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.
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.