March temperatures were rising and falling like a big dipper and as the grounds dried out some of you were out there getting on with some early scarifying, mowing and PSR.
With spring just around the corner though soil temperatures should soon begin to rise, thus, stimulating some much needed growth. Many of you will be under pressure to get your facilities up to speed now, with probably less than a fortnight before your first game; you will soon catch up as the weather improves.
This is the busiest period in a grounds man’s calendar, with pitch preparation and out fields to maintain, time management is vitally important. Planning your work load to meet your objectives will help in this task.
Squares however, that are lying wet though, are best left alone until they dry out enough to get on without smearing the surface and damaging the soil. You will do more do more harm than good trying to work on the square in these conditions. Rolling whilst the soil is saturated will not achieve any consolidation. It is best to be patient and wait for more favourable ground conditions.
Diary compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Planning your workload to meet your objectives will help in this important task. Squares require a lot of time management, scarifying, mowing, rolling and marking out; not to mention your outfield; which will require aeration, raking or harrowing to raise the sward after a winter of heavy rain and of coarse mowing.
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 good consolidation.
Ensure you mowing equipment is serviced and ready for use.
The square now needs to be "squared off" as well as locating each pitch to be used.
The 3-4-5 system or right angled templates are best used.
Maintaining a cricket square requires regular mowing, so it is important to keep your blades sharp at all times. Back lapping them 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 have a cosmetic effect on the presentation.
Continue with any remaining pre-season rolling. Aerate the square by sarrel rolling when finishing your Union Jack pattern to keep the surface open. Keep an eye out for disease, worms and spray accordingly. With reference to worm control though, you will be wasting your time and money applying worm suppressants such as Carbendazim whilst the soil temperatures are still cool; it is best to wait until the soil warms up significantly or when worms are active following a wet spell. Brushing or switching of the square is a must to keep any disease from attacking the sward.
The square now needs to be "squared off" as well as locating each pitch to be used. The 3-4-5 system or right angled templates are best used. A light Verti-cut or scarification of the square to remove lateral growth whilst mowing the square regularly will increase sward density. Fertilising the square with low nitrogen, higher potassium feed will harden the sward, an NPK 6:5:10 +6% Fe would be suitable in most cases.
Carry out renovation to bare areas such as ends and foot holes. Check sightscreens, covers and machinery are ready for use as breakdowns could be time costly. Artificial netting facilities should be checked, cleaned and marked out ready for use.
If your facility is used for winter sports games, remove all ropes and fencing to allow easier access for machinery once they have finished. Drag brush to lift sward before continuing mowing the square at 10- 12mm to encourage sward density.
Pitch preparations should be started following the 10-12 day guidelines. Outfields will also need some attention to detail once they have dried out, with a light harrow, aerating, top dressing and mowing at15-18mm.
Re-commission your irrigation systems (if you have one) and check you have not had any frost damage.
Keep records of work carried out such as, core samples, fertilising, mowing and rolling.
Last, but not least, don’t forget your boundary line!
The 10-12 day prep shown below is only a guide; most grounds men will have their own interpretation of these activities
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. Water the pitch thoroughly in the event that the pitch has dried out through pre season rolling.
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. Mows @ 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 mower (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 guild lines. (Ts4 booklet)
Rolling The purpose of rolling is to squeeze any remaining air out of the pore spaces and to consolidate the surface up to 100mm. rolling is best performed when there is sufficient moisture in the pitch before the ground dries out. In the event of drought, syringing is advisable to assist keying the surface and helps polish the pitch.
Outfields areas may be looking a bit forlorn and in need of some attention, many may not have been cut during the winter months. Check the outfield for damage, a cold wet winter coupled with heavy snow and frost will have taken its toll, before carrying out any maintenance. Repair any surface damage caused by vehicle wheel tracks, pests or vandals.
Rabbit damage can be quite severe once they become active looking for food. Rabbit scrapes, mole hills and holes must be repaired and over seeded to ensure a good smooth surface that is safe for the players. Try and get on and give it a uniformed cut followed by some aeration and feed. Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter pitches so the amount of work required to be carried out may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby). If not, a light harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open.
Then aerate to improve surface drainage by form of deep slitting, solid tine by Verti-draining or hollow coring. Over seed bare area’s where budgets allow and apply balanced fertilisers such as a 9-7-7 as part of your annual maintenance programme to help stimulate growth and recovery. Aerating the outfield will help to increase aerobic activity, allowing noxious gases to escape and get some much needed oxygen around the grass plants root system. Regular spiking and, if possible, an application of sand dressings to the profile will definitely improve soil water movement in the top 100mm.You may wish to hollow core your outfields and then brush the cores back into the surface (recycling the existing material) this helps to restore levels, reduce thatch and help speed up the surface.
