The end of season work here at Edgbaston has gone much better than I could have hoped for. The wicket looks magnificent at the moment.
As soon as the season finished we used the Graden machine in five directions, and we took out so much muck it was unbelievable. It surprised me further because we had scarified the square ourselves with our old SISIS rotorake and this walk behind machine had removed a fair amount itself, but the Graden took out even more.
It's the first time I've used it and I'm very impressed.
You get sales reps coming in to get you to try different ones but, once you've got something that works well, I'm against too much experimenting and trying too many different seeds all the time.
Once the seed was down we started the top-dressing, using the Surrey Ongar Plus. It was very dry, but we decided to spread it on. It went on like dust, so we actually gave a very light top dressing to the whole square, only about 2 to 2.5 tonnes were used in total.
And, because the dressing and the square were so dry, we didn't leave any tyre marks at all. We put on the germination sheets, and it looks fabulous at the moment, the seed's up and through.
There is only one wicket where the seed is not through and that's the last one we played on. It's nearly there; it just needs a bit of water. If we don't get any rain this afternoon, the boys will be out there watering lightly to give it a little drink.
We have also re-laid two brand new wickets in the middle with Surrey Ongar loam, down to about 8 inches (200mm). We took 52 tonnes out and put 54 tonnes in, so work that one out!
We did all the work ourselves. It took us four days from start to finish and we were very lucky with the weather. We have re-seeded with a Rigby Taylor special mix, which they have asked us to use on these two wickets. I will be very interested to see how that comes through compared to the Barenbrug mix.
For the outfield we used the Amazon flail scarifier, working 4 different ways and removing a lot of spoil. With the outfield surface clean we started to top dress with 28 tonnes, but I'm still waiting for the last 15 tonnes. They should have been here at 7.30 this morning but, apparently, the lorry is somewhere on the M6!
The outfield is only getting a thin covering of sand dressing because the soil here is already very sandy. We have top dressed with sand for a long time now and it is now a magnificent draining outfield with about 3 inches of sand in the top.
You may remember during the Test match that we had a problem with sinking drains. It was horrendous, in some areas it went down about and inch and a quarter. During that match we had to first do some root zone spreading and levelling on the bowlers run up and then followed this with some re-turfing on parts of the bowlers run ups directly behind the wicket at the lunch interval.
We have subsequently got the company back in to top up the depressions.
All the drainage work has now been completed. The company finished off the ring drains and it is all connected. Apparently, it is the worst shrinkage they have ever seen- a combination of our clay subsoil and the very dry summer.
We've still got germination sheets on the two new wickets. The grass is coming through, but it's a little bit patchy in the middle. I'll leave it on for a couple more days. I don't want to take it off too soon because we've got foxes around and there prone to digging up disturbed ground and burying allsorts underneath.
I am pleased to say that, so far, we've had no problems with disease. We've been very lucky and let's hope it stays that way. We do put iron on the wicket every 6 weeks or so. We use the Rigby Taylor iron, which turns the grass black, but in my opinion, it does harden up the grass against disease and who cares what colour it is out of season.
All the work on the practise areas is now also complete, seeded and top-dressed. We've only got the Colt's ground to finish off, and then we'll be ready for the winter.