Key Tasks for November
Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependent on the need and condition of the ground. It is important to maintain a constant HOC on both the square and outfield. The square should be maintained between 15-20mm with the outfield maintained at between 25-35mm.
Aeration of the square is often delayed until mid or end of November. Aerating when the square is too dry can lead to problems of root break. Ideally, you need moist soil conditions of around 75 -100mm to enable good penetration with the aid of solid tines. Most areas of the country will be ok following all the rain brought in by those storms in October. Sarrel roll your square to keep the surface open and surface moisture to a minimum.
Too many clubs tend to neglect their outfields, it is important to undertake some work on the cricket outfields as they are an important part of the game, they need to be firm, flat and free from weeds. Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter sports pitches, and the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby).
Ideally, on the outfields, aeration should penetrate to a depth around 150 to 200mm to promote deeper rooting. This can be achieved by deep slitting or solid tining. Some groundsmen like to carry out a programme of hollow coring, which again increases porosity and can also help to redistribute/recycle topsoil and which, in turn, helps restore levels. The frequency of aeration activities will often depend on the resources - money, machinery and time - available. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.
Some cricket grounds may have a number of mature deciduous trees nearby, which will inevitably lead to some amounts of leaf debris lying on the square and outfield. It is essential to remove leaves from the square. If left to accumulate, these leaves will become wet and which, in turn, will restrict light and air being available to the grass plant, thus putting the grass under stress and resulting in it turning yellow and then decaying. Vacuum, sweep or rake up leaves on a regular basis.
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.
As we leave October behind, we are hopefully saying goodbye to the wet weather we have seen towards the end of the month. Early November looks forecast to be fairly settled, which will be much welcomed as we now move into late Autumn. The clocks have gone back and over the coming month there is a significant shortening of day length, which has a large impact for turf managers trying to maintain surfaces to the best possible condition. The effect of climate change on our seasons means that the run-in to the end of the year needs careful management. The absence of regular, very cold temperatures in late autumn/early winter means that we now experience effectively, a prolonged Autumn.
It is a time that tips the balance in favour of the undesirable factors and away from the grass plant; mainly because there is less available sunlight for photosynthesis, lower temperatures creating a reduction in growth rates and prolonged leaf wetness because of less dry down time throughout the day. These factors play right into the hands of mosses, algae and fungal diseases. One of the main fungal diseases throughout this period is Microdochium nivale (previously known as Fusarium patch).
Understanding the conditions which suit these undesirable factors is the best way of ensuring management practices are carried out to minimise them. Poor drainage characteristics, in particular surface drainage, often in conjunction with a build of thatch in the upper profile and spoon-feeding nutrition onto the surface, are all advantageous factors for the development of moss and algae. Therefore, it is key to ensure turf surfaces are managed, so that the balance of influential factors is weighted towards the grass plant so is kept as healthy as possible. This helps to minimise moss, algae and fungal pathogens ability to capitalise on a weakened sward and take over large surface areas of the sward. For example, where possible, reducing shade by effective tree management (pruning or removal) which ensures maximum use of the available light throughout the day at this time of year.
Undoubtedly, disease management is key throughout this month. Newer fungicide chemistry means that applications, if needed, should be made preventatively (not prophylactically) through close monitoring of disease pressure and the likelihood of disease occurrence. Essentially, pre-empting when all three factors of the disease triangle are likely to coincide for an outbreak of disease. The climatic and environmental conditions present in the UK mean that through November there is a high probability of disease pressure and outbreaks, which means being aware of what can influence the severity of an outbreak is critical to minimising the impact of one occurring. There are numerous factors to consider, but nutrition and water management are two of the main elements to address.
The aim being to promote steady, hardy shoot and leaf growth, avoiding excessive applications where flushes of growth become more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens. The demand for year-round play on quality sports surfaces increases plant stress and the requirement for recovery, putting an increased emphasis on ensuring the right choice of nitrogen source as well as the amount applied.
Micronutrients and biostimulants are not to be overlooked, with Iron traditionally used to enhance turf colour with fewer of the negative aspects associated with excessive nitrogen fertilisation, such as outbreaks of certain diseases. Applications of seaweed will elicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant.
Water plays a major role in the development of fungal turf diseases, so it is as important to have a water management strategy for the autumn/winter period as it is for dealing with drought stress in the summer, albeit potentially different chemistries. Maintaining appropriate water/air ratio is a key factor in reducing turf stress during periods of the year when rainfall increases, and drying opportunities are reduced. Aeration timing and methods can make all the difference, sarel rolling can aid water infiltration and help surface drying with minimal disruption, with slitting giving contact to a large surface area within the soil for maximum gaseous exchange, again with minimal disruption to the surface. More heavy-duty aeration such as verti-draining can also be carried out as needed. The use of penetrant wetting agents and dew dispersants are now commonplace in a bid to keep surfaces as dry as possible and restrict the occurrence of disease outbreaks. When using a penetrant wetting agent, it enhances the draining of the soil profile, ensuring that the water has a route out of the upper rootzone; something which is essential to getting effective use out of the products. It is important that growth should be minimal when using dew dispersant products. This increases the longevity of the product which would otherwise be removed with the mowing clippings.
Worms continue to be a focus for turf managers with the increased soil moisture levels. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally.
Continue with cultural management practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts. Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent but it is worth considering that over application may lead to an accumulation of iron in the soil and reduction of pH, causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout the rest of the year.
Servicing time, so get your machinery booked in.
Store away all other equipment in a dry area; cold and damp conditions can do a lot of damage.