Expected weather for this month:

Fairly settled start with high pressure dominating; more unsettled later into the month

Key Tasks for October

Renovations

Renovations

All clubs have their own methods of working and renovating their squares. In most cases the level of work will be dictated by what budgets and resources they have available at the time and what they are trying to achieve. 

Make sure your machinery is up to the task with regular services. In the main, most club groundsmen are now putting on between 6-10 bags of loam per pitch. It is important not to under or over-dress your tracks. Even in the current economic climate, it is best not to skimp on the amount of loam used. I see too many club tracks that do not perform in terms of pace and bounce because of poor end of season renovation practices. 

Generally, it is usually a combination of two factors that, when combined, causes problems - not removing enough thatch or organic material during renovations and spreading insufficient loam down to increase the bulk density of the soil profile.

However, there is a fine line between too much and too little.

Soil Analysis: - If you have not had your soils tested for some time, then do so at the earliest possible chance. Soil tests commonly carried out fall into two categories: Physical and Chemical.

The physical analysis of soil reveals its texture, the amount of organic matter present, the rate of which the water passes through the soil profiles and the pore spaces within the soil.

The Chemical analysis produces information on soil acidity & alkalinity, the amount of mineral nutrients available for the grass plant to take up and the amount of toxins that may be harmful to the turf. 

Scarification: - Scarification is important to remove unwanted vegetation, but also to produce a key for the new loam material to sit in. The level of scarification required will be dependent on how much of a thatch layer you have generated throughout the season. The best way to identify how much you have is by taking a core sample. It will be then a case of going through a vigorous renovation programme, scarifying in at least three directions, finishing in the line of play. 

Depending on how much thatch is removed, where necessary, clean off all the thatch debris after each pass. The square can then be over sown using a suitable grass seed mixture; do not be frightened to try out new cultivars. Sowing rates now range between 35-50 g per square metre. In essence, you are aiming to establish new grasses into your square. 

Aeration: - The very basics of grass growth has never changed; sunlight, water and air, three factors essential for good grass growth of all plant life. Whilst we have no influence over the quality and hours of sunlight, there is a single management operation that directly influences the availability of the latter two. That is aeration. The purpose of aerating a cricket square is the key to producing the foundation upon which additional treatments can work. 
Aeration relieves compaction, assists in top dressing to migrate down the tine holes and improves water percolation through the soil profile. It also helps to create the general environment essential for healthy grass growth. Autumn and winter aeration treatments are beneficial to promoting drier surfaces for further maintenance practices to take place. Solid tining is usually the most common practice but, where saddling is a problem to your ends, then hollow coring over a period of time will help with settlement. 

Soil compaction is often the main contributing factor to poor grass growth; the lack of air in the soil profile inhibits many beneficial activities such as water movement and retaining microbial organisms. A programme to decompact the soil is essential, preferably using a pedestrian powered vertical aerator, to re-introduce some porosity into the profile. Solid tine, hollow coring and linear aeration are a number of methods being used to aerate soil profiles. 

These operations tend to be carried out on a frequency basis depending on the type and size of the tines being used. However, there are a number of groundsmen who never aerate their cricket squares; they believe that the aeration holes formed can cause a weakness/stress line in the clay profile that could eventually break, causing problems with the pitches. They believe that the clay's ability to shrink and swell provides the necessary voids to promote root growth.

Top Dressing: - It's important not to overdress the square, as you will not only be wasting the precious loam material but you may also be smothering your sward. The last thing you want to be doing is to bury any vegetation, which will lead to future problems. The object of the renovations is revitalize the top growing zone, restore levels and to integrate new material into the soil profile. This will help build up the clay content in your square. 

Irrigation should follow as soon as possible to assist in the germination of new seed. By keeping the soil moist, the seed should germinate between 7-10 days weather permitting, a germination sheet will aid this process. 

Once the grass has germinated out on the square, you should look to maintain a cutting height between 15-25mm, and continue to brush off the dew in the mornings to keep the sward in a dry and disease free condition

Outfield

Once you have finished renovating your square, devote some time to the outfield. Outfields are often neglected if not used for any winter sport such as rugby or football.

They do not get much attention in the way of scarifying / harrowing, aeration, topdressing, over seeding and, in some cases, not even being cut through the winter months.

Mowing of the outfield should be undertaken on a regular basis. By maintaining a height of cut between 25-35mm, this will help to encourage a dense sward and reduce disease.

Invest some money on your outfield to restore levels, kill any weeds and aerate where possible. Some clubs even use their pedestrian Groundsman spiker to aerate their outfields.

