Expected weather for this month:

Dry, settled start to the month with above average temperatures throughout

May is when the cricket season really gets underway, with grass growth stimulated by the increasing temperatures. Rolling and squaring the square have been recent topics of debate on the Pitchcare Forum, with some differing views (and some humorous comments) about the best way to get the jobs done.

With an increase in grass growth, be sure to mow your square regularly. Applications of spring and summer fertiliser to the square and outfield will help stimulate the plant and keep it from being stressed. Try to take some pride in the way you present your facility, as a well presented square and outfield will impress and encourage players to perform. 

Diary compiled by Robert Stretton 
Massey Ferguson Sports Club 
Coventry 

Key Tasks for May

Maintenance Regimes

Ideally, you should have conducted a soil analysis of your soil profile to ascertain the nutrient status of your green. This will help you decide on what fertiliser products to buy and apply. A spring/summer fertiliser should now be applied to encourage top growth, using manufacturer's recommended rates. Rye grasses are more wear tolerant when fed correctly. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual maintenance programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested - Soil Tests

Wicket Preparations

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 their 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 

It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for pitch preparation, repairs and the health of the plant. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied. It's important to ensure that the water penetrates into the rootzone to a minimum of 100- 150mm to encourage deeper rooting. Check with a probe. Allow to dry and repeat irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems such as dry patch, scorching and death of the plant.

Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play. After match pitch repairs begin with the brushing and sweeping up of any surface debris. Soak the wicket, scarify and spike,

Seeding of the ends where the grass is weak, sparse or bare can be continued, as the rise in temperature will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates. 

Outfield

The outfield should be treated the same as any other natural grass pitch, carrying out regular mowing, raking or verti-cutting, aerating and feeding programmes to maintain a healthy sward.

Try and get on and give it a uniformed cut followed by some aeration and feed. Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter pitches so the amount of work required to be carried out may be determined by whether the outfield has been used for other sports (football/rugby). If not, 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 spiking and, if possible, an application of sand dressings to the profile will definitely improve soil water movement in the top 100mm. You may wish to hollow core your outfields and then brush the cores back into the surface (recycling the existing material), this helps to restore levels, reduce thatch and helps speed up the surface.

Ideally, maintain a cutting height of between 10-14 mm; however, 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 over seeded with rye grasses are subject to stress if mown to short. Fescues and smooth stalked meadow grasses are quite tolerant to close mowing and are less likely to be stressed out. 

If March was a useful spring month with adequate temperature and available moisture, this April has proven to be the polar opposite. Without those two key driving factors, grass growth across the majority of the UK has somewhat stalled. As a result, nutrition, particularly of the controlled release or organic type, will have remained relatively untouched in the soil. To a slightly lesser extent, the same can also be said for conventional release fertilisers, particularly with the lack of rain to flush them through the soil.

This means that where granular fertilisers have been applied, either at the end of March or during April, then once warmer temperatures and rain fall do arrive, we can expect a delayed response.

The key points of understanding here is that we cannot force a result in terms of response to an application, particularly where water cannot be added even if temperatures are adequate. Once those key drives do arrive though, things will really kick in and we can start to implement cultural operations and nutritional programmes.

Nutrition

Whilst conditions remain unfavourable to granular applications, it is liquid foliar applications which are more likely to elicit a response form the plant, particularly when warmer spells of weather are forecast. Adding a small quantity (50 ml per 100 l tank volume) of a high quality liquid humate, such as Maxwell HumiMax, will further chelate the fertiliser, enabling it to pass into the plant leaf more readily for increased absorption and uptake efficiency.

Potassium is a plant nutrient traditionally favoured for autumn winter applications; however, potassium is absolutely critical to the efficient operation of plant stomata, the pores on a leaf’s surface which open and close in response to water demand. For this reason, a steady adequate supply of potassium during the spring and summer helps grass plants to better regulate water usage, increasing resistance to drought pressure.

