Expected weather for this month:

After April's hot spell, we can expect better growing conditions in May, with rainfall and temperatures around average for the month.

Key Tasks for May

With so much uncertainty around at the moment, and Government guidelines on how and when people can begin to participate in sport again still to be confirmed, we suggest you keep in contact with your respective sport's governing body for any up to date information.

If you have been given permission to continue to maintain your cricket ground, then the following should help. Also, take a look at the Pitchcare Forum where cricket groundsmen at all levels of the sport are conversing with one another on how best to manage the situation.

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 - see Agronomy section.

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

May is a month when spring really bounces into full flourish, with fresh leaves on all of the trees, and many flowers coming into colourful bloom. The grass plant takes full advantage of longer days, warmer temperatures and available soil moisture by producing a large volume of leafy growth. In a naturalised situation, this is energy expended in advance of flowers and then seed later in the summer. In a sports turf situation, the plant is still responding to these cues and drives, but it is our intervention with a lawn mower which tames the growth into a lush sward, albeit with one species of note proving the exception, Poa annua.

The start of May often heralds the onset of Poa annua seed heads across surfaces, and a subsequent drop in aesthetics and playing performance as a consequence. Grooming allows for mechanical removal of the seed heads and is a tried and tested method for minimising the negative effect on play and performance during the annual window of Poa annua flowering.

May 2020, however, marks the first opportunity for UK turf managers to access and utilise the plant growth regulator - prohexadione-calcium. Prohexadione-calcium is a Class A late gibberellin inhibitor, a trait it shares with the long established and successful trinexapac-ethyl. With regard to Poa annua, prohexadione offers two advantages; it regulates Poa annua on a par with perennial species, this allows for greater consistence of growth regulation across surfaces over time. Secondly, it regulates the flowering potential of Poa annua, a trait which mitigates the negative consequences of this plant’s inflorescence upon both aesthetics and playing performance.

In normal circumstances, both those metrics would be primary areas of day to day concern. Of course, we presently remain in a situation outside of normal circumstances, therefore maintaining playing quality and aesthetics from the ingress of Poa annua flowers is likely to be on the lower end of priorities. That being said, prohexadione-calcium does represent an opportunity to capture two birds with one stone. First by regulating plant growth and thus easing pressure on mowers and staff alike, then as a secondary effect, the suppression of Poa annua flower head production; something which, by extension, reduces the number of seeds that subsequently form and then drop directly into playing surfaces. Over time and with complementary integrated maintenance principles, this will reduce the ability of Poa annua to regenerate in swards where its presence is deemed undesirable. In simplistic terms, less seeds means less opportunity for Poa annua to colonise an environment over time.

As a plant, Poa annua is by its very nature a pioneer species. Like similar plants low down the line of succession such as Cardamine hirsute (Hairy Bittercress), Poa annua has evolved to be one of the first plants to colonise challenging environments rapidly. As such, it expects environmental conditions may change rapidly, from hospitable to inhospitable. This is why, unlike the perennial grasses Agrostis spp., Festuca spp. and Lolium spp., Poa annua has retained the ability to flower profusely at low heights of cut.

Nutrition programmes have, in many cases, understandably been reduced to maintain plant health at acceptable levels rather than peak performance. It would be wise for turf managers to keep this under review, using their knowledge and expertise to guide them on a case by case basis. That said, inputs such as seaweed extract will help to prepare the plant for oncoming abiotic stress such as heat and water deficiency, so it would be advantageous to maintain applications. Plants treated with seaweed ahead of water stress events will also recover faster once soil moisture levels are replaced.

Water management is a vitally important aspect of maintaining any grass plant; a well maintained, professionally set up and prepared irrigation system, ‘ready and raring to go’, will be vital if water stress builds as we enter hotter weather. Soils with a capacity to manage water ingress and holding potential will be able to maximise available water and extend the periods by which plants are able to survive before irrigation is required. The continued application of water management products in the form of surfactant wetting agent programmes will significantly assist this principle and are to be recommended. This is because the efficacy of block co-polymer molecules requires a build-up in the soil to optimum levels over time - proactive approach, rather than a reactive one.   

Aeration, as ever, remains a vital component for optimum plant-soil ecosystem function. Wherever possible, continuation of efficient methods of aeration, such as star and sarrel tine rolling, will allow optimised soil life respiration and water ingression.

Insect pests populations have been elevated this year as mild winter weather and the end of old withdrawn insecticide use patterns combine, with many areas once again subject to secondary damage from predators. It may seem very low down the priority list currently, but active monitoring of insect activity now, to assist in optimising control through the summer, will pay dividends in minimising the problem and damage for next year. If chafer grubs are on your site, then installing pheromone traps in May allows you to plot their life cycle against integrated pest management plans and help inform treatment interventions later in the year. Whether that be substances on Emergency Authorisation, entomopathogenic nematodes, or a combination of both.

Writing this diary is always a balance of providing underpinning knowledge, insight and helpful reminders for the appropriate course of action to take at a given time of year; advice which must reach across the industry covering all sports, all levels, and budgets. With that in mind, one is always conscious that such advice should be there to be received by the reader on the basis that they take from it what is reasonable, relevant and practical for them and their facility. Never before have we been in a situation where facilities across all aspects of the industry are collectively faced with the challenges of balancing plant health, budgets and workloads to the extent we are now experiencing - in the midst of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.

It is then that the principle of taking from these writings what is reasonable and appropriate for you is more relevant than ever. As with any challenge or test life throws up, you can of course do no more than your best effort.

James Grundy
Senior Technical Manager – Amenity | MBPR

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.

Used Machinery for Sale 

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).

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