Key Tasks for January
As ever, the caveat with the below advice is weather permitting. If you have waterlogging or frost, keep off the surfaces - you will do more harm than good.
Square: Inspect your ground regularly for disease, worm activity, and spray as required. Dragbrush your square to remove any surface moisture to discourage any disease, and sarrel roll to keep the surface open. Mow as required.
Mowing: The use of a rotary for mowing the square will be more beneficial as it will reduce the effect of surface compaction. Maintaining a consistent height of cut on both square and outfield is very important, as this helps to encourage sward density, the square should be maintained between 12-20mm with the outfield between 25-35mm. Remember the outfield too has a major effect on a game if unattended.
Outfields: Too many clubs tend to neglect their outfields, it is important to undertake some work on these areas as they play an important part of the game. They need to be firm, flat and free from weeds. The outfield should be treated through the winter the same as any other natural grass surface, Fertilising and mowing should not be neglected. Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter sports pitches and the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether it is used for other sports (football/rugby).
Depending on ground conditions, some clubs may be able to complete drainage or reconstruction works during the winter months. Existing drainage systems can be overhauled and cleaned out, and additional drainage systems may be added.
Aeration treatments are of a fundamental importance. If not done so already, aerate your square and outfield. If your outfield is used for winter sport, link the work into your management programme. All soils are prone to compaction, but heavy clay soils which are inherently poor draining are particularly susceptible. To counteract existing compaction, aeration work should be seen as an ongoing process which must be carried out with modern, efficient equipment to achieve maximum benefits.
Deep penetration should be the objective to allow air in, facilitate water infiltration to lower levels and encourage deeper grass rooting. Without good gaseous exchange and movement of surplus water, excessively soft, thatch-riddled playing surfaces will be dominated by shallow rooted annual meadow grasses. For alleviating deep seated compaction, Verti-draining is invaluable and has become an integral part of a maintenance programme at many clubs. To maximize the benefits of Verti–draining, treatments must be carried out before ground conditions get too wet.
Verti-draining with solid tines are best suited for this work, as this will reduce deeper compacted layers and reduce the risk of panning; Slit tining is a preferred option as this opens up the surface and is much quicker. Hollow tine aeration has a key role in combating soil compaction within the top 75-100mm of the profile too, followed by a sandy top dressing mix will assist a more freely draining playing surface. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.
I would like to think that everyone has had a great Christmas and new year, and that you are now looking forward to what 2022 has to offer. Let’s hope that the effects of festive gatherings do not lead to a large increase in reported Covid cases, which end up increasing hospital admissions, and we can avoid any further restrictions being brought into play again.
Those lucky enough to have had some decent time away from work over the Christmas holidays will, all being well, be rested and now refreshed at the start of a new year. Having the time to ‘switch off’ can be so important, to give yourself and your mind some TLC, which can help avoid burnout and that feeling of not really being on holiday at all.
The weather forecast for early January is predictably wet and cold, which carries on until midway through the month and then there is a change to more favourable drier and sunnier spells with increased temperatures. The temperatures early in the month will keep growth potential to a minimum, which will then slowly start to increase towards the end of the month as temperatures gradually get a little warmer.
At the start of a new year, attentions are typically focused on planning the year ahead. For some it will involve a full 12 month plan; plan is the key word here, in that the best plans can be laid out; however, there still needs to be a degree of flexibility to make changes and adapt to weather and environmental variables throughout the year. When considering a nutritional plan, an integrated approach will provide the most effective programme. Where all the elements of the plan are there as a consequence of another element, which all contribute to the overall success of the plan, rather than any standout single application.
Recovery of turf surfaces may also be a key focus for many throughout January, following a busy festive period and potentially a busy month ahead. A congested fixture list through this period can have serious implications in terms of the condition on the playing surface, particularly if games are played in less than ideal ground conditions. When targeting recovery at this point in the season, it is essential that the fertiliser type is carefully selected. A predominantly slow release nitrogen source is going to provide little effect in the way of an immediate response to promote growth and recovery, compared to a readily available nitrogen source.
Soil samples are a useful way gaining an understanding of what is going on within your soil profile. There are many different options available of what to test for, however a basic soil analysis is a good starting point if one hasn’t been carried out before. This provides data which can be monitored over time and, together with a soil’s physical properties, the chemical/nutrient balance within the soil provides the basis of recommendations for putting together an informed fertiliser programme. These recommendations are based on the sufficiency level of available nutrients (SLAN) (other methods are available). The level of nutrients present in the soil are measured through analysis and are compared to an optimal or guideline level. Adjustments to nutrient inputs can be made following the concentrations in the soil analysis.
Typical requirements for nutrition will be low this month, as growth is restricted by the low temperatures. However, those looking to encourage recovery on winter sports may apply low amounts of nutrition to stimulate some growth, if conditions are suitable.
The rate of photosynthesis is affected by temperature, therefore at lower temperatures the rate of photosynthesis is obviously limited by the reduced number of molecular collisions between enzymes. If temperatures are mild, there may continue to be small amounts of growth and therefore applications of a suitable fertiliser may be applied in small amounts to support the requirements of the plant.
Calcium and Silicon may be applied to try help the plant withstand stresses from cold temperatures and harsh winds by strengthening the primary and secondary cell walls. Chelated iron, or where avoiding using iron-based products, a pigment product could be used to provide colour and will not contribute to the accumulation of problematic iron deposits in the soil over time. Pigments not only provide a natural healthy green appearance to turf but also improve turf quality and have been shown to increase surface and soil temperatures by small amounts.
When piecing together an integrated nutrition plan, ensure that the products included have been evaluated for their suitability. Many products can appear similar, however, when researched, there are differences in source, formulation etc…. which can be the difference in the overall results. Safety Data Sheets are a good source of information and will sometimes list ingredients if they are contained at concentrations which must be declared in the interests of environmental and human health. If not readily available, suppliers should also be able to provide you with the information you require to understand what is in the products you are considering using.
Colder temperatures should assist in minimising disease pressure. If required, an anti-sporulant fungicide such as fludioxonil is suitable for the time of year when growth is minimal. As ever, monitoring weather conditions is key, and any applications should ideally be made preventatively ahead of disease development. Continuing with applications of penetrant wetting agents and dew dispersants will continue to assist in keeping surfaces dry.
There is still no chemical available to provide control, therefore continue your cultural practices to minimise their impact as much as possible. If soil temperatures are low, then worms will be avoiding colder regions at the surface.
B.Sc (Hons) | BASIS | FACTS
Inspecting and cleaning of machinery - December is an ideal time to send any machinery away for repairs or servicing. Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.
Check H.O.C Ensure cutting cylinders are sharp and set to winter mowing.
Keep machinery in good order, clean after use and top up any oil/fuel levels.