Expected weather for this month:

Generally changeable but drier spell in middle of the month

With two thirds of the season now over, the square will be looking a bit worst for wear as used pitches take time to recover. As we move into August, surface cracking will be the biggest problem, so keep watering and don’t let the plant suffer, as once it wilts it will not recover. Keep your irrigation programme running. It is surprising how quickly clay soils can dry out, usually within a few days of fine weather.

Renovations will be the order of the day for schools, colleges and universities, as they close for their summer holidays. Be sure to have any machinery booked in and your orders for seed, dressings and fertilisers already placed and ready for delivery

Taking a core sample; having it analysed will give you the ideal information to make those much needed improvements to your square.

Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton 
Massey Ferguson Sports Club 
Coventry

Key Tasks for August

General Maintenance

As you move through the month, regular mowing and scarifying of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Make sure your machinery is up to the task with regular service.

After care of the wicket, with repairs and renovation to used pitches should still be undertaken even with the season's end just around the corner. Player safety is paramount. Pay particular attention to your foot holes as they may require more intense work.

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

Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. Outfields are often prone to drying and becoming parched, to almost wilting point; allowing surfaces to remain too dry 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 uses of wetting agents (outfields only) have now become an integral part of the maintenance regime with applications on a monthly basis throughout the summer.

As schools and colleges close down for the summer term, many groundsmen will already be undertaking wicket renovations, making good use of the weather conditions in August, to help establish some good grass growth whilst soil and air temperatures remain consistent.

Whilst on the subject of end of season renovations, most clubs will not be starting their renovation programme for another month or more. Use this time to plan and order your consumables. You do not want to find yourself left short or without loam or grass seed come the time you are due to begin your autumn renovation work. Ensure any hired equipment is readily available and secured for use.

The amount of seed and topdressings required will depend on the condition and size of your square. In recent years we have seen an increase in the amount of seed being used for reseeding. Groundsmen are now sowing at rates of 50 grams per square metre, thus increasing the amount of grass cover going into the winter period.

Many Groundsmen are reducing the amount of loam being applied to their squares also, generally now between 7- 10 bags per strip. This prevents the build up of saddles at the ends and prevents the smothering of existing grass cover on the square.

Match Preparations

Mowing of the square and outfield should be undertaken on a regular basis to control growth and thicken up the sward. The square should be maintained between 6mm and 14mm, and the outfield between 12mm and 25mm. Continue to verticut, training the grass to grow vertically. If you don't have a verticut option, then use a drag brush to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verticutting units, be very careful not to mark/scar the soil surface, as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out. 

Portable or roll–on covers are very useful in protecting surfaces during hot dry and inclement weather. Covers are used to control the soil moisture content of cricket wickets, especially when preparing for play. 

Use heavy ballast rollers to help prepare the wickets for matches, making sure it is done under the correct surface conditions, when the soil is moist but not too wet. Carrying out a Proctor soil test will help determine the correct timing of rolling. A simpler method is to stick a knife or slit tine into the soil profile and see if it comes out clean. If it does, it's the right time to roll. Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play. Ideal rolling conditions would suggest the soil be in a state of plasticity or "plastercine". Consolidation will still be your aim throughout the season. The pitch is required to be consolidated throughout to a depth of no less than 100mm. 

Proctor testing is used to evaluate the compaction characteristics of the soil. This test determines the maximum density the soil can be compacted to, and at what moisture content the soil is most prone to compaction. Proctor testing is useful in determining how compacted a soil is in the field. 

Take care when applying fertiliser, there needs to be sufficient soil moisture present to activate these products. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual 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. 

Applying fertiliser when ground conditions are dry and arid is not viable, as the plant cannot make use of the nutrients. Dry soils do not allow effective transport of nutrients into the grass plant. Irrigate your square well to enable efficient transfer of nutrients to the plant. Care should be taken when fertilising the square; initiating green lush growth on a wicket you are about to prepare is the last thing you want to achieve, as it will have an affect on the performance of the pitch.

