End of season renovations
Over the years, Nick Tebbs and Stuart Palmer have been perfecting better ways of managing their facilities. Quality of workmanship is essential to ensure consistent wickets. End of season renovations are crucial to enable the square to recover after a busy season, the key aims being to remove unwanted thatch debris, restore surface levels and overseed with new grasses.
Nick and Stuart plan their renovations meticulously. "The importance of timing for this operation cannot be stressed enough," says Nick, "and the reinstatement of the square needs to be completed at the earliest opportunity. Effective renovation will have obvious benefits for next season."
"The whole square is close mown, removing all grass. Multiple passes are required and will also involve the use of hand rakes, wicket mowers and verti-cut units."
"The square is then scarified in five or more directions with a Graden, followed by multiple passes with Ransomes hydro triples fitted with scarifying blades. All arisings are removed by a combination of backpack blowers, a Billy Goat vacuum and rotary mowers to achieve a clean surface."
"Fairy Ring Destroyer is applied to any infected areas, with care taken to have the ground well forked and watered to allow the chemical to soak in. A wetting agent, such as Aquazorb, is also applied, at 1ltr per 25ltrs water, to treat 500m2 in three passes to help this process."
"Endo Roots pre-germination rootzone fertiliser is applied at a rate of 25kg per 500m2."
"The loam is then worked well into the surface, using lutes to push out the new loam, in conjunction with aluminium level boards for maintaining levels. We pay particular attention to the ends to achieve a true and level surface."
"We apply Scotts Sierra Blend 15:0:28 slow release fertiliser at a rate of 25gm per m2, and then seed with an appropriate cricket square mix. We aim to get an even coverage of seed across the square to give us a good plant per sq cm count. The recommended rate of 35gms per m2 is considered the absolute minimum; actual rates will be nearer 80gms per m2. The square is then fenced off."
"Our maintenance regime is not set in stone and may change due to external influences, such as the weather and the number of fixtures. However, after all said and done, it will be the decisions made and the attention to detail that makes the difference," says Nick, who has a skilled team of groundsmen and gardeners at the school to assist him. Five members of staff are experienced in maintaining cricket pitches. "Just as well," states Nick, "as, with so much cricket being played, plus practice nets to manage during the cricket season, it's all hands on deck."
"During the second week of January, we apply Scotts Sierra Blend 15:0:28 slow release at a rate of 25gm per m2, along with SeaTurf Iron Extra organic feed at a rate of 0.5 litre per 500m2. This seaweed based feed is a general grass tonic. We also put down Energise G at a rate of 30gm per m2 to provide carbons, beneficial acids and other trace elements."
"In late February, we apply Greenmaster Pro Iron at a rate of 50gm m2 and check for signs of worm cast damage and, if required, apply carbendazim at a rate of 1.5ltr per 500m2."
"In early March, we apply Biotol de-thatch or Thatchless Novazymes. This micro-organism based treatment breaks down residual thatch layers. If we have applied carbendazim for worm suppression, we apply Biotol at least two weeks later to allow the product to work. Applications of Prestige 6:6:12 fertiliser, at a rate of 35gm per m2 begin in March, which are continued monthly into November, as required."
"We also apply Holster BLW killer at a rate of 100ml per 500m2, but avoid spraying over newly sown and repaired ends - a minimum eight week gap is required between application and autumn reseeding to avoid harming new grass. This may be applied into June, though application will be restricted by fixtures."
"In July, we feed again with Seaturf Iron Extra liquid feed at a rate of 0.5ltr per 500m2."
"In late September or early October, and according to ground temperature - it has to be above 10OC - we apply Thatchless Novazymes at a rate of 1.0ltr per 500m2."
"Throughout the winter months, the squares will benefit from regular brushing and/or swishing to remove dew and prevent turf diseases."
"In November, we apply Ironite at a rate of 50gm per m2 and give a second application of Daconil Turf, if required, at a rate of 1.5ltr per 500m2 according to turf health, expected weather conditions, and as an insurance against disease over the Christmas break."
"For the remainder of the year, we maintain visual inspections of the sward, on the look out for disease, moss, worm casts, pest damage and discolouration of the grass."
Cricket wickets preparation
"The whole square is kept at a 12mm overall height, with the track reduced to 8mm about ten days before the fixture. Ongoing raking and verticutting is also carried out across the square."
"Two days before the fixture, we reduce the height of cut to 4mm and mark out the day before the game, especially for multiple Saturday school fixtures, which are prepared on Friday."
"For 1st team games, we give a final brush and cut before the game and re-mark."
"We find our roll on covers invaluable, and they are used more for wicket preparation and management of the square than as wicket covers. They really help control moisture content."
"Ten days before a fixture, and after cutting to our intermediate length, we flood the wicket, and we do the same about four days prior to the game. However, as the season progresses, and during very dry spells, it is possible to "flash" water two days before a game. We believe it is really important to retain moisture in the wicket."
"Rolling is undertaken on a 'little and often' basis, following the ECB guidelines. Whilst not conclusive, the best bit of advice for me was confirming that prolonged use of heavy rollers is a waste of time - consolidation is achieved in the first three or four passes. We roll individual wickets in a round robin programme. We do not use heavy rollers - I have seen the damage that they do. We do use a Stothert & Pitt and an Autoroller later in the season."
"For the past four years, most of our pre-season rolling has been achieved with 36" cylinder mowers, although some has been carried out with the Stothert & Pitt. Our playing fields are on the brow of a hill and, with good grass coverage, spring winds and clear days, the moisture content of the squares will be reduced through transpiration. It's a question of knowing your patch and it's micro climate."