The long wet winter is hopefully behind us and the ground is drying out, so we can get on it as temperatures rise. This month, we should be looking to increase our mowing, apply some spring and summer fertiliser, get the square “squared off” and start your P.S.R. (pre season rolling) .
Brushing or switching the square regularly is a must to dry out the sward and keep disease under control.
First job would be to give the square a verti-cut or lightly scarify to clean out the surface to remove any build up of thatch over the winter, and then mow.
Mowing should be on a regular basis at15-18mm, at least once a week to strengthen the sward, making sure your blades are nice and sharp. Sarrel rolling will open up the surface and then apply some spring and summer fertiliser with a touch of iron to help harden the plant; be sure water in.
By now your outfield will have dried out a bit and will be in need of a light harrow, mowing, some aeration and an application of a 9-7-7 outfield fertiliser. Ideal mowing heights should be around 25 -35mm and try to mow once a week. The use of slit tines for aeration would be most suited for this time of the year. Try to aim for about 150-200mm in depth to get some oxygen into the soil to remove toxic gases such as carbon dioxides and hydrogen sulphides.
As soon as possible (for all you early birds), the square must be "squared off", which is done using semi-permanent markings, this operation can be made very simple using the 3, 4, 5 system to produce your right angles. Fixed plastic points pushed into the ground on the four corners are valuable in marking the correct position of the square. These are sunk slightly below the surface to ensure no damage to machinery is incurred.
As an addition a fixed point for the stump line and return crease is also extremely useful. This can provide accurate measurement from stump to stump (22yds). It is advisable to spend time getting your square absolutely correct; it will save time in the future.
Seeding of the ends with a perennial rye grass where the grass is weak, sparse or bare can be undertaken as the rise in temperature along with germination sheets will help germination. Remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. The use of Perennial rye grass is ideal for this for fast to establish and produces very little thatch.
Pre Season Rolling
P.S.R can start with the light mower using the Union Flag system, adding weight to increase consolidation before moving onto the heavy roller. This can only be achieved by a constant speed and measuring the soil density. Higher clay content squares of 27-35% requires more intense rolling regimes. Timing of this operation is important; if the ground is too wet, keep off it as this will cause bow affects.
With the days drawing out and more hours of sunlight available, photosynthesis will be on the increase. It is important to have good grass coverage at the start of the season, so quadrant sampling of the square to monitor grass coverage, weeds, pests & disease and a soil analysis will help towards achieving a measured performance quality standard of your pitches. Rye grass is a hungry plant, and requires regular nutrition. In strict terms, nutrition is the function by which the plant uses glucose to obtain energy.
The plant itself manufactures the glucose using carbon from the air, water from the soil and sunlight by the process of photosynthesis, also know as the Carbon Cycle. In order to produce a healthy quality sward, pH levels need to be monitored and values should range between the scale 6- 7 (neutral), above will be alkaline and below acidic. A balanced fertiliser programme is a way of controlling its uptake.
Hydraulic conductivity is slow in heavy soils such as clay, so regular syringing allows moisture and nutrients to reach the plant system.
The use of wetting agents will also help when watering the square in reducing localised dry spots.
Regular monitoring and fertilising of the square is important to the plants ability to recover after stress from mowing, rolling and the drying out.
Prevention is always better than a cure, and regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can make the plant susceptible to disease attack. Many turf grass diseases, such as Fusarium and Red Thread, can be active at this time of the year.
Symptoms of Fusarium (Microdochium nival) are, orange – brown patches 2.5-5cm across increasing in size under suitable conditions. Active patches have a distinctive ‘ginger’ appearance when viewed early in the morning. Creamy white mycelium resembling cotton wool can be seen in the centre and towards the outer edge of the patch.
Systemic curatives and protective fungicides, such as Chlorothalonil and Iprodione, applied in liquid form with water as a carrier, can be used to control any outbreaks. By mixing two or more products in the same tank can help reduce the potential for disease resistance developing. This makes it more difficult for the pathogens to develop resistance to treatments.
Worms can be very active at this time of the year so treatments can be carried out; the use of Carbendazim is the only active ingredient for controlling worms. All personnel should be suitably qualified in the application of chemicals.
All machinery should now have been returned from any servicing in time for use, with ongoing inspection and cleaning after use being vital. Breakdowns cost money as well as inconveniencing pitch preparations. The workshop should be kept in a good order; good housekeeping is important, a tidy workshop reflects a tidy worker.
Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance. Materials for spring remedial works should be booked to avoid disappointment or delay.
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Cricket Pitches. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of Cricket Pitch (square and ourfield) maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a cricket square and outfield.
There are two courses - Spring & Summer Maintenance and Autumn & Winter Renovations.
Delegates attending the courses and using the accompanying manuals will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principles they set out.
Included in the Course Manuals are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month. The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.
Our next public Spring & Summer Maintenance courses are taking place at Birmingham University on 27th March and Alton on 2nd April - more details can be found here.
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
Structures: Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. Finnish off any painting that may have been delayed due to bad weather.
Artificial Pitches: Keep all surfaces clean, by regular sweeping and brushing to remove any algae and moss from surface. Sand filled systems also require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.