By the end of the month, the height of cut for the outfield should be reduced to around 15-18mm. Outfields which have been predominantly over seeded with rye grasses are subject to stress if mown to short, letting the clipping fly helps to return natural nutrients to the soil so reducing costs on fertilising. Fescues and smooth stalked meadow grasses are quite tolerant to close mowing and are less likely to be stressed out.
Boundary line or rope should be marked or placed in readiness for the start of the season.
Soil tests should be taken, ideally once or a year, or as required. April is an ideal time to obtain a soil analysis of the green, measuring for soil pH, nutrient levels and organic matter content, which are seen as good indicators of the condition of the soil. Once you have this information, you will be in a better position to plan your season's feeding and maintenance programmes.
Fertilising: Ideally, you should have conducted a soil analysis of your soil profile to ascertain the nutrient status of your green. This will help you decide on what fertiliser products to buy and apply.
Ensure you apply at the recommended rates and do not overdose the green or overlap when applying the products. There are plenty of spring fertiliser products available to meet your needs.
Most groundstaff will be applying a spring/summer NPK fertiliser, perhaps something like a 9:7:7 which will effectively get the grass moving during April. Then, towards the end of the month, or early May, apply a slow release fertiliser to see you through to June/July. However, the choice of feed and how well it works can be dependant on many factors - soil type, weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalysts for growth.
Always keep an eye open for turf disease. Prevention is always better than a cure. 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), the most common and damaging disease, are orange/brown patches 2.5-5cm across increasing in size under suitable conditions as the disease progresses. Active patches have a distinctive 'ginger' appearance when viewed early in the morning.
Red Thread is ill-defined bleached grass with Pink mycelium visible in early morning dew. Close inspection will reveal red needle like structures which are attached to the leaf blades. The needles become brittle upon death and are easily detached allowing fragments to spread the disease.
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. Fungicides are selected with different modes of action so that resulting mixture will attack the target disease on two or more fronts. 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, if needed; the use of Carbendazim is the only active ingredient for controlling worms. All personnel should be suitably qualified in the application of chemicals.
Moles can be attracted to areas where worms are prevalent; these need to be treated as they can cause a lot of damage to outfields and other surrounds.
Towards the end of April you may want to consider applying a selective weed killer to your outfield to control any broad leaf weeds.
The present condition of your facility will also have a bearing on what maintenance operations you should be doing. Coming out of this unseasonal wet and mild winter weather, there will be many clubs suffering from a build up of moss and algae problems.
Mosses are primitive, non-flowering plants that have no root structure and rely on there being sufficient moisture in the environment for reproduction and survival. The majority of mosses are tolerant of acidic conditions and are stimulated by wet, humid conditions. Rapid colonisation of moss and algaes usually occur during autumn and winter months when turf surfaces are lying wet and saturated for long periods of time, particularly when little or no aeration has been undertaken.
Remember, moss is the symptom of poor grass growth and not the cause of it. If you make sure you have a tightly knit sward next year, and have maximised drainage with plenty of regular aeration, you should not have to deal with moss at all.
If you are saddled with a turf situation that has a lot of moss present, there will be a requirement to kill off the moss. The only product now available to control moss in turf is sulphate of iron (Ferrous Sulphate), it is relatively cheap and effective. It can be applied in two ways - liquid or granular (lawn sand). Apply at recommended rates.
For best results (liquids):-
• Apply when the turf is actively growing and the soil is moist
• Mow 3 days before treatment and do not mow for three days after treatment
• Water after 2 days if no rain forecast
• Rake out dead moss thoroughly 7-14 days after treatment
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.
Time to repair and recommision raised covers systems/ and cricket net areas ready for the new season.
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 outfield) 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.
Thursday 9 April, Loughborough Endowed Schools, Loughborough, LE12 8AJ
More details of the courses can be found on the Groundsman Training website
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. Finish 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.
Other work to consider:-
• Mark out boundary line or ensure rope is in place.
• Scoreboards are ready for use
• Erect security netting around buildings to deter balls from damaging properties.
• Ensure stumps and bails are correct size, yardage disks are available.
• Check sightscreens, covers and machinery as breakdowns could be time costly.
• Artificial netting facilities should be checked, cleaned and marked out ready for use.