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. Water the pitch thoroughly in the event that the pitch has dried out through pre season rolling. 
DAY 2    Brush / light rake, mow @ 8mm, light roll to consolidate surface levels.    
DAY 3    Scarify or Verti cut to remove lateral growth and surface thatch avoiding deep surface disturbance. Mow @ 7mm. continue medium light rolling 1000kg 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 @ 6mm, increase weight of roller to 1500- 1700kg 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 mower (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 overnight.
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

After Match Care

This is the time of the season when most groundsmen will have had three months 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.

Treatment must be carried out as soon as possible after the game. As soon as the match has finished, sweep and remove as much debris as possible, such as studs, from the surface so as not to damage your machinery. Mow the whole of the pitch at final cut height, and then thoroughly soak the pitch by hand in order to penetrate the surface, ensuring not to pass the 5 foot marks as the ends need to be kept dry at this stage.

When the surface has partially dried off, sarrel roll or spike with a similar type of equipment; this will help offset any compaction created by the heavy rolling during the preparation process; it will also aerate the surface and produce a good seed bed. Overseed the pitch with perennial rye grass by use of a mechanical or pedestrian spreader, and apply a low nitrogen fertiliser at a rate recommended by the manufacturer.

By using germination sheets, this will speed up the process of recovery of the pitch. It is of no benefit to merely scatter seed over the used pitch and leave it. In order that the seed has a better chance of germinating, it is important that the seed is well worked in or brushed into the holes created by the sarrel roller to enable seed to soil contact.

The next important step is to carry out repairs to the batsmen and bowlers' foot marks. These areas may be relatively deep, especially if repairs have not been carried out during 2 days or more of cricket on the same pitch. For repairs, use only the wicket loam native to your pitches. This will help in the binding of the soils during recovery.

Firstly, prepare a stock of preferred virgin wicket soil to just a damp stage, but still quite firm. You should be able to squeeze it together in your hand like plastercine. If you had your topdressing delivered in bags, it should have sufficient moisture to carry out your repairs; if not, dampen whilst still in the bag and leave overnight or until required. If you are repairing the ends where the pitch is being taken out of play, then add some grass seed to your mix, this will assist in the germination process and speed up recovery.

The tools required will be a lump hammer, fine spray water bottle, a rammer (elephant's foot used for tarmacing), a fork and a plastering trowel.

To start, sweep in the same direction as you would for intervals, paying attention to the foot holes created by the bowlers and the deep scars from the batsmen. Put the sweepings to one side. When swept, ram the dry holes very firmly and any spots the bowlers may have moved. Hammering the edges to where the damage ceases is important, as it will create an edge for the new soil to be rammed against when it is hammered into place.

When the hole is prepared, give the area a light watering and ensure all parts are dampened, including outside of the foot hole. Let the sign of any water dry or soak well in before starting to fill the hole.

Using the fork, prick the base to create holes for the topdressing to fill, this will help in the keying of the soils. Fill the foot hole with soil and hammer into the edges. This pushes the new soil against the edges you have prepared. Continue to add more soil, filling in the drill holes, you should be able to ram and hammer the soil with little or any soil sticking to the hammer.

If this happens, the soil is too wet and you will need to use a drier mix. You need to know your soil to get the moisture right. When the hole is completely filled, use the elephant's foot to ensure the edges are consolidated and there are no depressions in the foot hole. If so, continue to fill until level with the ground.

Always use a straight edge to level off the surrounds to prevent raised ends and a saucer shaped square! When you are satisfied, spray the surface with water. Using the plastering trowel, smear the surface until it is smooth and shiny, and then cover with the sweepings you have saved.

The sweepings are much better than grass cuttings if you want the ends to dry quicker but, if it's germination you require, then the ideal situation would be to use a germination sheet. It might be a good idea to keep some of your dried clippings on hand for future use if you have more than one pitch to repair.

It may require trial and error to get the moisture content just right for your soil. The time taken to do your ends will be about 30 - 40 minutes, depending on the extent of the damage. The players and umpires will appreciate your hard work and efforts, as well as a lot of self satisfaction.

Remember - good patching on your pitches is the icing on the cake. Do not be afraid to ask the umpires if you can carry out any remedial work during a game preferably between innings or overnight. You may need their OK.

