October tends to be a month that can swing either way from prolonged dry spells and resultant dry patch to distinctly autumnal wetter days. Key things to keep an eye on will be night time temperatures, relative humidity and periods of leaf blade wetness.
Warmth and available moisture are the keys to both grass and fungal pathogenic growth. If night time temperatures fall, growth rates will start to drop off, however lower night time temperatures will lead to heavier morning dews, prolonged periods of leaf blade wetness and increased risk of attack from fungi.
If your local conditions are at the drier end of the spectrum, water stress can quickly creep in, especially on windy days when evapotranspiration rates are higher. This is something which represents a particular risk to newly sown seed which may be in the initial stages of early germination and establishment.
Nutrition and Disease Management
Nitrogen applications will still be required but favouring products with more slowly available forms such as the methylene urea contained with the Lebanon range is both sensible and a cost effective way of feeding. Ammonium sources should be applied with care so as not to force too much soft growth which is susceptible to disease.
However, readily available ammonium is useful in maximising establishment of sown areas ahead of the winter, but be sure to really keep on top of mowing and remove dews whenever possible so to avoid rapid spread of fungal diseases.
Ensure you take the time to look at the break down of the nitrogen component of any fertilisers you buy and don’t just simply make a judgement based upon the overall headline figure.
In terms of protecting soft young growth, then an application of a preventative systemic fungicide such as Bayer’s Interface® or Dedicate® and Syngenta’s Instrata® will help to guard the plant against infection during times of high susceptibility.
Potassium is required in a higher proportion as we enter the autumn winter period. Magnesium is the element at the centre of the chlorophyll molecule and applications of this secondary macro element as the days draw in will help the plant to maximise photosynthesis efficiency.
For anyone looking to be in fine control of nutrition, the combining little and often applications of a soluble or liquid fertiliser with a straight liquid nutrient is a key tactic in marinating plant health. Phosphite is particularly useful at this time of the year when it comes to providing the plant with an easily accessible form of phosphorous which also helps to resist the spread of fungal diseases. Calcium and Chelated Iron are also vital nutrients when it comes to toughening up the plant and increasing cell wall thickness. Different elements don’t always mix cleanly together, so it is worthwhile performing jug mixing tests and then alternating little and often applications either every two weeks or once per month depending on disease pressure arising from environmental factors.
Finally; a tonic of trace elements will help to sustain levels that may have reduced over the growing season and facilitate the plant with abroad spectrum diet moving inot the winter period.
Key Tasks for October
All clubs have their own methods of working and renovating their squares. In most 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.
Make sure your machinery is up to the task with regular services. In the main, most club groundsmen are now putting on between 6-10 bags of loam per pitch. It is important not to under or over-dress your tracks. Even in the current economic climate, it is best not to skimp on the amount of loam used. I see too many club tracks that do not perform in terms of pace and bounce because of poor end of season renovation practices.
Generally, it is usually a combination of two factors that, when combined, causes problems - not removing enough thatch or organic material during renovations and spreading insufficient loam down to increase the bulk density of the soil profile.
However, there is a fine line between too much and too little.
Soil Analysis: - If you have not had your soils tested for some time, then do so at the earliest possible chance. Soil tests commonly carried out fall into two categories: Physical and Chemical.
The physical analysis of soil reveals its texture, the amount of organic matter present, the rate of which the water passes through the soil profiles and the pore spaces within the soil.
The Chemical analysis produces information on soil acidity & alkalinity, the amount of mineral nutrients available for the grass plant to take up and the amount of toxins that may be harmful to the turf.
Scarification: - Scarification is important to remove unwanted vegetation, 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 season. The best way to identify how much you have is by taking a core sample. It will be then a case of going through a vigorous renovation programme, scarifying in at least three directions, finishing in the line of play.
Depending on how much thatch is removed, where necessary, clean off all the thatch debris after each pass. The square can then be over sown using a suitable grass seed mixture; do not be frightened to try out new cultivars. Sowing rates now range between 35-50 g per square metre. In essence, you are aiming to establish new grasses into your square.
Aeration: - The very basics of grass growth has never changed; sunlight, water and air, three factors essential for good grass growth of all plant life. Whilst we have no influence over the quality and hours of sunlight, there is a single management operation that directly influences the availability of the latter two. That is aeration. The purpose of aerating a cricket square is the key to producing the foundation upon which additional treatments can work.
Aeration relieves compaction, assists in top dressing to migrate down the tine holes and improves water percolation through the soil profile. It also helps to create the general environment essential for healthy grass growth. Autumn and winter aeration treatments are beneficial to promoting drier surfaces for further maintenance practices to take place. Solid tining is usually the most common practice but, where saddling is a problem to your ends, then hollow coring over a period of time will help with settlement.
