Not a bad March for most parts of the country, with decent temperatures and drying winds allowing the important pre-season rolling to be undertaken. We're into the good growing season now, and the busiest period for most groundsmen as they complete their PSR and start getting the pitches ready for their first games. With pitch preparation and outfields to maintain, time management is vitally important.
Rain is forecast, so squares that are lying wet 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 favourable ground conditions.
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. Planning your workload to meet your objectives will help in this task.
Diary compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Key Tasks for April
As normal for this time of the year, squares will require a lot of time management, scarifying, mowing, rolling and marking out; then there is your outfield, which will require mowing, aeration, raking or harrowing to raise the sward.
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 your machinery and equipment is serviced, in good condition and ready for use.
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 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.
Advice on the Pitchcare Forum 12 months ago, relating to pre-season rolling and fertiliser treatments.
Other useful current Forum threads:
Spring 2017 has thus far been kind for many areas of the UK, with reasonable temperatures for growth accompanied by a useful mix of sunshine and rainfall. Nutritionally speaking, grass plants will be requiring an increased amount of nitrogen to help fuel the growth of roots initially, followed by leaf and shoots once temperatures are sufficiently raised.
Spring represents the best time to undertake a broad spectrum chemical soil analysis. The subsequent report will help turf managers to make factual based decisions on further nutritional requirement throughout the year. Deficiencies can then be addressed through granular or foliar fertilisers, thus maximising plant health and surface quality.
The role of potassium is increasingly being understood with respect to water mobilisation, and recent research indicates an application of potassium in the spring helps to guard against drought stress in the summer.
Since the enforcement of the clean air act, we see that sulphur levels are often low in many soils. Sulphur is a vital element for plant health, playing a key role in protein production which drives immune response in many organisms. Proteins are created from amino acids, many of which are sulphur based. Ensuring adequate sulphur levels in the spring, with an application of a granular fertiliser containing ammonium sulphate, will help to boost levels as the season starts.
Be sure to check and compare the nutritional analysis lists on all your fertilisers; looking at values other than NPK will reveal additional nutrients in the mix which may be of benefit - Fertilisers
Increasingly the role of biostimulants is being recognised by turf managers at all levels:
- Carbon sources: for example BioMass sugar facilitates a balancing of the carbon to nitrogen ratio in the soil. This allows both microorganisms and plants to maintain this vital ratio within their systems when up-taking the nutrient, better facilitating nitrogen efficiency and utilisation. Simply put, sugars are essentially soil life and plant carbon fertilisers, which can be applied regularly to rootzones throughout the year.
- Seaweed: when applied as a liquid foliar treatment, contains a variety of plant hormones, enzymes, vitamins and trace elements which should be utilised to prime plant defences by eliciting better responses to stress events and provides a general stimulator of plant metabolic function. Liquid seaweed also acts as a chelating agent for nutrients. Seaweeds should be used on a regular basis to prime plant defences and stimulate efficient plant function.
- Humates: are naturally occurring core components of healthy soils, produced as a by-product of organic decomposition. Humate substances act as a soil structure improver, microorganism habitat, microorganism stimulant, nutrient bank improver, nutrient carrier, chelator. Humates can be applied throughout the year to increase nutrient uptake and efficiency, boost soil biology function and habitat, and increase the nutrient holding capacity of the soil.
Often wetting agents are applied too late in the season to be made the best use of. Quite often, the use of wetting agents will be approached in a similar vein to disease management i.e. waiting for symptoms before treating the problem. Once dry patch areas are visible, the chemistry within the soil necessitates the need for a curative wetting agent to strip away the organic proteins causing the water repellence; these wetting agents can be quite harsh to soil ecology and, as a result, there are not too many on the market.
The majority of wetting agents contain two molecules which act independently from each other for different effects:
Penetrant molecule: a penetrant wetting agent is designed to move water away from the surface and down through the profile.
Polymer molecule: a polymer molecule is designed to capture water and hold it lower down in the profile.
The majority of wetting agents will utilise both molecules, the penetrant to firstly move water away from the surface where it may contribute towards surface wear or just simply evaporate; the polymer molecule to then capture that water further down the profile and retain it for plants to uptake.
This strategy requires a build-up of the molecules and subsequent water cycling processes ahead of dry periods to help PREVENT the onset of dry conditions. As a result, to gain the best effect from wetting agents, they should be applied monthly through the growing season starting in the spring.
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.
The normal cultural control for disease prevention should be adopted, such as monitoring weather conditions for peak periods, removing morning dews and avoiding excessive applications of nitrogen. Increasingly, turf managers will find that many of the weapons in the fungicidal armoury are likely to become less available in the years to come, particularly in respect to curative contact type active ingredients.
Under this climate, it will be critically important that turf managers at all levels are equipped with the knowledge and understanding to maximise the use of systemic fungicides for best effect. This integrated approach will go hand in hand with reference to historical occurrence records and disease forecasting technologies, prior to visible signs of infection, and will be the only method of chemical control. Increasingly, turf managers will have to manage disease outbreaks preventatively, by using cultural controls and maintaining plant health and eliciting plant resistance through careful nutritional applications. The key elements in this instance being calcium, phosphite and iron.
The wisest of individuals will take early opportunities to seek out and engage with organisations and associations, when learning and professional development opportunities present themselves.
More advice and information is available on the website – Fungicide Programmes
Worms can also 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, for the time being. All personnel should be suitably qualified in the application of chemicals - Carbendazim withdrawal timescale
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.
Many areas are suffering the effects of chemical insecticide withdrawal over the past year, with chafer grubs and leatherjackets causing problems for turf managers, either through their direct action on the grass plant or through the indirect damage of mammals and birds seeking out a meal.
There are no effective treatments for the control of these insect pests in the spring control should be carried out at the correct time of the year with entomopathogenic nematodes. Nematode treatments are very successful when applied within the correct application windows which respect the life cycles of both pest and control.
More information and advice is available on the website – Chafers and Leatherjackets.
Maintaining a cricket square requires regular mowing, so it is important to keep your blades sharp at all times. Backlapping 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 pitch.
We are pleased to announce the launch of our new Grounds Training website, together with our new suite of online courses
Our Lantra Accredited Spring & Summer Cricket Pitch Maintenance Course is now available as an online course.
Now you can learn about how to maintain a cricket pitch in the comfort of your own home and in your own time. This newly developed course covers Spring & Summer Maintenance and consists of a number of videos with assessment questions, and an accompanying hard copy Course Manual. The Online Course is Lantra accredited and provides you with all the basic knowledge required to maintain a cricket pitch over the period stated. There is also the option of attending a one day practical course.
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of a Cricket Pitch.
We will also be running our regular one and two day courses at various venues during the year.
Our spring courses are now available. Up to date information can be found on our new 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.
We can also arrange Lantra accredited training 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.