Key Tasks for September
With things back to normal and as we move through the month, regular mowing of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Continue with your “after care of the wicket”; repairs and renovation to used pitches should still be undertaken. Player safety is paramount.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme.
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.
Preparing for matches should be as normal as possible, using the 12 day preparation programme.
Once you have completed any games you may have had, set the HOC between 4 and 5mm and give your square a final cut to remove as much vegetation as possible.
Irrigate the square copiously to allow moisture to get down into the soil profile to aid machinery, such as scarifiers, to do their work.
Check delivery schedules for end of season renovation programmes
Start end of season renovation of the square.
September is usually a good month to carry out any additional ground works, particularly drainage, especially when using heavy pipe laying machinery. Ground conditions are able to sustain the weight and action of these machines without causing too much damage to the turf surface.
End of Season Renovations
As a general rule of thumb, 6-10 bags of loam are applied per wicket. It is important not to under or over dress your pitches, remembering that your ends must also be considered. Applying to the middle of the pitches only will create a crown.
Do not to skimp on the amount of loam used. Too many club pitches do not perform well in terms of pace and bounce, as wear and tear is magnified during use. Generally, it is usually a combination of two factors that causes most problems: failure to remove enough thatch/debris material during renovations and not applying enough loam to increase the bulk density of the soil profile, resulting in slow and low pitches.
However, there is a fine line between too much and too little. It's important not to overdress the square, as you will not only be wasting the precious loam material, you may also be smothering your sward. The last thing you want to be doing is burying any vegetation, which will lead to future problems such as thatch layering.
The object of the renovation is to revitalize your square by restoring surface levels and encouraging new growth. Scarification is important to remove any unwanted build up of vegetation and organic matter, 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 playing season. The best way to identify how much you have is by taking a core sample. Then it will be a case of going through a vigorous scarification programme.
Scarify in at least three different directions, finishing with the line of play. Ensure you clean off all the thatch debris after each pass. Follow this by sarrel rolling, in four directions to encourage as many seed holes as possible, before over seeding the square using a suitable grass seed mixture; do not be afraid to try out new cultivars. Use a quality seed; cheap seed is a false economy. Sowing rates now range between 35-50 gm per square metre. In essence, you are aiming to establish new grasses into your square. Some may wish to carry out deep aeration to de-compact their squares at this point by solid tining, if ground conditions warrant it.
It is then a case of topdressing with loams compatible to native or existing soils to restore levels and to integrate new material into the soil profile. This will help to build up the clay content in your square. Irrigate to wash in new loams and to help speed up germination. The seed should germinate between 7-10 days weather permitting. The use of germination sheets will encourage new growth by retaining moisture and keeping the soil warm.
Once you have completed your renovation programme on your square, devote some time to your outfield. This area does not get much attention in the way of aeration, topdressing, over seeding or mowing through the winter months. If you have not got a maintenance programme for the outfield, then you can't expect it to perform as well as your square. Mow the outfield regularly through the winter months where possible, at 30 -35mm every six weeks is a good start, this will help keep your levels and you will soon see improved performances next season.
On the square, however, you should look to maintain a cutting height between 12-30mm, and continue to brush off any early morning dew to keep the sward dry and disease free.
Aeration is a key operation to help improve the condition of the soil following a season’s play. 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 retaining beneficial organisms, soil water movement and the washing in of fertilisers.
A programme of de- compaction of the soil is essential to re-introduce some porosity into the profile. Solid tining, hollow coring and linear aerating are a number of methods now 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.
Ideally, where outfields are of a concern, de-compaction should be to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting. Some groundsmen prefer to carry out a programme of hollow coring, which again increases porosity but can also help redistribute/recycle soil around the outfield which, in turn, helps restore levels.
The frequency of aeration activities will often be dependent on the resources available; money, time and machinery available. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the autumn and winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.
Turf disease can be quite prevalent when soil moisture levels increase, coupled with the presence of early morning dews. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the susceptibility of disease attack.
Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak. Many turf grass diseases can be active at this time of the year - fairy rings and red thread are the most commonly seen.
