The Season End At Edgbaston.
Well the season has drawn to a close and our renovation is well underway. The last games were played over a week ago but some of the wickets have been renovated going as far back to July. With the luxury of having around twenty seven wickets on our square, some of the wickets can be put to bed early on. Four of our wickets are set aside for Test cricket only and therefore were available for remedial work straight after the Test and International had finished.
This season we have played nine county games over four days each, nine C&G one day Sunday games, one one day international, the Test match, two Natwest trophy games and two B&H cup matches. We have been fortunate with the weather, in not losing a game this year although a couple of days play were lost during County games. We have also hosted some local school finals and obviously training, although with the latter we try to limit any use on the square itself.
Last week we heavily scarified the square in four directions removing as much organic material from the base of the grass as possible. It is always very important that we don't bury much of the years thatch build up under the new top dressing, thus creating problems for ourselves down the line. Once scarified, the square was seeded, I have found that to enable a good germination rate on clay a heavy seed application is needed. I used about 175kgs of four different Rye cultivars on the square. This was applied using a Sisis Varispread. I find that this machine puts down lots of dimples for the seed to be evenly distributed into. Again we seeded in perhaps four or five different directions to ensure good coverage.
Since I have bought a Charterhouse Vertidrain machine I haven't looked back, its versatility has enabled me to aerate the square far more than has been done in previous years and encouraged better rooting and therefore healthier plants. The machine is presently set up with needle tines and we managed to get in to 7"(175mm) on a 2"x2"(50mmx50mm) pattern. I tend to aerate only the middle of the square from about five feet outside each crease as this is the area where the ball is likely to be pitched and there is little point in trying to aerate nearer the stumps. At the end of October we will try to get a deeper penetration with the spikes, once the ground has softened up a little!
We had three new wickets constructed on the square last year using Surrey loam so we now have to top dress the square using both Surrey loam and Ongar loam. The three new wickets have not been played on this season so we have put in place a dressing program to make minor improvements to the levels. I want to make sure that they will behave well when we do finally use them. The Surrey loam used is known as the 'Old Trafford mix' or the 'Pete Marron special' as I prefer. I know that Pete has used it to great affect and I take my hat off to him presenting probably the best Test venue wicket seen this year.
We used about one tonne of Surrey loam on these three wickets last week and about a further six tonnes on the remaining twenty four wickets. I still prefer to top dress by hand so we broadcast the dressing with shovels and loot it in by hand.
I will endeavour to redress the square again at the end of October with similar quantities of Loam once this dressing has worked itself into the surface.
The one thing I am always conscious of is disease, once the square has been dressed it is impossible to get back on to it for weeks, because the dressing will pick up on you feet and one almighty mess will ensue. So I make sure that a preventative fungicide is sprayed on to the grass prior to renovation. I keep my fingers crossed that we don't have too mild and wetter autumn and that we catch one or two early frosts to kill off the viruses.
I recommend that clubs should at the very least have a soil analysis of the wicket soil type prior to renovation, to ascertain the type of clay content in their square. This will avoid the wrong loam being applied which would undoubtedly cause future problems with separation and root break.
Finally, we are currently working on our outfield. Again we have scarified the area in two directions, removing about forty cubic yards of material to skips. The outfield has been seeded with a mix of Rye and Fescue grasses and when the rain stops and the field dries a little I will spread about seventy five tonnes of coarse drainage sand (Leighton Buzzard). My lads will be pleased to hear that this dressing will be spread by machine not by hand, and worked in using drag mats. A Vertidrain program is in place to aerate the outfield.