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 water movement and retaining microbial organisms. A programme to decompact the soil is essential, preferably using a pedestrian powered vertical aerator, to re-introduce some porosity into the profile. Solid tine, hollow coring and linear aeration are a number of methods 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. However, there are a number of groundsmen who never aerate their cricket squares; they believe that the aeration holes formed can cause a weakness/stress line in the clay profile that could eventually break, causing problems with the pitches. They believe that the clay's ability to shrink and swell provides the necessary voids to promote root growth.
Top Dressing: - It's important not to overdress the square, as you will not only be wasting the precious loam material but you may also be smothering your sward. The last thing you want to be doing is to bury any vegetation, which will lead to future problems. The object of the renovations is revitalize the top growing zone, restore levels and to integrate new material into the soil profile. This will help build up the clay content in your square.
Irrigation should follow as soon as possible to assist in the germination of new seed. By keeping the soil moist, the seed should germinate between 7-10 days weather permitting, a germination sheet will aid this process.
Once the grass has germinated out on the square, you should look to maintain a cutting height between 15-25mm, and continue to brush off the dew in the mornings to keep the sward in a dry and disease free condition
Once you have finished renovating your square, devote some time to the outfield. Outfields are often neglected if not used for any winter sport such as rugby or football.
They do not get much attention in the way of scarifying / harrowing, aeration, topdressing, over seeding and, in some cases, not even being cut through the winter months.
Mowing of the outfield should be undertaken on a regular basis. By maintaining a height of cut between 25-35mm, this will help to encourage a dense sward and reduce disease.
Invest some money on your outfield to restore levels, kill any weeds and aerate where possible. Some clubs even use their pedestrian Groundsman spiker to aerate their outfields.
It may not be too late to get some selective weed killer applied, especially if soil and air temperatures remain favourable. Also apply a winter feed to help keep some colour and stimulate some growth
ideally, when aerating the outfields, penetration should be down to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting and surface drainage. Some groundsmen like to carry out a programme of solid tining, deep slitting or hollow coring, which again increases porosity but can also help redistribute/recycle topsoil 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.
Pitchcare have a new independent Soil Testing Service that enable you to get specific results for the soils you manage. Soil analysis is a means to discover what levels of nutrients are available to plants. There is an optimum for each plant nutrient and, when coupled with other properties such as soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigorous your plants are. Different nutrients undertake different tasks within the plant.
Ideally, it is good practice to undertake at least an annual soil test to analyse the nutrient status of your soil. This will help ensure you only apply what is required and not waste money and time applying products you do not need.
The choice of materials and how well it works, however, can be dependant on many factors, including soil type and the weather, with moisture and warmer air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.
Particularly fusarium, are often prevalent during the autumn, mainly due to the heavy dews that are present at this time of the year. Moisture on the leaf will allow diseases to move and spread easily.
The typical types of diseases you may come across are:
- Fusarium Patch
- Red Thread
- Fairy Rings
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
As soil moisture increases worm casting will become a problem on surfaces. With some sports the relative period where worm casts coincide with the playing season is relatively short, in such cases where casting density is not too severe then the best options are cultural controls such as brushing or switching prior to play and maintenance operations. Longer term forms of discouragement include lowering of soil pH if it is on the high side or sand top dressings which serve to discourage the worms in the soil as well as help the castings to dry out faster and disperse more easily.
The only legally approved and properly researched control of worms is Carbendazim. Using a pH buffer can improve results if your water is compromising the efficiency of this active ingredient.
October represents the last chance for you to be Pro-active not Re-active in regards to the control of both leatherjackets (end of the month) and chafer grubs (middle of the month) with entomopathogenic nematodes. If you fail to treat this year’s grubs when they are young and instead choose to let them grow over the winter there will be NO Way to control them in the spring once the crows and badgers start digging them up, as the now mature larvae rise to the surface with the warming soil temperatures to pupate.
As long as soil temperatures are warm then turf weeds will still be actively growing. As a result, the early part of the month represents the last opportunity to control weeds going into the winter; something which will not only improve presentation now but give facilities a head start with this issue next spring.
Keep machinery in good order, clean after use and top up any oil/fuel levels.
Check cutting cylinders are at correct cutting height and are sharp.
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.
More and more clubs are investing in all weather net areas and pitches. There is a need to keep these clean on a regular basis, they should be brushed weekly to keep them clean and remove any contamination.
Also an application of moss killer will help keep them free from Moss and Algae.
October 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. 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.