Here is the latest edition of the nomadgroundsman.com blog, a monthly blog offered by Brian Sandalls at Preston Nomads CC in Sussex. In this edition, they are looking ahead to renovation with materials in mind, with the help of leading supplier David Goodjohn of Green Infrastructures Ltd.
David is also an ECB County Pitch Advisor (Northants) and a rugby and cricket nut.
David, what is a cricket Loam?
Cricket loam is defined as a suitable clay loam type soil with sufficient binding strength to produce an even, firm surface upon which games of cricket can take place.
It needs to be fine graded (below 4mm in size) with no stone content and dry and consistent to enable even spreading when topdressing.
Loam is a mixture of clay, sand and silt.
Why do we need loam, and do we have to topdress at the end of every season?
Loam provides a firm true surface for our square with the correct rebound qualities to provide good even bounce for cricket.
It also restores levels (help to keep the square flat) and gives you the best chance to be ready for the first game next season.
We need to topdress at the end of every season or we will lose the levels from stud damage. We only need to put on what has been taken off by wear.
Where is cricket loam sourced from, as many believe it comes from farmers' fields?
It's always sourced from construction or civils, so ask if stock is available long term
I understand people do believe that, but it's the same principle as the money tree, never exists in real life - and, after all, most loams are blends of different soils.
This is the kind of giant screener that Gi use for screening loam
What are we looking for in a good quality loam dressing?
It needs to be fine graded (below 4mm in size) with no stone content, and dry and consistent to enable even spreading when topdressing
In what conditions is it best applied and with what tools?
The surface needs to have been thinned out (so as not to bury any existing grass) and a key within the soil needs to be made to ensure the loam topdressing is well integrated with the existing surface.
The grass needs to be short - ideally 3/5mm - and the surface and the loam need to be dry to enable even spreading and levelling.
Soil levelling lute - a must have for any grounds team
How many bags of loam will we need to apply during renovations?
This will depend on the current condition and the extent to which you need to scarify to remove thatch, so:
- Heavily worn square / deep scarification can be 10-15 bags per strip
- Medium wear / average scarification generally 6-10 bags per strip
- Very little wear / superficial scarification or verticutting then 5 bags or less per strip
Always remember, if in doubt, consult your local County Pitch Advisor
When should we be looking at buying our loam for renovations and what ways can we purchase it?
As loam is made up of natural resources there can be shortages at times, so it's always wise to at least reserve it in June/July for an early September delivery.
There are generally 3 options:
- 25kg bags
- Dumpy (tonne) bags or
Cost is, of course, a consideration but, if you work alone, 25kg bags are more easily handled - if you have an army then many can shovel a lot.
It is always good to order more than you need so you have some in stock for next season's footholes and pitch repairs.
How do we find out how much clay, sand and silt is in our loam?
If you speak to your loam supplier, they will be testing there loam yearly to identify the quantity of clay, silt and sand through partial size distribution testing, they may produce a chart as in the below picture.
Club cricket is 26/28%, as a rough guide, and County is low 30s as they have the benefit of the staff and covers to dry out.
Above pie chart curtesy of https://www.surreyloams.com/cricket-loam/school-cricket-wicket-top-dressing
Is changing my loam going to result in better pitches and should we be looking to change our loam regularly?
The general line of thought is that you should always stay with the same loam, but this may not give you the results you seek.
By incorporating a heavier clay loam (having got rid of thatch), a square can noticeably improve its playing characteristics.
But a note of caution; if you have thatch or root breaks and or a lack of covers, moving onto heavier clay based loams will not be the answer and could create more problems than it solves.
Before considering changing loam, speak to your county pitch advisor and possibly loam company, as not all loams are compatible with each other.