Key Tasks for May
At this time of 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.
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
Well, after a month of us getting some normality back in our lives, I think everyone is thankful for being able to do a little bit more. It is undoubtably going to be a slow process as we all adjust to venturing a little further and getting to see those people we haven’t been able to for a long while.
Grounds managers up and down the country have been working tirelessly to provide exceptional facilities for all those back playing sport and have done an amazing job. The weather has been very challenging over the last 4-6 weeks, with low to freezing night-time temperatures which has effectively put a stop to any significant growth. April has been the frostiest on record, going back to when records began in 1960; which has meant that recovery from any winter wear or damage has been limited. This has pushed progress a bit further back for some in terms of where they predicted their surfaces would be heading into May. On top of this, it has also been one of the driest months on record with many locations experiencing as little as 1% of the average rainfall in April; further adding to the challenges of the grounds manager. However, as stated in last month’s diary, growth can’t be unrealistically manufactured, and it is advised to work with nature, where possible, rather than try to force growth.
The forecast for May looks encouraging as night-time temperatures appear more favourable and we will have hopefully seen the back of any frosts. This, alongside mid-teen day-time temperatures, with 22 days forecast at 15° or above, will help to start generating some consistent growth, which puts more control back into the hands of the turf manager. The month appears to have a majority of bright days with only a handful forecast with rain. Historically, May can be seen as the month when spring really starts to take shape. The peaks and troughs of temperatures experienced in previous months start to settle down and the grass plant makes the most of the warmer temperatures and longer days, resulting in an significant increase in growth.
Many will now be well into their programmed approach to plant nutrition for the year, with possibly two or three fertiliser applications already made. Given the recent weather challenges from the extremely low temperatures, many will also still be waiting to see much response from the latest application, depending when it was timed. Acknowledging the recent stress that the plant has been under from the extremely low amounts of rainfall we have had, or the stress from cold irrigation water, which has been applied out of necessity, it is important to plan to help mitigate or alleviate these stresses that the plant has been under. Undoubtedly, once growth gets fully up and running the undesirable annual meadow grass (Poa annua), which will make up many sward compositions across the country, will be responding with its survival strategy…seed.
The onset of seeding brings with it an undesirable impact on playing quality, performance and overall aesthetics. Although grooming can be deployed to physically remove the seed, in some instances, and depending on the surface you manage, this can provide the perfect seed bed for those seeds which don’t make the journey into the grass box and fall back into the sward. At the time of year when growth is consistent enough to provide even swards, after weeks of the grasses in mixed swards all growing at different rates, it is key to manage this to ensure even growth is achieved. An even sward increases playing quality of the surface being managed and, in line with this, plant growth regulators can be used to great effect to help regulate the flowering capacity of the Poa annua plant.
Prohexadione- calcium (Class A late gibberellin inhibitor) can be used at cool temperatures and is active when sprayed onto the plant, therefore its regulatory effect is fast acting. A key benefit of this active ingredient is that it regulates Poa annua closely aligned with the desirable perennial grasses in the sward. This restricts the ability of the Poa annua to pioneer the sward, by not giving it the advantage of being out of regulation whilst the perennial species are still being regulated. Its effect on seed head development reduces the impact on presentation and performance.
Ensuring nutritional inputs are managed prudently this month will be a key factor in how quickly surface quality can be achieved. The stress inducing environment mentioned earlier, underpinned by existing fertiliser applications, means that growth can be rapid with a detrimental effect if it’s not monitored. Many will switch from granular applications to liquid products, which can be applied little and often to give a regular, balanced amount of nutrient inputs, which can help to mitigate stresses and provide even growth. The use of surfactants, where possible, will ensure that moisture is distributed evenly through the soil which, in turn, improves plant health via better rooting and nutrient uptake. Added into this can be the use of biostimulants, such as seaweed and amino acids, which again will mitigate any stresses present.
An increasing problem at varying points of the year is managing pest populations. There have been numerous reports of leatherjacket damage outside of the “typical” peak season. There is no registered chemical control for this pest to be applied at this time of year; however, if damage is significant, it may be worth considering a spring application of nematodes to try combat the problem. Steinernema feltiae can be used at soil temperatures above 8°C and Steinernema carpocapsae above 13°C, therefore it’s important to choose the right treatment for your site at this time of year. The emergency approval has just been granted for the use of Acelepryn on chafer grubs in 2021, and this will be available to purchase from May. Installation of pheromone traps allows you to monitor which species you have and to plan accordingly; it also means you can track the peak flight period to time your product application for best results.
It has been an incredibly challenging winter and pre-season, but finally, it looks like there is good growing weather to work with. Let’s hope so!
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.