Expected weather for this month:

August should be just as warm as July, perhaps with a bit more rain

Key Tasks for August

General Maintenance

As you move through the month, regular mowing and scarifying of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Make sure your machinery is up to the task with regular service.

After care of the wicket, with repairs and renovation to used pitches should still be undertaken even with the season's end just around the corner. Player safety is paramount. Pay particular attention to your foot holes as they may require more intense work.

Do not neglect your outfield either, as this the largest area of maintenance, it still needs to be carefully managed.

Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. Outfields are often prone to drying and becoming parched, to almost wilting point; allowing surfaces to remain too dry can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil and thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality. The uses of wetting agents (outfields only) have now become an integral part of the maintenance regime with applications on a monthly basis throughout the summer.

As schools and colleges close down for the summer term, many groundsmen will already be undertaking wicket renovations, making good use of the weather conditions in August, to help establish some good grass growth whilst soil and air temperatures remain consistent.

Whilst on the subject of end of season renovations, most clubs will not be starting their renovation programme for another month or more. Use this time to plan and order your consumables. You do not want to find yourself left short or without loam or grass seed come the time you are due to begin your autumn renovation work. Ensure any hired equipment is readily available and secured for use.

The amount of seed and topdressings required will depend on the condition and size of your square. In recent years we have seen an increase in the amount of seed being used for reseeding. Groundsmen are now sowing at rates of 50 grams per square metre, thus increasing the amount of grass cover going into the winter period.

Many Groundsmen are reducing the amount of loam being applied to their squares also, generally now between 7- 10 bags per strip. This prevents the build up of saddles at the ends and prevents the smothering of existing grass cover on the square.

Match Preparations

Mowing of the square and outfield should be undertaken on a regular basis to control growth and thicken up the sward. The square should be maintained between 6mm and 14mm, and the outfield between 12mm and 25mm. Continue to verticut, training the grass to grow vertically. If you don't have a verticut option, then use a drag brush to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verticutting units, be very careful not to mark/scar the soil surface, as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out.

Portable or roll-on covers are very useful in protecting surfaces during hot dry and inclement weather. Covers are used to control the soil moisture content of cricket wickets, especially when preparing for play.

Use heavy ballast rollers to help prepare the wickets for matches, making sure it is done under the correct surface conditions, when the soil is moist but not too wet. Carrying out a Proctor soil test will help determine the correct timing of rolling. A simpler method is to stick a knife or slit tine into the soil profile and see if it comes out clean. If it does, it's the right time to roll. Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play. Ideal rolling conditions would suggest the soil be in a state of plasticity or "plastercine". Consolidation will still be your aim throughout the season. The pitch is required to be consolidated throughout to a depth of no less than 100mm.

Proctor testing is used to evaluate the compaction characteristics of the soil. This test determines the maximum density the soil can be compacted to, and at what moisture content the soil is most prone to compaction. Proctor testing is useful in determining how compacted a soil is in the field.

Take care when applying fertiliser, there needs to be sufficient soil moisture present to activate these products. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.

Applying fertiliser when ground conditions are dry and arid is not viable, as the plant cannot make use of the nutrients. Dry soils do not allow effective transport of nutrients into the grass plant. Irrigate your square well to enable efficient transfer of nutrients to the plant. Care should be taken when fertilising the square; initiating green lush growth on a wicket you are about to prepare is the last thing you want to achieve, as it will have an affect on the performance of the pitch.

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. Water the pitch thoroughly in the event that the pitch has dried out through pre season rolling.
DAY 2 Brush / light rake, mow @ 8mm, light roll to consolidate surface levels.
DAY 3 Scarify or Verti cut to remove lateral growth and surface thatch avoiding deep surface disturbance. Mow @ 7mm. continue medium light rolling 1000kg 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 @ 6mm, increase weight of roller to 1500- 1700kg 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 mower (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 overnight.
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

After Match Care

This is the time of the season when most groundsmen will have had three months or more of cricket on their squares. The after care of the pitch is just as important as the preparation. Renovation and repairs should be carried out as soon as possible following the conclusion of a game.

Treatment must be carried out as soon as possible after the game. As soon as the match has finished, sweep and remove as much debris as possible, such as studs, from the surface so as not to damage your machinery. Mow the whole of the pitch at final cut height, and then thoroughly soak the pitch by hand in order to penetrate the surface, ensuring not to pass the 5 foot marks as the ends need to be kept dry at this stage.

When the surface has partially dried off, sarrel roll or spike with a similar type of equipment; this will help offset any compaction created by the heavy rolling during the preparation process; it will also aerate the surface and produce a good seed bed. Overseed the pitch with perennial rye grass by use of a mechanical or pedestrian spreader, and apply a low nitrogen fertiliser at a rate recommended by the manufacturer.

