Great start but pegged back slightly
It was generally a late finish to the cricket season that has meant Groundsmen having to wait untill the end of September to renovate their squares.
With Warwickshire not playing their last game until the 25th of September, I and the team jumped the gun and used a break in play, between the 18th and 21st to start our renovation. During this break we carried out Graden scarifying, seeding, and aeration, leaving just two playable wickets for the last two games of the season.
The pitch is scarified regularly throughout the season and but I am always amazed at the amount of debris that is still removed in September. This year we used the Graden four ways on the square and well over a builder's skip full of debris was removed.
Once the team had removed the debris the Groundsman spiker was used to penetrate at over four inches using needle tines, the spiking was also done in four directions. This was then followed by the Verti-drain, using needle tines that pierced the soil to a depth of 6.5 inches. With five days of remaining cricket, we had to deliberate on whether to leave the pitch open, or top-dress it. Birmingham's large population of hungry pigeons convinced us to dress every wicket (burying seed) on the square apart from the two wickets, which were left for play.
A quantity of 4.5 tonnes of loam was added, this was looted, brushed and finally drag matted into the pitch. To prevent the square getting soaked with rain it was covered for the next ten days, all we added was a quick sprinkling of water in the evenings to stop the surface drying out. Obviously we removed the covers from the square during our last two games. The players weren't overly impressed, but within seven days the first little red headed seedlings appeared making the early start worthwhile. The Rigby Taylor ECB mix was used to overseed, initially a quantity of 6 x 25kg bags were used, and four weeks after a further four bags were added.
I consult with David Bates about what mix to feed the pitch and I credit a much thicker growth and turf development, to experimenting with a number of feeds. The quality of the root structure has been great; the roots are pure white and six to seven inches in length. Carrying out Vertidraining twice before Christmas and twice after, has improved the roots and we have also observed a marked reduction of the pan a couple of inches below the surface.
By the end of October a super level of growth had occurred, allowing us to do work on the outfield. Rob Franklin my assistant, who needed to lose some weight, started to use a walk behind Graden two ways on the outfield. We then found some old SISIS VeeMow's in the shed that hadn't seen the light of day in five years and we attached them to our Hydromain. These units were used to further remove considerably more thatch and debris. Since then we have observed the outfield's develop magnificently.
I think that the VeeMow's must have disturbed some slow release fertiliser in the sward, because the outfield now looks greener than in the summer.
During the winter the team are occupied carrying out maintenance on machinery and equipment and getting covers and sheets repaired. We will be doing some more scarifying of the outfield and also some Vertidraining. The drain lines around the outfield have been topped up again, so hopefully these will now be married into the surrounding area.
We then had to contend with an annual firework display organised by Birmingham City Council. A screen was set upon the square and Terraplas was used to protect the square. The screen and flooring covered the wickets in the middle of the square including the international and one-day test wickets on the Thursday morning. There were three displays hosted at Edgbaston on Saturday 5th November, catering for around 25,000 people. This year the Council removed the Terraplas two days later than had been agreed, their guys not arriving until the following Monday lunchtime to remove the flooring. The rain, combined with the weight of the screens had caused it to sink into the wickets, causing small dents, other damage and discolouration to the turf. We have been repairing the damage since and have now applied another one and a half tonnes of Ongar plus loam to these strips to bring back the levels.
The damage caused has set us back, but we now need some mild weather for the square to recover. With the season starting earlier each year, we'll be working hard to get the square prepared for next years action.
We haven't as yet had to spray with fungicide, as there hasn't been any fusarium around to speak of. I may, subject to the weather forecast, put some preventative spray down to tide us over the Christmas period-that way we can all relax and enjoy some festive fun! We all work seven days a week from the spring to the autumn-usually from 8am until 8:30pm, so we all take some very long but well earned breaks during the closed season.I have been delighted with the progress of the square over the last few years. The pitch will next be in use when the Bears start their preparation for the forthcoming season on March the 4th.