Research is also increasingly understanding the importance of silicon applications as a preventative nutrient, which will strengthen plants resilience to a range of environmental and pest stresses.

Seaweed is another vital tool in the armoury when it comes to improving uptake of fertilisers and helping plants to resist stress, which should be regularly applied to all turf areas.

Wetting Agents

Utilisation of a penetrant and polymer wetting agent programme, which will drive water away from surfaces and into rootzones, where it can subsequently be stored more efficiently to be utilised by the plant, is a sound strategy for the majority of sports turf locations. Research the market and invest in high quality solutions. Prevention of dry patch with applications prior to symptoms is the most effective strategy.

Herbicides

Traditionally, the end of May presents a good time to spray for weeds in turf areas, applying herbicides immediately prior to, or during, periods of strong active growth. Again, adding a small amount of a liquid humate (50 ml per 100 l tank volume) will significantly aid herbicide uptake and efficacy.

Always keep an eye open for turf disease. Prevention is always better than a cure. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can make the plant susceptible to disease attack. Many turf grass diseases such as Fusarium and Red Thread can be active at this time of the year.

Symptoms of Fusarium (Microdochium nival), the most common and damaging disease, are orange/brown patches 2.5-5cm across increasing in size under suitable conditions as the disease progresses. Active patches have a distinctive 'ginger' appearance when viewed early in the morning. Creamy white mycelium resembling cotton wool can be seen in the centre and towards the outer edge of the patch.

Grass in the active patches is often slimy; once the disease is controlled the scars will remain until there is sufficient grass growth to fill in. Regular brushing, switching or drag matting in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak. 

Red Thread is ill-defined bleached grass with Pink mycelium visible in early morning dew. Close inspection will reveal red needle like structures which are attached to the leaf blades. The needles become brittle upon death and are easily detached allowing fragments to spread the disease. 

Systemic curatives and protective fungicides such as Chlorothalonil and Iprodione, applied in liquid form with water as a carrier, can be used to control any outbreaks. By mixing two or more products in the same tank can help reduce the potential for disease resistance developing. Fungicides are selected with different modes of action so that resulting mixture will attack the target disease on two or more fronts. This makes it more difficult for the pathogens to develop resistance to treatments. 

Pests: - Leatherjackets and chafers are prevalent at the moment.

As soils warm up, there may be some symptoms of plant parasitic nematode activity. There are two categories of nematode which will infect grass plants; Ectoparasitic which migrate along the outside of roots and feed accordingly on root cells and Endoparasitic nematodes which enter the root tissue and feed on the plants in these areas.

Be vigilant for the following symptoms:

• Yellowing and thinning of the turf

• Reduced turf vigour

• Premature wilt

• Turfgrass that is slow to recover from stress

• Turfgrass that does not respond to fertilisation

There are no legal chemical treatments; with entomopathogenic nematodes providing the only authorised cure. This situation is not going to change, but nematodes can be utilised successfully when applied correctly as part of a multi-faceted integrated approach. In the face of upcoming and projected further restrictions in other similar areas of the industry, there are a number of lessons to be learned from the withdrawal of insecticides within the sports turf industry. Now is a good time to reflect and prepare by seeking out avenues to embark on facing the upcoming challenges from the position of enhanced knowledge, understanding and proactive preparation..

Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php

All machinery should now have been returned from any servicing in time for use, with ongoing inspection and cleaning after use being vital. Breakdowns cost money as well as inconveniencing pitch preparations. The workshop should be kept in a good order; good housekeeping is important, a tidy workshop reflects a tidy worker.

Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.

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 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.

More 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.

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

 

Mark out boundary line or ensure rope is in place.
Scoreboards are ready for use.
Sightscreens repaired, painted and in place.
Covers checked for damage and utilized.
Practice nets cleaned, marked and in good order.
Erect security netting around buildings to deter balls from damaging properties.
Ensure stumps are correct size, bails and yardage disks are available.

Articles and Forum discussions which may be of interest:

Squaring the square
Cricket square watering
New courses launched