It's a very buoyant time for cricket at the moment, with the successes of the men's and women's international teams, plus the very well received first Day/Night Test at Edgbaston, all having a very positive impact on the image of the sport.
September is always a busy month for the majority of cricket groundsmen; finishing off the later fixtures whilst having an eye on the weather forecast to make the most of those critical end of season renovations. Hopefully, all materials and equipment are ready to go. There's nothing worse than having the right conditions for doing the work, but not having the loam, seed, fertiliser or equipment to actually do it. Be prepared.
As ever, there is always some wise, topical advice available on the Pitchcare Forum. The cricket section is always awash with information and sound advice.
Also, our recently launched Lantra accredited online Cricket (Autumn & Winter) Pitch Maintenance Training Course has videos and advice on completing a successful end of season renovation.
Key Tasks for September
Heavy morning dews can cause problems to your sward as the plant stays wet for long periods and is vulnerable to attack from Fusarium. Regular brushing to remove as much moisture from the plant will help in controlling the disease. Spray where possible as prevention is better than a cure.
As we move through the month, regular mowing of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Continue with your “after care of the wicket”; repairs and renovation to used pitches should still be undertaken even with the season's end just around the corner. Player safety is paramount.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme.
Pay particular attention to your foot holes as they may require more intense work. Do not neglect your outfield either; as this is the largest area of maintenance, it still needs to be carefully managed.
Preparing for matches should be as normal, using the 12 day preparation programme as outlined in last month's diary.
If you have completed your season, set the HOC between 4 and 5mm and give your square a final cut to remove as much vegetation as possible.
Irrigate the square copiously to allow moisture to get down into the soil profile to aid machinery, such as scarifiers, to do their work.
Check delivery schedules for end of season renovation programmes
Start end of season renovation of the square.
September 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.
End of Season Renovations
As a general rule of thumb, 6-10 bags of loam are applied per wicket. It is important not to under or over dress your pitches, remembering that your ends must also be considered. Applying to the middle of the pitches only will create a crown.
Do not to skimp on the amount of loam used. Too many club pitches do not perform well in terms of pace and bounce, as wear and tear is magnified during use. Generally, it is usually a combination of two factors that causes most problems: failure to remove enough thatch/debris material during renovations and not applying enough loam to increase the bulk density of the soil profile, resulting in slow and low pitches.
However, there is a fine line between too much and too little. It's important not to overdress the square, as you will not only be wasting the precious loam material, you may also be smothering your sward. The last thing you want to be doing is burying any vegetation, which will lead to future problems such as thatch layering.
The object of the renovation is to revitalize your square by restoring surface levels and encouraging new growth. Scarification is important to remove any unwanted build up of vegetation and organic matter, 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 playing season. The best way to identify how much you have is by taking a core sample. Then it will be a case of going through a vigorous scarification programme.
Scarify in at least three different directions, finishing with the line of play. Ensure you clean off all the thatch debris after each pass. Follow this by sarrel rolling, in four directions to encourage as many seed holes as possible, before over seeding the square using a suitable grass seed mixture; do not be afraid to try out new cultivars. Use a quality seed; cheap seed is a false economy. Sowing rates now range between 35-50 gm per square metre. In essence, you are aiming to establish new grasses into your square. Some may wish to carry out deep aeration to de-compact their squares at this point by solid tining, if ground conditions warrant it.
It is then a case of topdressing with loams compatible to native or existing soils to restore levels and to integrate new material into the soil profile. This will help to build up the clay content in your square. Irrigate to wash in new loams and to help speed up germination. The seed should germinate between 7-10 days weather permitting. The use of germination sheets will encourage new growth by retaining moisture and keeping the soil warm.
Once you have completed your renovation programme on your square, devote some time to your outfield. This area does not get much attention in the way of aeration, topdressing, over seeding or mowing through the winter months. If you have not got a maintenance programme for the outfield, then you can't expect it to perform as well as your square. Mow the outfield regularly through the winter months where possible, at 30 -35mm every six weeks is a good start, this will help keep your levels and you will soon see improved performances next season.
On the square, however, you should look to maintain a cutting height between 12-30mm, and continue to brush off any early morning dew to keep the sward dry and disease free.
Aeration is a key operation to help improve the condition of the soil following a season’s play. 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 retaining beneficial organisms, soil water movement and the washing in of fertilisers.
A programme of de- compaction of the soil is essential to re-introduce some porosity into the profile. Solid tining, hollow coring and linear aerating are a number of methods now 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.
