be applied to encourage top growth, using manufacturer's recommended rates. Rye grasses are more wear tolerant when fed correctly. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual maintenance programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results. 

Wicket Preparations

Pitch preparation should start 10-12 days prior to the match. Following the guidelines below will help you achieve a good standard of pitch. Most groundsmen will have their 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 

It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for pitch preparation, repairs and the health of the plant. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied. It's important to ensure that the water penetrates into the rootzone to a minimum of 100- 150mm to encourage deeper rooting. Check with a probe. Allow to dry and repeat irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems such as dry patch, scorching and death of the plant.

Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play. After match pitch repairs begin with the brushing and sweeping up of any surface debris. Soak the wicket, scarify and spike,

Seeding of the ends where the grass is weak, sparse or bare can be continued, as 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. 


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.

Try and get on and give it a uniformed cut followed by some aeration and feed. Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter pitches so the amount of work required to be carried out may be determined by whether the outfield has been used for other sports (football/rugby). If not, a light harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open. Apply balanced fertilisers such as a 9-7-7 as part of your annual maintenance programme to help stimulate growth and recovery. Aerating the outfield will help to increase aerobic activity and get some much needed oxygen around the grass plants root system?

Regular spiking and, if possible, an application of sand dressings to the profile will definitely improve soil water movement in the top 100mm. You may wish to hollow core your outfields and then brush the cores back into the surface (recycling the existing material), this helps to restore levels, reduce thatch and helps speed up the surface.

Ideally, maintain a cutting height of between 10-14 mm; however, 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 whereas boxing off with a cylinder or a hydraulic gang mower with floating heads can give a better finish. Outfields which have been predominantly over seeded with rye grasses are subject to stress if mown to 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.

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. 

Pests: - 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 active where worms are prevalent and need to be treated as they can cause a lot of damage to the surface. 

Leather jackets and chafers are fairly prevalent at the moment. Merit can still be applied if people have it in stock, but it can be tricky to get a good kill when the grubs are at this stage of development.

As soils warm up, there may be some symptoms of plant parasitic nematode activity. There are two categories of nematode which will infect grass plants; Ectoparasitic which migrate along the outside of roots and feed accordingly on root cells and Endoparasitic nematodes which enter the root tissue and feed on the plants in these areas.

Be vigilant for the following symptoms:

• Yellowing and thinning of the turf

• Reduced turf vigour

• Premature wilt

• Turfgrass that is slow to recover from stress

• Turfgrass that does not respond to fertilisation

Biomass Sugar will assist in returning balance to the soil and reducing plant stress associated from parasitic nematode attack.

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 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.

Mark out boundary line or ensure rope is in place.
Scoreboards are ready for use.
Sightscreens repaired, painted and in place.
Covers checked for damage and utilized.
Practice nets cleaned, marked and in good order.
Erect security netting around buildings to deter balls from damaging properties.
Ensure stumps are correct size, bails and yardage disks are available.

All that is left to say is “Have a great season”