The vagaries of the climate drive all factors with regard to turf management, and increasingly we see extremes of rainfall and dryness with the apparent turnaround from one to the other being short and dramatic.

This places increasing pressure on sports turf ecosystems in the form of biotic and abiotic stress. As a result, it is increasingly important that turf managers are seeking alternative strategies and techniques to mitigate against the effects of these stress factors upon the playing surface.

Warmth and humidity will be sure to activate a number of fungal diseases, from take-all patch, microdochium patch, dollar spot, anthracnose, waitea patch, fairy rings, leaf spot and red thread. Successful management of each disease requires knowledge of the contributing factors and considered, planned proactive treatment;

Increasingly, Integrated Turf Management should be applied to all situations. Practically this may look like the following

Monitor - historic site data – disease predictors e.g. Syngenta’s Greencast – five day weather forecast

Identify  - correctly identify the disease, learn about the life cycle and contributing factors.

Plan - create disease management plans predict and mark high risk windows using data from monitoring process – hold stock or treatments.

Do - apply calcium, phosphite and silicon ahead of suspected activity periods. Use your data and monitoring to time fungicide treatments BEFORE you see active disease.

Record - periods of susceptibility, outbreaks, details of treatments.

Review - the success rate, how things responded to different treatments, assess how things can be refined. Short examples for each may include:

Controls and Management Techniques:

Take-all patch – check manganese levels and apply as a little and often foliar treatment -  target roots with fungicide.

Microdochium patch -  remove leaf wetness, do not promote soft growth.

Dollar spot – avoid low fertility, remove dew.

Anthracnose – avoid stress through drought or low fertility, secondary effect from nematode feeding.

Waitea patch – minimise thatch, improve surface drainage.

Fairy rings – assess for hydrophobic areas in the profile by dropping water down soil cores, target with wetting agents.

Leaf spot – remove dews, do not overfeed with nitrogen, plant resistant cultivars.

Red thread – remove dews, feed to grow out, plant resistant cultivars.

Surface abrasion can facilitate the infection of diseases, so a well-timed systemic fungicide can help to prevent attack.

Nutritionally speaking, maintaining plant vigour without promoting excessive growth is as always the key thing to aim for. It is not too late for a good quality organic based fertiliser which should give consistent results for up to eight weeks. The organic sources will also help to promote and support soil microbiology as we head towards autumn.

Continue wetting agent programmes to facilitate effective moisture management throughout the profile. Seek out evapotranspiration rates during hot spells and irrigate in millimetres not minutes. Your irrigation engineers should be able to provide the relevant information for your sprinklers.

August is peak season for the proactive control of Leatherjackets and chafer grubs with Entomopathogenic nematodes, Considered application as part of an integrated turf management plan, accompanied by a penetrant wetting agent and plenty of available moisture both before and after application will help to get the best out of nature’s practical answer to this problem and prevent issues come spring 2018.

 

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.

Keep machines overhauled and clean. Keep an eye on your material stocks (seed, topdressing, petrol, oil), remembering to replenish as required.

Ensure you look after your equipment and store safe and secure, it is a good idea to get into a habit of washing down and and cleaning after use.

Two cricket courses are now available online:

Spring & Summer Cricket Pitch Maintenance Course

Autumn & Winter Cricket Pitch Maintenance Course

Both courses are Lantra accredited. Now you can learn about how to maintain a cricket pitch in the comfort of your own home and in your own time. The online courses consist of a number of videos with assessment questions, and an accompanying hard copy Course Manual. The courses provide you with all the basic knowledge required to maintain a cricket pitch over the period stated. Each course is £125 plus VAT.

Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of a Cricket Pitch. Delegates attending the course and using the accompanying manual 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 Manual are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month. More information

Our next Autumn & Winter Course is being held:

Thursday 14th September at Reading Cricket Club, RG4 6ST

More information and booking details

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.

Make sure you have booked in any machinery, equipment or materials that are needed for your end of season renovation programmes.

Some interesting discussions on the Pitchcare Forum

Irrigation Systems

Changing Loam

My Patchy Square

Fairy Rings