Have your soil tested by an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results. Most ground managers will be looking to apply their autumn fertilisers in association with their end of season renovations.
Another month has flown by and September is now upon us. This month traditionally sees a shift in weather conditions, which become more autumnal, with less extreme heat and cooler temperatures, and more frequent rainfall. Mornings and night become noticeably darker and, importantly for turf managers, dew on the grass plant becomes a more regular occurrence.
August’s weather has provided good conditions for those who have carried out any maintenance, with positive conditions to promote recovery. There has been a mixture of good temperatures with sunshine and showers which has maintained soil temperatures and provided plenty of moisture for germination after seeding.
September looks set to continue from August, with conditions still favourable for any renovation work planned. Therefore, those who couldn’t get this work done in August will still have a good opportunity for success this month. These conditions will also continue to provide strong growth and recovery from areas with high play. If overseeding work is being carried out, ensuring good contact with the soil will allow the seed to utilise the moisture in the ground. Plant growth regulators such as Prohexadione-calcium and trinexapac-ethyl can be used at this time to help in the development of new seed by holding back the competition from existing mature plants in the sward, creating a more favourable environment for establishment.
As moisture levels increase in the soil and on the leaf, this favours disease development, as the 3 parts of the disease triangle start to come together. For many this will play a major part in planning over the coming months, alongside carefully selecting the right nutrition. As we enter this period when conditions become far more conducive for disease development, with heavy dews, less sunlight, more shade etc…. management of these stress factors becomes essential. Moisture and water management are key in restricting disease development and utilising applications of dew suppressants, even if short-lived, can be just enough to tip the balance in your favour in the right conditions. Similarly, penetrant wetting agents can assist in allowing water to easily move through the profile. However, consideration should be given to the make-up of the soil profile and how effective these can be in certain situations. Once any renovation work is complete, ensuring the cutting units are sharpened and providing a clean cut will also help reduce any potential weak entry points that a pathogen looking for a host is likely to exploit.
Providing adequate nutrition to promote recovery from any maintenance work, or to keep growth consistent and strong to support producing quality surfaces, are factors to consider.
Once any new seed has run out of its own supply of nutrients, ensuring there is adequate supply will assist it getting better recovery. Including a suitable amount of phosphorous helps supply energy to synthesise ATP. A healthy amount of Calcium will not only strengthen the primary cell walls, fortifying defences against pathogenic fungal attack, but also encourage cellular generation at the growing tips of roots and within new leaves.
Applications of high levels of nitrogen can further encourage disease outbreak. Research shows that selecting a balanced autumn fertiliser can consequently result in better spring performance. As such, over applying at this point in the season is likely to lead to excessive soft leaf growth, which is more susceptible to disease attack. Choosing an appropriate nitrogen source that will provide a staged release of nutrients, as the conditions are suitable, will maintain turf health and strengthen against disease attack.
The Emergency Authorisation for Acelepryn for control of Leatherjackets has now been confirmed and this can be purchased now, once the stewardship form has been completed. This applies to golf courses, airfields and racecourses only. The latest time for application is 29th November. Remember - Acelepryn is most active on the 1st and 2nd instar stages and therefore timing is critical to maximise success.
Application of the product for control of adult Chafers has now passed and should have been completed by 31st August. Where chemical control is not authorised, entomopahogenic nematodes can be applied, with warm soil temperatures and available moisture being ideal conditions to get the best out of an application. The entomopahogenic nematodes swim in the water film on soil particles in their bid to search out a larval host.
The adult crane fly typically emerges in late July to September. The adult flies commence egg laying almost immediately, with hatching and larvae emergence about two weeks later. You can check reported sightings of crane fly species on the Pest Tracker on the GreenCast website. To aid effective timing of treatment, ensure the product is in the soil at the optimum time for egg hatch and initial larvae activity.
With the increased moisture content in August, worm activity has started and is already causing issues for turf managers. There are still no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally. Cultural management continues to be the only route currently available, which can include a combination of practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts, leading to less negative lasting impression on the surface from the cast.
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 the pitch.