As normal for this time of the year, squares will require a lot of time management, scarifying, mowing, rolling and marking out; then there is your outfield, which will require mowing, aeration, raking or harrowing to raise the sward.
It is not necessarily about how much Pre-Season Rolling you carry out, it is ensuring that the rolling is undertaken during optimum conditions by having enough moisture in the soil profile to allow for good consolidation.
Ensure your machinery and equipment is serviced, in good condition and ready for use.
Pitch preparation should start 10-12 days prior to the match. Following the guidelines below will help you achieve a good standard of pitch. Most groundsmen will have there own interpretation of these activities. Marking out the crease should be done with care, using frames or string to help achieve clear, straight lines. DAY 1 String out pitch lines to ensure correct width, 10 ft; Mow out @ 8mm. Always double mow (up and down the same line), using an 8 bladed pedestrian cylinder mower for maintaining the square. Test the pitch with a key or knife for moisture
DAY 2 Brush / light rake, mow @ 8 mm, light roll to consolidate surface levels.
DAY 3 Scarify or Verti cut to remove lateral growth and surface thatch avoiding deep surface disturbance. Reduce HOC & mow @ 7 mm. continue medium light rolling 1000 kg 10-15 minutes.
DAY 4 Roll pitches increasing roller weight to consolidate the surface.
DAY 5 Scarify with hand rake to raise sword after rolling. Reduce HOC to 6mm
DAY 6 20-30 minute’s with heavy roller.
DAY 7 Light scarify by hand to raise sward, mow @ 6 mm, increase weight of roller to 1500- 1700 kg continue rolling 30 minutes reducing speed to consolidate surface.
DAY 8 Continue rolling for 30 minutes at slow speed to achieve consolidation. Cover pitch over night to encourage moisture to rise to surface.
DAY 9 Brush / rake lifting any lateral grasses, reduce HOC mow (with a shaver blade) to 4mm, try to avoid scalping. Roll using heavy roller slow speed (crawling) 30 minutes morning & again late afternoon where possible. Cover pitch over night.
DAY 10 Brush & mow pitch, roll morning and afternoon slow as possible (crawling).
DAY 11 Brush, mow & roll to polish surface, test bounce with an old ball along edge of pitch. Continue rolling to consolidate surface. Cover pitch over night.
DAY 12 Brush, mow & roll polish up pitch. Your pitch should effectively have take on a straw like coloration, a sign that the preparation has been achieved. String and mark out as in accordance to E.C.B guidelines. (TS4 booklet)
Mowing heights for the cricket square during the playing season should be:-
8-12mm April-September (playing season)
5-6mm Wicket preparation
3-4mm Final cut for match
Soil and air temperatures should begin to rise substantially as we move into April. The application of a spring and summer fertiliser will also increase the vigor, sward growth and density. Ideally, get your soils sampled for nutrients, organic matter content and soil pH where possible. This information will help decide on the appropriate course of action with regard to applying the correct NPK balance for your site. Liquid fertilisers are becoming popular again.
Granular products have to rely on the granule breaking down, becoming mobile in the soil and then taken into the plant via the root system. Today’s products have been refined to act more efficiently, their mode of action allows the active nutrient ingredients to get into the plant tissue more quickly, and thus you tend to see a faster response to plant growth Wetting agents can now be applied; this is usually done on a monthly basis. The use of wetting agents will be a good tool for ensuring that any rain has the chance to soak deeper into the soil profile and not simply run off the playing surface.
April is already upon us and, although it only seems like yesterday that it was the start of the year, it seems like a distant memory back to last April. However, it is only then that we were opening venues for the return to sport at many places. It seems an age ago, as we have come so far from that point up to where we are now, and there have been hours of dedication from turf professionals and volunteers up and down the country poured into their sites for preparation of matches and activities. This month brings the ‘real feel’ of spring, with longer nights and increasing temperatures, which has now started to provide some essential turf growth and recovery; although there has been snow in April in the past, so we must not get too carried away.
The weather in March turned out to be a stark contrast to what we had experienced in February, which was a very wet month, that brought localised flooding to many areas. March on the other hand turned out to be a dry month for many with some high day temperatures for the time of year. The issue here for many was that because February had been so wet, there was an element of having to wait until the ground conditions were suitable for carrying out maintenance. Then, as the month progressed, conditions got too dry and watering was having to take place just to keep some moisture in the ground.
Temperatures look set to be more moderate over the course of April, but with some cold night-time temperatures at the start of the month. Rainfall is forecast for much of the start of the month, with conditions looking more settled towards the latter parts of the month. The rainfall will be welcomed from many who are waiting to make applications for encouraging some early season growth to achieve some recovery. With day temperatures still moderate and night-time temperatures still relatively low, applications of nutrition need to be made understanding how the environmental conditions will affect the efficacy of said applications. Growth can’t be rushed at this point of the season. Trying to do so will only result in unnecessary applications or spending, and potential issues further down the line.
These can be a useful tool throughout the season to ensure that moisture is distributed evenly throughout the profile. When using this technology, there is a benefit of ensuring applications are made early. This helps ensure the product is in the profile before issues can arise. Recent years have seen dry conditions early in the season, they can lead to playing catch up in terms of having consistent moisture within the profile. Managing moisture in this way allows the turf manager to have better control over the conditions. This can encourage rooting deeper in the profile, allow less water to be applied via irrigation systems and allow better uptake of nutrients by the plant, and therefore better efficacy of any product applications that have been made. Each site will be different and there are technologies within the market which will suit individual sites with individual needs.
Irish Summer Time (IST) started on the 27th March which brings an increase in daylight hours. This gives the plant more opportunity to carry out photosynthesis, more photosynthesis means more growth. Applications of simple sugars and carbohydrates can provide the plant with a readily available supply of energy, which can be much needed at a time when growth is commencing and can assist in reducing any additional stress. As temperatures begin to increase, so does the opportunity to use a wider range of fertiliser technologies. Again, each site will have its own specific requirements and it is important to find a solution which works best for you as it is not a case of one cap fits all. For those that want a slow release of nitrogen over a longer period of time, the conditions will become more suitable for this type of fertiliser technology as the month progresses. These come in many forms such as coated granules, organic based, Methylene Urea and Isodor and Crotudur to name a few.
Plant Growth Regulator
April can bring the first signs of annual meadow grass seeding, which can have an impact on playing quality, performance and overall aesthetics. Although grooming can be deployed to physically remove the seed, in some instances, depending on the surface you manage, this can provide the perfect seed bed for more annual meadow grass to develop. When growth becomes consistent, it is key to manage this to ensure even growth is achieved. An even sward increases the playing quality of the surface being managed and, in-line with this, plant growth regulators can be used to great effect to help regulate the flowering capacity of the Poa annua plant. Prohexadione- calcium (Class A late gibberellin inhibitor) can be used at cool temperatures and is active when sprayed onto the plant, therefore its regulatory effect is fast acting. Early applications, when seedheads are still in the root stage of development, ahead of stem dissection and flowering, will promote regulation through inhibition of the biosynthesis of the plant hormone gibberellin. A key benefit of this active ingredient is that it regulates Poa annua, closely aligned with the desirable perennial grasses in the sward. This restricts the ability of the Poa annua to pioneer the sward, by not giving it the advantage of being out of regulation whilst the perennial species are still being regulated.
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Maintaining a cricket square requires regular mowing, so it is important to keep your blades sharp at all times. Backlapping will help prolong their lives, but they should be sent for re-grinding, with your bottom blade replaced at the same time, especially a shaver blade.
Check your ground for foreign objects, such as studs or stones which can cause considerable damage to machinery and pitch.