By using germination sheets, this will speed up the process of recovery of the pitch. It is of no benefit to merely scatter seed over the used pitch and leave it. In order that the seed has a better chance of germinating, it is important that the seed is well worked in or brushed into the holes created by the sarrel roller to enable seed to soil contact.

The next important step is to carry out repairs to the batsmen and bowlers' foot marks. These areas may be relatively deep, especially if repairs have not been carried out during 2 days or more of cricket on the same pitch. For repairs, use only the wicket loam native to your pitches. This will help in the binding of the soils during recovery.

Firstly, prepare a stock of preferred virgin wicket soil to just a damp stage, but still quite firm. You should be able to squeeze it together in your hand like plastercine. If you had your topdressing delivered in bags, it should have sufficient moisture to carry out your repairs; if not, dampen whilst still in the bag and leave overnight or until required. If you are repairing the ends where the pitch is being taken out of play, then add some grass seed to your mix, this will assist in the germination process and speed up recovery.

The tools required will be a lump hammer, fine spray water bottle, a rammer (elephant's foot used for tarmacing), a fork and a plastering trowel.

To start, sweep in the same direction as you would for intervals, paying attention to the foot holes created by the bowlers and the deep scars from the batsmen. Put the sweepings to one side. When swept, ram the dry holes very firmly and any spots the bowlers may have moved. Hammering the edges to where the damage ceases is important, as it will create an edge for the new soil to be rammed against when it is hammered into place.

When the hole is prepared, give the area a light watering and ensure all parts are dampened, including outside of the foot hole. Let the sign of any water dry or soak well in before starting to fill the hole.

Using the fork, prick the base to create holes for the topdressing to fill, this will help in the keying of the soils. Fill the foot hole with soil and hammer into the edges. This pushes the new soil against the edges you have prepared. Continue to add more soil, filling in the drill holes, you should be able to ram and hammer the soil with little or any soil sticking to the hammer.

If this happens, the soil is too wet and you will need to use a drier mix. You need to know your soil to get the moisture right. When the hole is completely filled, use the elephant's foot to ensure the edges are consolidated and there are no depressions in the foot hole. If so, continue to fill until level with the ground.

Always use a straight edge to level off the surrounds to prevent raised ends and a saucer shaped square! When you are satisfied, spray the surface with water. Using the plastering trowel, smear the surface until it is smooth and shiny, and then cover with the sweepings you have saved.

The sweepings are much better than grass cuttings if you want the ends to dry quicker but, if it's germination you require, then the ideal situation would be to use a germination sheet. It might be a good idea to keep some of your dried clippings on hand for future use if you have more than one pitch to repair.

It may require trial and error to get the moisture content just right for your soil. The time taken to do your ends will be about 30 - 40 minutes, depending on the extent of the damage. The players and umpires will appreciate your hard work and efforts, as well as a lot of self satisfaction.

Remember - good patching on your pitches is the icing on the cake. Do not be afraid to ask the umpires if you can carry out any remedial work during a game preferably between innings or overnight. You may need their OK.

After many weeks of unbroken sunshine across the country turf surfaces in all regions have suffered from abiotic stress brought about by heat and drought. As we enter in to August the first vestiges of recovery following localised rain fall are in some areas, beginning to show through. However we are not yet out of this period of stress and dormant turf surfaces and back to business as usual. Grass of course goes into either partial or complete dormancy when subjected to water stress in an effort to conserve the vital crown and roots. Once the weather does break the plant will restart leaf production and swards will return, however turf managers should consider what is returning and how useful those returning species are. Moss and Poa annua will be quick to take advantage of a situation they are evolved to excel in. It is very much the case that the quality of surfaces in 2019 will be dictated by the quality of the autumn renovation in 2018.

Surfactants

Soil which is baked hard will be hydrophobic meaning that early post drought rain fall will not be fully optimised. A penetrant wetting agent will break the surface tension meaning that more of the water which does fall is able to effectively soak into the soil where it is needed to drive fast and efficient recovery. Multi action wetting agents which combine a penetrant with the retention properties of a block copolymer will hold and suspend water which does penetrate into the soil at a depth where plant roots can access it.

Nutrition

Once growth does return regenerating a sward in as short a period of time will maintain surface integrity and stability. Turf managers would be wise to minimise high nitrogen inputs at this time, opting instead for a gentle all round feed which includes secondary macronutrients and micro nutrients with a moderate quantity of nitrogen and phosphorus. It is worth considering that calcium availability becomes limited in dry soils, calcium of course being a driver of cell division and growth throughout all regions of the plant.

