Key Tasks for July
Plenty of discussions/comments about getting back to some form of normality, with many groundsmen getting to work with the roller and beginning to prepare pitches ready for use. As with last month, you will need to be guided by your governing body regarding usage and procedures.
Uniform irrigation of the square is important. Maintaining consistent moisture levels will help with promoting new pitches and re-establish old strips.
Regular mowing of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Make sure your machinery is up to the task with regular services.
As the month progresses, repairs and renovation to used pitches should be undertaken.
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
IRRIGATION - Water is essential for the repairing and preparing of wickets. Together, with the use of ground sheets and covers, water helps to control the rate the clay soils dry out. Not all clubs may have an adequate supply of water or, indeed, adequate water pressure on or near their square, and so have to rely on the weather to provide enough rainfall to keep the sward alive. If you do not have an adequate water supply, then you are likely to be faced with problems. Clay soils are prone to shrinking in dry weather, the surface will soon begin to crack up, especially on bare soil areas where there is insufficient root growth to bind the soils together. Other causes of clays showing signs of cracking can be associated with the aeration techniques used and when these operations were carried out.
The use of roll on roll off covers and flat sheets are essential for controlling the amount of moisture in your soil profile. You are generally using them to protect the soil from rain or, on the other hand, you are using them to prevent the pitch from drying out. Getting the balance right is often a tough call. Flat sheets come in various forms, some are breathable others are simply plastic sheets. The decision when and how long to use them is often down to experience, there is no hard or fast rules. However, leaving flat sheets down too long can cause a deterioration of the sward; it can turn it yellow in colour and become weak and elongated due to the lack of sunlight and air whilst covered. Also, you may have induced the ideal microclimate that will suit the promotion of disease pathogens.
Soil and air temperatures will be increasing, so grass growth this month is likely to be prolific, especially where there is sufficient soil moisture and nutrients present. The long daylight hours increase the amount of photosynthesis taking place in the grass plant. The net result is more frequent mowing, feeding and watering to maintain a stress free sward.
MOWING - With regard to mowing equipment, be sure to keep them clean and serviced. You cannot afford to have a breakdown during the peak growing period. Keep an eye on fluid levels and remember to check your height of cut and sharpness of the cutting blades. Badly adjusted mowers will affect grass cutting operations, leading to problems of scalping, ribbing and tearing of the grass surface, which in turn leads to the grass plant suffering from stress and being vulnerable to disease.
Mowing of the square and outfield should be undertaken on a regular basis. The square should be maintained at between 10-14mm and the outfield between 12-25mm.
Continue to verticut, training the grass to grow vertically. If you don't have a verticut options then use a drag brush to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verticutting units, be careful not to mark or scar the soil surface, as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out.
Remember not to neglect the outfield; it too has a major effect on a game if unattended. The outfield should be treated the same as any other natural grass surface, carrying out regular mowing, raking or verti-cutting, aerating and feeding programmes to maintain a healthy sward. A light harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open. Apply balanced fertilisers such as a 9-7-7 as part of your annual maintenance programme to help stimulate growth and recovery. Aerating the outfield will help to increase aerobic activity and get some much needed oxygen around the grass plants root system.
Regular tining and, if possible, an application of sand dressings to the profile will definitely improve soil water movement in the top 100mm, ideally whilst maintaining a cutting height of between 10-14 mm. Many outfields tend to be undulating and uneven, preventing close mowing at these heights and, in reality, most are probably mown at a height between 12-25 mm. Also, the type of mower used will dictate what height of cut can be achieved. Rotary mowers tend to scalp undulating ground, whereas boxing off with a cylinder or a hydraulic gang mower with floating heads can give a better finish.
Outfields which have been predominantly overseeded with rye grasses are subject to stress if mown too short. Fescues and Smooth stalked meadow grasses are quite tolerant to close mowing and are less likely to be stressed out. The damp outfields may have been easily damaged by both the fielders and bowlers who have had to play in wet conditions.
Bowlers run ups in particularly are bad, with strong depressions being made during games. These will be a need to be lifted, in-filled to restore levels and overseed.
The 10 -12 day prep shown below is only a guide; most groundsmen will have their own interpretation of these activities
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.
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 minutes 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
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.
