Expected weather for this month:

Expect a textbook July: very warm or hot; more dry spells

Key Tasks for July

General Maintenance

 

Uniform irrigation of the square is important as pitches come out of use. Maintaining consistent moisture levels will help with promoting new pitches and re-establish old strips.

 

Regular mowing of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Make sure your machinery is up to the task with regular services.

As the month progresses, repairs and renovation to used pitches should be undertaken.

Pay particular attention to your foot holes as they may require more intense work. Do not neglect your outfield either, as this is the largest area of maintenance it still needs to be carefully managed

IRRIGATION - Water is essential for the repairing and preparing of wickets. Together, with the use of ground sheets and covers, water helps to control the rate the clay soils dry out. Not all clubs may have an adequate supply of water or, indeed, adequate water pressure on or near their square, and so have to rely on the weather to provide enough rainfall to keep the sward alive. If you do not have an adequate water supply, then you are likely to be faced with problems. Clay soils are prone to shrinking in dry weather, the surface will soon begin to crack up, especially on bare soil areas where there is insufficient root growth to bind the soils together. Other causes of clays showing signs of cracking can be associated with the aeration techniques used and when these operations were carried out.

The use of roll on roll off covers and flat sheets are essential for controlling the amount of moisture in your soil profile. You are generally using them to protect the soil from rain or, on the other hand, you are using them to prevent the pitch from drying out. Getting the balance right is often a tough call. Flat sheets come in various forms, some are breathable others are simply plastic sheets. The decision when and how long to use them is often down to experience, there is no hard or fast rules. However, leaving flat sheets down too long can cause a deterioration of the sward; it can turn it yellow in colour and become weak and elongated due to the lack of sunlight and air whilst covered. Also, you may have induced the ideal microclimate that will suit the promotion of disease pathogens.

Soil and air temperatures will be increasing, so grass growth this month is likely to be prolific, especially where there is sufficient soil moisture and nutrients present. The long daylight hours increase the amount of photosynthesis taking place in the grass plant. The net result is more frequent mowing, feeding and watering to maintain a stress free sward.

FERTILISING - 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.

In July, you would be looking to use a 12:0:9 for your square and a 9:7:7 for the outfield, or similar compound fertiliser blend, or applying a slow release fertiliser to see you through to August. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and soil temperature being the catalyst for growth. The performance of slow release fertilisers can be influenced by the weather, often producing a flush of growth when you least expect it. Some grounds managers use straight compound granular or liquid fertilisers which activate when in contact with moist soil conditions, effectively stimulating grass growth within days.

MOWING - With regard to mowing equipment, be sure to keep them clean and serviced. You cannot afford to have a breakdown during the peak growing period. Keep an eye on fluid levels and remember to check your height of cut and sharpness of the cutting blades. Badly adjusted mowers will affect grass cutting operations, leading to problems of scalping, ribbing and tearing of the grass surface, which in turn leads to the grass plant suffering from stress and being vulnerable to disease.

Mowing of the square and outfield should be undertaken on a regular basis. The square should be maintained at between 10-14mm and the outfield between 12-25mm.

Continue to verticut, training the grass to grow vertically. If you don't have a verticut options then use a drag brush to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verticutting units, be careful not to mark or scar the soil surface, as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out.

Outfield

 

Remember not to neglect the outfield; it too has a major effect on a game if unattended. The outfield should be treated the same as any other natural grass surface, carrying out regular mowing, raking or verti-cutting, aerating and feeding programmes to maintain a healthy sward. A light harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open. Apply balanced fertilisers such as a 9-7-7 as part of your annual maintenance programme to help stimulate growth and recovery. Aerating the outfield will help to increase aerobic activity and get some much needed oxygen around the grass plants root system. 

 

Regular tining and, if possible, an application of sand dressings to the profile will definitely improve soil water movement in the top 100mm, ideally whilst maintaining a cutting height of between 10-14 mm. Many outfields tend to be undulating and uneven, preventing close mowing at these heights and, in reality, most are probably mown at a height between 12-25 mm. Also, the type of mower used will dictate what height of cut can be achieved. Rotary mowers tend to scalp undulating ground, whereas boxing off with a cylinder or a hydraulic gang mower with floating heads can give a better finish.

Outfields which have been predominantly overseeded with rye grasses are subject to stress if mown too short. Fescues and Smooth stalked meadow grasses are quite tolerant to close mowing and are less likely to be stressed out. The damp outfields may have been easily damaged by both the fielders and bowlers who have had to play in wet conditions.

Bowlers run ups in particularly are bad, with strong depressions being made during games. These will be a need to be lifted, in filled to restore levels and overseed.

Pitch Preparation

The 10 -12 day prep shown below is only a guide; most groundsmen will have their own interpretation of these activities

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.
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 minutes 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

As the hot and dry conditions prevail into July the quality of turf areas as dictated by the health and vitality of grass plants will more than likely sit within one of the following:

 

  • Healthy – Adequate, evenly distributed soil water.
  • Stressed – Inadequate, unevenly distributed soil water.
  • Dormant – Parched areas with critically low soil water levels.

 

Whether or not each of those conditions is tolerable on any given area, of course depends on the value of the area and the scope of available turf management resources.

Let’s look at each of these areas in more detail.

 

Healthy – Adequate, evenly distributed soil water levels.