It may not be too late to get some selective weed killer applied, especially if soil and air temperatures remain favourable. Also apply a winter feed to help keep some colour and stimulate some growth

ideally, when aerating the outfields, penetration should be down to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting and surface drainage. Some groundsmen like to carry out a programme of solid tining, deep slitting or hollow coring, which again increases porosity but can also help redistribute/recycle topsoil which, in turn, helps restore levels.

The frequency of aeration activities will often depend on the resources - money, machinery and time - available. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.

The start of October promises to be fairly settled as high pressure dominates and clear skies promise low relative humidity and cold night time temperatures. The sun is still high enough in the sky that bright sunshine during the day will provide enough energy to drive continual recovery growth from post drought renovations. It is likely, however, that settled weather will not extend throughout the whole of the month; beware cloudy days, milder nights, still days and high relative humidity, for these are the conditions where Microdochium nivale will proliferate. With the withdrawal of the fungicide Iprodione in June of this year, autumn 2018 is the first year UK turf managers head into high periods of disease pressure without a get out of jail curative card. Furthermore, there is significant pressure on other active substances so don’t be surprised if autumn 2019 sees us with even less chemical options on the menu. Now then more than ever, all levels of the turf industry from top end professional to the hard working volunteers of the local amateur scene need to engage with a proactive mentality of Integrated Pest Management. If you are at all unsure of what this entails, then pick up the telephone and call one of the Pitchcare Technical Advisors who will be able to provide you with advice on cost effective solutions and practical steps to implement.

 

Nutrition

 

Regulating nitrogen inputs to maintain steady hardy shoot and leaf growth is a priority. Lush growth is more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens so slow release nitrogen, either polymer coated or methylene urea in combination with straight urea, will give longevity through to the new year. Where conventional fertilisers are chosen, ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent.

 

A dose of micronutrients is a good idea to ensure the plant has a full menu of essential nutrition.

 

Iron – the traditional go to option for hardening the plant in the winter. However, there is no research to suggest iron plays a role in hardening the plant against pathogen attack. Calcium and silicon are the proven elements for this need. Sulphate of iron in particular will weaken the cell walls of the leaf due to the acidity, rather a fully chelated iron with a pH more towards neutral will be far less antagonistic towards cell wall integrity and beneficial leaf dwelling beneficial microorganisms.

 

Biostimulants

 

Carbohydrates - Applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar during the autumn will be sorted in the plant and soil over winter. The benefit of this is a more resilient and well developed plant in the early spring.

 

Seaweed – maintain seaweed applications during October, but avoid applications at times when environmental conditions favour fungal pathogens. Seaweed will illicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant and associated microorganisms when applied ahead of disease activity and when conditions favour the disease.

 

Amino acids – play an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and cope with autumnal and winter stress events.

 

Humates – continue applications to maximise nutrient availability and application efficiency as well as providing habitable zones for beneficial bacteria.

 

 

Fungal pathogens

 

Ø  Adequate balance nutrition of all plant essential elements not just NPK

Ø  Minimise stress by raising heights of cut and avoiding activities such as top dressing which weaken and damage leaf integrity

Ø  Look after the soil via regular light aeration

Ø  Reduce periods of leaf blade wetness by removing dews or using dew dispersants (apply only to a dry leaf)

Ø  Monitor disease forecasts via resources such as Syngenta’s Greencast

Ø  Plan, stock, apply beneficial nutrition as part of non-pesticidal disease management

Ø  Take advice on and plan strategic preventative fungicide applications using historic data, live weather forecasts and site specific conditions and protected maintenance operations which may cause abiotic stress.

 

Worms

 

There are no legal substances which can be applied for the control of worms. Any substance or products which act directly upon worms would never be approved by CRD for authorisation.

 

The only legal option is modification of the local surface soil environment via acidifying with specifically formulated solutions of ammonium sulphate or the application of straight sulphate.

 

Beware regular applications of sulphate of iron, they may well discourage surface casting activity, but the iron will accumulate in the soil causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout rest of the year.

Keep machinery in good order, clean after use and top up any oil/fuel levels.

Check cutting cylinders are at correct cutting height and are sharp.

Two cricket courses are now available online:

Spring & Summer Cricket Pitch Maintenance Course

Autumn & Winter Cricket Pitch Maintenance Course

Both courses are Lantra accredited. Now you can learn about how to maintain a cricket pitch in the comfort of your own home and in your own time. The online courses consist of a number of videos with assessment questions, and an accompanying hard copy Course Manual. The courses provide you with all the basic knowledge required to maintain a cricket pitch over the period stated. Each course is £125 plus VAT.

Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of a Cricket Pitch. Delegates attending the course and using the accompanying manual 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 Manual are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month. More information

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.

Latest discussion point on the Pitchcare Forum:

Worms, renovations and weather