June was a month where we saw warm and hot conditions give way to persistent rain and heavy thunderstorms in many areas, and with it much needed rainfall. Consequently, the dormant road verges and stressed sports turf surfaces at the end of May have given way to lush green vigorous growth. If April and May were challenging, then June has been a somewhat optimal month for plants, warmth, long daylight hours and plenty of rain; perfect.
Of course, even perfect weather is not without its challenges as heavy rainfall can wash nutrition through low CEC surfaces and humidity contributes towards the growth of fungal pathogens. Long range weather indications suggest July looks set to be a similar pattern of one extreme to another and back again. Therefore, keeping an eye on the upcoming forecast to best inform action today is vitally important when it comes to optimising windows of opportunity.
Facilitating water percolation rates by surface organic matter management, over the long term, helps water to penetrate into the surface rather than be held in the base of the plant, where it reduces the ability of life-giving oxygen to enter the rootzone and waste gasses to escape. Less water in the surface of the soil profile reduces humidity in this area, which helps to mitigate the ability of fungal diseases to proliferate. Facilitating water percolation and reducing surface humidity breaks the causative disease triangle in two ways: it promotes the overall health of the plant and limits conditions suitable for pathogen development. Practically speaking, little and often aeration from a sarrel tine aerator, in combination with regular deep tine aeration throughout the year, works to assist water’s passage down the profile, as well as helping maintain plant root health and organic matter decomposition via beneficial microbial action.
Aside from good aeration practices, useful tools in the product armoury, which will assist water management when weather conditions are wet, include penetrant wetting agents, which grab hold of water and pull it down through the soil profile faster and more effectively.
Plenty of excess moisture, combined with available warmth, are of course excellent conditions for germinating and establishing seed, so any areas requiring patching should infill quickly and easily.
The flipside of excess water is, of course, deficient water. Weather forecasts suggest that the trend for July is for the extremes of wet to be counteracted quickly by dry weather. With the sun high in the sky, long warm sunny days can very quickly push water levels in the opposite direction, as excessive moisture is replaced by moisture deficit. Keeping a close eye on weather forecasts, and intervening with timely applications of cold pressed liquid seaweeds, calcium and potassium silicate, prior to challenging conditions, are all inputs which assist the plant in preparing for and resisting the rigours of water deficit.
In advance of forecast hot and dry weather, ensuring irrigation systems are running optimally is sensible practice. Being able to objectively monitor the levels of water in the soil at different depths via a Thetaprobe water meter, and cross referencing this against local evapotranspiration rates, takes the guess work out of irrigation and facilitates applications which are appropriate for the plant, the environment and the budget. Investing in weather stations does not have to be an expensive course of action, and working with your irrigation supplier to understand the volume of water your system is supplying, in litres and millimetres, are core areas of knowledge for any sports turf manager at any level.
Allowing dry down periods in the soil following intensive irrigation is an important operation. This allows the soil to breathe, encourages the grass plant to develop roots to chase water and minimises surface humidity, which would otherwise lead to conditions favourable for fungal pathogens and other ailments such as cyanobacteria and algae which will colonise and clog the soil surface, impeding the passage of water and air.
Whilst conditions are wet and warm, growth levels are likely to be strong; in such circumstances, applications of the growth regulators, such as trinexapac-ethyl or the newly available prohexadione-calcium, can prove useful in checking growth, with the added benefit of increase tolerance to moisture deficit should conditions take a turn. Keep a close eye on nitrogen inputs and avoid applications if growth is strong, as promoting even softer growth will assist virulent fungal diseases to attack.
Warm and humid conditions will promote a number of diseases, but once temperatures exceed 28 degrees Celsius, anthracnose foliar blight will be become activated. Little and often applications of nitrogen have been shown to mitigate the spread of the disease as effectively as a fungicide.
An emergency authorisation for Acelepryn was issued on the 16th May for the treatment of chafer grubs only.
The treatment window for chafer grubs expires on the 30th August 2020. Note that a separate authorisation is actively being sought for Leatherjackets, but this is yet to be approved. As with previous years, all applications must be approved by a BASIS qualified advisor.
For anyone not able to apply Acelepryn, cultural and biological controls in the form of Entomopathogenic nematodes are the only legally authorised controls available. As with the specific restrictions of application for Acelepryn, these are in line with best practice Integrated Pest Management.
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.