Most likely high value areas such as golf greens, golf tees, well maintained bowling greens, cricket wickets high level winter sports.

 

Contributing Factors

  • Well calibrated irrigation systems, monitoring of soil moisture levels, monitoring of evapotranspiration levels, targeted irrigation volumes designed to replace water losses.
  • Good soil structure, low compaction, adequate aeration.
  • Adequate nutrition, use of biostimulants.
  • Preventative wetting agent programmes which started in early spring.

 

Considerations

Where soil water levels are adequate then plants will be making the most of the high light intensity, high soil temperatures and adequate moisture and performing well.

Maintain adequate soil water levels by continuing quality targeted irrigation comprising night time programmes, syringing with short bursts through the heat of the day to cool leaf and soil surfaces, hand watering of areas known to be vulnerable to drying out such as high spots on greens.

The biggest concern will be heat stress during the warmest parts of the day due to prolonged periods of intense sunshine, use of Cold Pressed Seaweed will prime plant defences to better respond and conserve water. Adopting a little and often approach by perhaps taking a 20L a month target application of seaweed and splitting that into weekly applications of 5L accompanied by some sugar carbon for system energy and a small amount of foliar nitrogen and potassium for plant vigour and water loss regulation should help to maintain a positive status quo. Amino acids will also assist plant health and contribute positively towards maintaining the status quo.

Maintain wetting agent applications designed to aid water penetration and conserve soil water levels in the profile.

 

Stressed – Inadequate, unevenly distributed soil water.

Most likely a broad range of turf surfaces with some available irrigation.

 

Contributing Factors

  • Manual irrigation, areas without automatic systems, poorly calibrated sprinklers, estimated evapotranspiration losses, lack of measurable monitoring of soil moisture levels, via moisture meters.
  • Compacted soils, minimal aeration, high thatch levels.
  • Low potassium levels and low to zero us of biostimulants.
  • Inadequate or misdirected use of wetting agents.

 

Considerations

Apply curative granules to persistent dry patches and hand water with a wetting agent pellet gun. Increase intensity of irrigation where possible and seek advice in terms of monitoring evapotranspiration losses, then aim to replace lost water through watering.

Where thatch levels are high water in the morning when the sun is up but before temperatures increase. This is because water applied in the evening will act as a thermal blanket within the organic matter preventing overnight cooling.

Penetrant wetting agents will aid water percolation, preventing run off and thereby maximising the water which is applied.

Little and often applications of potassium, and cold pressed seaweed, will help the plant to withstand the stress, carbon energy and amino acids should also be considered.

Periods of hot dry weather activate anthracnose disease which will be lying in wait to pounce on susceptible stressed turf. Doing whatever you can to maintain plant and system health will be vital in fending off a severe attack as July and August develop. Where cultural strategies cannot be employed then consider well timed preventative fungicide applications.

Longer term strategies would include engaging with irrigation experts to correctly calibrate systems, invest in soil moisture meters, monitor evapotranspiration levels, reduce thatch, alleviate compaction and instigate preventative wetting agent programmes.

 

Dormant – Parched areas with critically low soil water levels.

Most likely golf tees without irrigation, fairways, surrounds and roughs, community sports pitches and cricket out fields.

Contributing Factors

  • The biggest contributing factor with regards to the drying out and dormancy of these areas is most likely scale, both of area and budgetary resources.

 

Considerations

Where possible areas that have had previous cultural maintenance practices such as compaction relief or, scarification to keep thatch levels healthy, will be able to withstand the stress for longer.

Any areas which had an application of wide area penetrant and block-copolymer wetting agent should have lasted longer and will recover faster once rain does arrive.

The biggest concern will be monitoring areas for signs of progression from plant dormancy into plant death. Grass plants are extortionately resilient to low soil moisture and go brown as a protection method. However, should conditions prevail plants may die, signs of this are a breakdown of the roots and shoots at and just below the soil surface.

Beware; moss and Poa annua will be lying in wait as they are the species evolved to respond and establish the fastest in these exact conditions. Therefore, begin to plan now for overseeing with amenity species and cultivars, the most likely window for doing this will be the end of august or early September when soil moisture levels and soil temperature will be optimal for seedling germination and establishment, just as nature intended.

 

Final Thought

One point of note to consider moving forward is that climate changes models for the British Isles predict an increasing frequency and extended periods of extremes, whether than be wet, dry or cold.

The question turf managers at every level should be constantly asking is; what plans do we have in place to ensure that when the extremes do come, there are the resources at hand to produce a surface which facilitates play?

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 

There are two courses - Spring & Summer Maintenance and Autumn & Winter Renovations. New dates are currently being planned – Email Carol Smith using the below link to register your interest.

Each of the courses is also available in an ONLINE format. The Lantra accredited course in Cricket Pitch Maintenance is a series of training videos, each followed by multi-choice questions and answers. In addition to the videos, the accompanying comprehensive Course Manual is also included. There is a choice of courses - Spring & Summer and Autumn & Winter - more information.

Our Lantra Accredited Spring & Summer Cricket Pitch Maintenance Course is 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. This newly developed course covers Spring & Summer Maintenance and consists of a number of videos with assessment questions, and 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. There is also the option of attending a one day practical course.

Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of a Cricket Pitch.

More information

We will also be running our regular one and two day courses at various venues during the year. 

Our spring courses are now available. Up to date information can be found on our new Grounds Training website.

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.

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

 

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.