Ideally, where outfields are of a concern, de-compaction should be to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting. Some groundsmen prefer to carry out a programme of hollow coring, which again increases porosity but can also help redistribute/recycle soil around the outfield which, in turn, helps restore levels.
The frequency of aeration activities will often be dependent on the resources available; money, time and machinery available. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the autumn and winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.
Turf disease can be quite prevalent when soil moisture levels increase, coupled with the presence of early morning dews. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the susceptibility of disease attack.
Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak. Many turf grass diseases can be active at this time of the year - fairy rings and red thread are the most commonly seen.
Worms can also be active, so keep an eye the square and treat accordingly. Worm treatments can be carried out if needed; but remember to ask your self why worms are present. pH level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the square may need to be assessed.
Have your soil tested by an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results. Most ground managers will be looking to apply their autumn fertilisers in association with their end of season renovations.
Traditionally, the good levels of available moisture, coupled with adequate warmth at this time of the year, make it the perfect window to successfully germinate and establish seed. Getting young seedlings off to a good strong start is important in terms of maximising establishment prior to the onset of winter.
Yet again, humates are strong in this regard with the increased nutritional availability, hormones synthesis and bacterial promoting benefits all contributing to generate real gains in post germination establishment. A high quality pressure extracted humate with a natural pH of just above 4 will give the best results; and with lower application rates, typically from around 5-10 L/ha with the advantages a natural pH affords, such products are a very affordable and justifiable expense for sports clubs of all disciplines and levels.
If you have not yet taken the plunge with humates, and for that matter seaweeds and carbon sources, then I would go as far as to say you really are missing a massive, cost effective trick.
If you do what you always do, you’ll get what you always got: A common phrase often attributed to many principles. In this instance. the subject for reappraisal is iron sulphate: for years applied to turf surfaces prophylactically throughout the autumn and winter as a turf hardener, with the intent of helping the turf resist the rigours of the winter climate and fungal disease by thickening cell walls.
Perceived wisdom which holds no truth in scientific reality.
Iron has no involvement in the thickening of plant cell walls; for that, you need calcium. Furthermore, the acidic nature of Iron sulphate will actually act to weaken plant cell wall structure. The unsuitability of Iron sulphate for this purpose was shown in disease trials in autumn 2016, where prophylactic applications of iron sulphate statistically performed no better in controlling disease concentrations around 35-40%. Curative applications of iron sulphate produced a 50% reduction in disease concentration, but you’ve then got the problem of reduced leaf integrity due to the acidic action.
In this instance, use phosphite, which stimulates plant protection without simultaneously making it more susceptible to further infection.
These research findings concur with the message we at Pitchcare have been recommending for some time, which is:
- Do not use iron sulphate to harden turf against disease
- Use foliar calcium in combination with phosphite and potassium silicate
- To promote colour, use a 100% chelated iron (worth asking the question: how much is chelated, as most are not 100% and contain some iron sulphate) or, alternatively, consider applications of magnesium
If you are going to apply iron sulphate, then do so in the spring to control moss when temperatures are too low for bacterial moss treatments to work effectively, and the sulphate will promote early season plant metabolic function.
In terms of general nutrition, then September is still not too late for an organic based fertiliser, with longevities of up to eight weeks, this should see you through to the end of autumn.
July through August witnessed high disease pressure due to prolonged humidity driven by persistent rainfall and overcast days. During this period, diseases such as microdochium patch constantly bubbled away on fine turf surfaces, ebbing and flowing in the background to varying degrees of severity. Due to typically strong leaf growth through July and August, the grass is often able to outgrow the disease, preventing severe infection. However, as cooler nights in September cause soil temperatures to fall and growth rates to subsequently subside, the grass begins to lose any advantage.
The use of systemic active ingredients will be the only option once Iprodione - the active ingredient in Chipco and Interface - is most likely to be withdrawn in the next twelve months.
The new norm will be fungicides having to be applied prior to visible signs of disease, using cross referencing of historical outbreaks, weather forecasts and turf conditions to make informed decisions on the best timing. This latter approach is something which actually has the advantage of preventing early season scars, and the subsequent depositing of densely concentrated populations of fungal spores at their margins lying in wait for the slightest whiff of opportunity to fire back up and create ever expanding scars all winter long.
Now is the key time to apply entomopathogenic nematodes for the control of Leatherjackets and Chafer Grubs. Plenty of moisture both before and after application is the key to success, and the addition of a penetrant wetting agent will further aid results.
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
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.
importantly, at this time of the year, ensure you have all the tools and equipment you need to undertake your end of season renovations.
Two cricket courses are now available online:
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
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.