Cricket square renovation requires hose pipe!
By Paul Markham
In the ten years I have worked at Bradford & Bingley Sports Club, never has it been so dry at this time of the year. It seems an age since we last had a drop of rain significant enough to make an impression and I guess I'm not the only one chanting this tale.
The first job I had to do was to soak the whole square using a travelling sprinkler. However, this had to be done in three stages because the reach of the water would penetrate only four wickets at a time length ways. With this in mind, scarification took place a stage at a time and only where the water had been the previous day. The ground had to be 'workable' meaning the scarifier blades penetrating the ground surface.
I scarify mainly in one direction - in the line of play - but also it was important to do it in other directions so I did it in both diagonals. This helped me to get all the thatch out of the square and also to prepare the ground for a perfect seedbed. If you have been successful you will have created many grooves in the surface, great for seed to be dropped into.
With my Saxon mower set at 5mm I picked up all the debris on the square. We do not want this debris because we want a clean, true surface next year and removing the debris helped me to provide this.
With our sorrel-spiking roller we aerated the ground. This can be pushed or pulled. Basically it is a drum with a series of steel spikes 6mm in diameter and protruding 45mm into the surface. The benefits of doing this is that it will help to stimulate root growth that the seed needs for germination and it also opens up the surface, which is compacted as a result of using the heavy roller all spring and summer.
Broadcast sow, using a spinning disk spreader. We sow seed in the line of play and also right across the square. Be quite definite in what you do. The secret is to be liberal. Make sure you sow enough seed because you can be sure our feathered friends will have a share in our plantation!
Where wear has been excessive - that is the bowlers' follow through - more seed has to be put down. I did this by hand because this is attention to detail, sowing exactly where I want it and making sure it covers all the bare areas.
The next stage is top dressing and for this it has to be dry. There are many top dressing machines on the market from tractor mounted to powered machines, pedestrian types to hopper and belt driven machines to walk-behind ones and then there is the old fashioned shovel with which I did the top dressing work!
The ratio of dressing was eight bags per wicket. With every wicket I split in my head an imaginary eight sections and emptied each bag of Kaloam into that section. With the shovel and a lot of back-breaking effort I spread all these bags. The loam was in a pile and I worked round it spreading to the outside and then working inwards so I had spread two circles and then finally I went to the middle where the pile was and just spread this using the shovel backwards and forwards.
"I was glad when that job was finished - a few pounds were shed during that experience I can tell you. The loam was worked into the square using a drag mat. It is self explanatory - you drag the mat along the ground so the loam is levelled into the square and there are no high or missed spots.
No rain was forecast so the hosepipe had to be used. I took the time to spray the entire square by hand! The seed split and germinated within eight to nine days and I gave a sigh of relief. The reason I sprayed by hand and did not use the travelling sprinkler was because I didn't want too much water in the same place on the square because this would have resulted in the seed moving around, and the result of that would have been patchy and thinning growth. A dense sward is what we want so no moss can appear in the wet winters we get nowadays.
I haven't done it yet, but the square will get an autumn-winter feed to harden off the grass ready for the winter and also to promote root growth so the wickets hold up next year. The programme cycle carries on but I'll tell you later as it happens.