Expected weather for this month:

Generally settled for most parts of the country, with temperatures low to mid teens.

Key Tasks for April

It's a difficult time for everybody, and our advice is to follow any guidance issued by the Government and the Sports Governing Body regarding the maintenance of your sports surfaces. In addition to the maintenance guidelines below, you will also find topical advice on the Pitchcare Forum on how to manage your surfaces should the Coronavirus restrictions be increased.

Your number one priority is to keep safe.

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.

Wicket Preparations

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.

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.

We face what is an unprecedented situation in modern times. Each and every corner of society at large is facing the reality of global pandemic at the hands of a microscopic infectious agent consisting of genetic material, in the form of long chains of DNA or RNA molecules. Viruses are somewhat indefinable; having been said to be “organisms on the edge of life”. As we all already knew, but are now understanding, whilst they are both incredibly small and incredibly simple, viruses are able to impact all avenues of human life and society on a gargantuan scale. Their simplicity is, of course, their greatest strength.

At a time when the whole of human society is facing its greatest viral adversary since the 1918-19 H1N1 influenza pandemic, the value of the sports turf industry and the dedicated people who work to facilitate a surface for play, will no longer be in an active position of contributing towards providing recreational sporting activity in people’s daily lives. The industry, both at a professional and amateur level, contributes great value to the recreational activities of society; activities which will be sorely missed by many, but perhaps this presents an opportunity for them to be appreciated anew once they return. There are many challenges to be faced in the coming weeks and months, both professionally and sadly personally too, but with each hardship also comes opportunity. In particular, awareness of the smaller things; the details we often overlook in our busy day to day activities and pressures. Time may also be there for thought, reflection and inventiveness. For it is in the quiet times where the greatest opportunities for inspiration and creativity lie. These will be the things which allow all of us to collectively rise from the hardships. Things will be different, but we have it in our control to be able to make things a better kind of different. I was speaking to a Head Greenkeeper of thirty-five years’ experience a few weeks ago. Just as the current situation started to take shape, he said to me; “one thing’s for sure, we’ll all learn a lot from this, each and everyone one of us.” He was right. Let’s make sure we all support each other as an industry to make those lessons count.

The impact of this should mean that we do not hide from a situation where sports turf professionals and amateur volunteers across the country are facing immediate tough challenges and stresses. Clubs of all sporting disciplines will be facing tough decisions, relating to business and people, with curtailed budgets due to wholesale drops in revenue, and reduced staffing due to efficiency savings and governmental advice. All these things are real, and all of them are tough. However, I know that one thing at the forefront of the mind of everyone involved in the day to day management and maintenance of a sports turf area will be the continued maintenance of the facility and the grass plant. For whilst human society grinds to a halt, nature in all its spring-like glory relentlessly endures without pause or consideration for human constructs. In the current situation however, we must be realistic about what we can achieve and we must, as with many aspects of our life, focus on the basics; the basics with respect to the grass plant are nutrition, light and water.

Key Agronomic Points

  • Grass plants not being subjected to play will be under reduced levels of abiotic stress. Without the need for play, we can reduce this further by increasing heights of cut. This will allow the plant to collect more energy, giving solar radiation and in turn create more carbon, both for itself and the beneficial microorganisms inhabiting the rhizosphere - as a result, we would expect plant health to be more resilient. Slow release spring fertilisers will provide cost effective nutrition in a steady flow, helping to regulate growth in a manner which promotes plant health but reduces pressure for maintenance.
  • Plant growth regulators, such as trinexapac-ethyl and prohexadione-calcium, will reduce growth pressure and may help to ease the mowing burden on stretched teams working reduced shifts or split days.
  • Water management will be assisted by sarrel tine aeration, which is time efficient, cost effective and allows a large surface area of the turf to respire gasses and percolate water. Surfactant programmes may still have a place for those seeking to reduce costs with water bills, should irrigation be required later in the year.
  • Pests such as leather jackets and chafer grubs will continue in their life cycles. So, whilst it may not seem the most pressing thing to pay attention to at this moment in time, maintaining observations as part of your Integrated Pest Management plan will be crucial for timing operations later in the season. The aim being to keep surfaces in the best condition possible later in the year, and at a time when maximising revenue streams may well be even more important than ever.

The coming weeks will be challenging, but if we do support each other as a sports turf community we can all help one another to the other side.

James Grundy
Technical Manager

 

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. 

Grounds Training was established in 2006 to provide a complete and unique service delivery training courses for the sports turf industry. We are now the go-to provider for on-site, bespoke training for groups. Grounds Training also works with the industry’s awarding bodies – Lantra and City & Guilds (NPTC).

Our Online Sports turf maintenance courses  which are independently accredited by Lantra which are going from strength to strength. The video tutor is leading industry consultant, Alan Lewis MSc NDT FinstG. The course provides flexible, cost effective training and is accompanied by a comprehensive training manual. https://www.groundstraining.com/online-grounds-training-courses/

In addition we have  a wide range of ground care machinery courses, safe handling of pesticides, tree survey, and ecology courses. All our which are delivered by industry qualified instructors registered with  Lantra Awards and or NPTC.

We also offer a small number of open courses at our site at Allscott ,Telford.

All the courses we have to offer can be found by visiting https://www.groundstraining.com/