Expected weather for this month:

Colder, with temperatures just about into double figures

As most of us have already discovered, this time of year brings its own problems such as high winds and falling leaves that smother the ground, killing off vegetation as well as encouraging worms, so leaf collection is vitally important to keep the surface clean and dry.

Aeration of the square and outfield is vitally important, as this will assist drainage and air, vital to the plants root system, but is often delayed until November allowing the chance for the square to retain more moisture for the roots. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the likelihood of an outbreak of disease. Regular brushing to remove the dew will help reduce the prospect of any fungal attack.

Continue mowing the outfield whilst growth is present, raising the HOC and allowing photosynthesis to take place to encourage root development. Give your outfield a light rake or harrow to lift the grasses to allow air movement around the sward.

Further topdress any areas that may have sunk after renovation, such as foot holes, to retain levels following germination.

Have your machinery booked in for your winter overhaul and service.

Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club

Key Tasks for November

Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependent on the need and condition of the ground. It is important to maintain a constant HOC on both the square and outfield. The square should be maintained between 15-20mm with the outfield maintained at between 25-35mm.

Aeration of the square is often delayed until mid or end of November. Aerating when the square is too dry can lead to problems of root break. Ideally, you need moist soil conditions of around 75 -100mm to enable good penetration with the aid of solid tines. Most areas of the country will be ok following all the rain brought in by those storms in October. Sarrel roll your square to keep the surface open and surface moisture to a minimum.

Outfield Maintenance

Too many clubs tend to neglect their outfields, it is important to undertake some work on the cricket outfields as they are an important part of the game, they need to be firm, flat and free from weeds. Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter sports pitches, and the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby).

Ideally, on the outfields, aeration should penetrate to a depth around 150 to 200mm to promote deeper rooting. This can be achieved by deep slitting or solid tining. Some groundsmen like to carry out a programme of hollow coring, which again increases porosity and can also help to redistribute/recycle topsoil and which, in turn, helps restore levels. The frequency of aeration activities will often depend on the resources - money, machinery and time - available. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.

Some cricket grounds may have a number of mature deciduous trees nearby, which will inevitably lead to some amounts of leaf debris lying on the square and outfield. It is essential to remove leaves from the square. If left to accumulate, these leaves will become wet and which, in turn, will restrict light and air being available to the grass plant, thus putting the grass under stress and resulting in it turning yellow and then decaying. Vacuum, sweep or rake up leaves on a regular basis.

As ever, decisions on agronomic inputs are governed by climactic conditions. October witnessed certain extremes with Atlantic storms delivering forceful winds and heavy rain to the west of the British Isles whilst many other areas simultaneously experienced unseasonal warmth and, for some periods, even sunshine.

Such variability necessitates turf managers at all levels to keep themselves informed of upcoming weather forecasts and also ensure they are suitably prepared with the relevant inputs in stock. This means they are then able to react to application windows swiftly and decisively. Reference to growth degree and growth potential forecasts further allow managers to time inputs when the plant is the most receptive to efficient uptake and utilisation.

Traditionally, November brings with it short, dull days with plenty of rainfall and stormy weather, potentially good for removing leaves off the trees but less favourable for good turf conditions.

November then is a good time to be mindful of good sound cultural practices.

  • Remove dews to minimise periods of leaf blade wetness, thereby reducing humidity in the sward canopy and helping to prevent fungal pathogen advance.
  • Aerate little and often whenever ground conditions allow to facilitate balanced soil water/air ratios, maintaining aerobic conditions and supporting beneficial soil microorganisms.
  • Remove leaves from surfaces to prevent microclimates which promote conditions for pathogen attack and also weaken the plant, making it further susceptible.
  • Raise mowing heights to increase leaf surface area and accordingly help the plant to compensate for reduced day length by maintaining photosynthesis potential (the plants energy factory), such that plants can maintain healthy and efficient metabolic function.

Nutritional inputs should be applied with the aim of maximising plant health and resilience through November in a bid to prepare the plant, and thus surfaces, to better cope with the oncoming rigours of December, January and February.

From a feed perspective, adequate nitrogen for plant function is all that is required; forcing growth for aesthetics or recovery from disease scars potentially risks increasing susceptibility to pathogens.

Pay close attention to the secondary micronutrients, sulphur, calcium and magnesium as well as the assorted micronutrients. No one nutrient is more important than the other, they are just required in different quantities. Identifying deficiencies and topping up plant levels with liquid applications is the best way to provide a healthy balanced diet which will allow the plant to be happier, healthier and more resilient in the coming months.

Wetting agents are a go to item at the start of the season with an eye on preventing drought and dry patch. Correct water management should be a prime concern all through the year, with penetrant wetting agents designed to drive water through the profile being the tool of choice from October and November onwards.

Biostimulants are still useful tools through November, whether it be seaweed, sugar or humic substances. Applications should be timed during periods of low disease pressure when they will be most useful to the plant and its associated beneficial microorganisms. Avoid applications during times of pathogenic pressure so as not to further facilitate their function.

Disease management is due to become more challenging following the recent EU vote to not renew the approval of Iprodione on the grounds of human health concerns (Iprodione is an endocrine disruptor). Notification of withdrawal is expected in December, with end of sale and use/disposal of stocks expiry dates expected to come into effect around March and June respectively.

October, November December 2017 then are the last peak fungal disease months where turf managers will be afforded the luxury of a ‘knock it on the head’ active ingredient with which to act reactively to visible signs of disease attack, whether that be mycelium or scarring.

For many months, these diaries have sought to promote the message of Integrated Turf Management with respects to proactive, preventative disease management. Rather than an option, that principle is a rapidly approaching as a necessity.

Anyone seeking further help and advice on such matters should not be afraid to reach out and seek assistance, whether that be from informed peers who are already successfully utilising such techniques, or by telephoning Pitchcare and asking to speak to one of eight BASIS registered advisors, all of whom are trained and accredited in the latest legislative and management practices.

Servicing time, so get your machinery booked in.

Store away all other equipment in a dry area; cold and damp conditions can do a lot of damage.

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 next Spring & Summer courses will be held:

READING CC - Tuesday 6 March 2018

MARCH CC, Cambridgeshire - Thursday 22 March 2018

Up to date information can be found on our Grounds Training website.

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.

If you have some time to yourself over the winter months, you could also enjoy this training online. The Lantra accredited course in Cricket Pitch Maintenance is a series of training videos, each followed by multi-choice questions and answers. In addition to the videos, the accompanying comprehensive Course Manual is also included. There is a choice of courses - Spring & Summer and Autumn & Winter - more information.

We are also able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.

If you haven't already done so, it is good practice to erect some sort of protective fencing around the square, which not only protects it from pests, (dog walkers, rabbits, deer, foxes), vehicles and vandals, but deters people from trampling all over it disturbing the end of season renovations.

Latest discussion points on the Pitchcare Forum:

First Cut
New growth turning yellow