Ideally initial feeds would consist of a foliar liquid application to reduce the risk of scorch if soils are still relatively dry. Foliar feeds are also absorbed directly into the plant via leaf absorption. This will encourage steady consistent recovery without forcing excessive growth in September as dew's start to get heavy. Partnering a feed with the restorative powers of plant phytohormones in seaweed bolstered by the energy source of carbon sugars will underpin the plant soil ecosystem. Humic acid acts to facilitate enhanced nutrient absorption into the roots via the soil water solution pathway, so utilising this ability once soil water levels are returning will help to make nutrition in the soil readily available.

Aeration

Allowing the soil to breath via aeration is a cornerstone of turf management practices throughout the year. Where surfaces are hard then sarel tine aeration will help to increase the surface area as well as break capping, both of which will facilitate improved penetration of irrigation and rainfall. Areas where soils begin to rehydrate and soften will benefit from deeper aeration with solid tines. This will allow accumulated gasses to escape.

Renovation Considerations - Scarification, Overseeding and Topdressing

If conditions remain dry then aggressive maintenance operations will have to wait until strong and consistent recovery growth returns. However following prolonged dry weather the renovation practices of previous years will not necessarily be adequate and due consideration ahead of time needs to be factored into club meetings and budgets.

The main consideration should be that areas which do not recover well post drought will need to be seeded and baked organic matter will need to be broken up. The survival rate of grass seed which germinates within a thatch layer is significantly reduced compared to seed which germinates in contact with the soil. Aggressive scarification of surface organic matter opens up spaces for seeds to contact the soil as well as allowing water and oxygen to better penetrate into the soil.

Where recovery is patchy or slow providing an adequate supply of seed from desirable species will be important to keep surfaces clean. If there is space in the profile weeds, Poa annua and moss will fill them first ahead of the desirable perennial grasses. Overseeding rates may well need to be increased to compensate for dead and slowly recovering desirable species. Sown seed requires protection, to maximise germination, as a result establishment rates for uncovered grass seed on the surface are significantly reduced.

Once scarification and seeding has been completed top dressing introduces vital mineral matter into the surface thereby diluting dead organic matter and thatch with mineral material. This mineral matter harbours moisture and nutrients as well as creating pores for air. All of which help microorganisms to decompose organic material.

Grass seed requires a light covering of mineral matter to promote effective germination and establishment. Application of top dressing compatible with the underlying soil surface is important. A medium to heavy dressing in during the autumn renovation helps to protect seedlings and return surface levels post scarification and aeration.

Disease

Once moisture returns so does relative humidity, when humidity combines with stressed turf and warm temperatures, conditions are conducive to the growth of fungi. Consequently a host of turf diseases can expect to be witnessed through August and into September.

However 2018 is the first year without the curative activity of the fungicide iprodione, the active ingredient in Chipco and Interface. The only chemical options for turf disease are preventative systemic substances. Application prior to the observation of symptoms is vital in ensuring their success.

Diseases to be on guard for during August if conditions become increasingly warm and wet include; Anthracnose, Dollar Spot, Brown Patch, Rusts, Red Thread, Leaf Spot.

It is worth consulting the Turf Disease Triangle below and giving due consideration to what circumstances, conditions, maintenance practices and inputs on your site may influence each of the three factors.

Away from Plant Protection Products such as fungicides, which directly target a virulent pathogen, thriving in a favourable environment. One of the most effective tactics available to the turf manager is to reducing the susceptibility of the host. In this regard, adequate water availability combined with appropriate and balanced base nutrition are further bolstered by the benefits of cell wall boosting and plant system enhancing calcium, phosphite and silicon.

Pest Control

August is the start of the Entomopathogenic nematode application window for the control of Chafer grubs and Leatherjackets. Be sure to apply when soil moisture levels are adequate and where levels can be maintained with irrigation in the absence of rain for best results

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.

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new Grounds Training website, together with our new suite of online courses

Our Lantra Accredited Spring & Summer Cricket Pitch Maintenance Course and Autumn & Winter Cricket Pitch Maintenance Course are now available as an online course.

Now you can learn about how to maintain a cricket pitch in the comfort of your own home and in your own time. Both newly developed courses cover spring & summer maintenance, autumn & winter maintenance and consist of a number of videos with assessment questions, along with an accompanying hard copy Course Manual. The online course is Lantra accredited and provides you with all the basic knowledge required to maintain a cricket pitch over the period stated.

Grounds training is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of cricket pitches.

We can also arrange Lantra accredited training on site to groups of 6 - 10 people. Email Carol Smith for information.

Delegates attending the courses and using the accompanying manuals will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principles they set out. Included in the Course Manuals are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month.

The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.

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.