The unexpected high temperatures experienced in April has boosted PSR and helped to dry out the ground in readiness for the start of the new season. With increasing sunlight now becoming more available, and soil and air temperatures rising, we should be looking at producing some good quality pitches. Planning the use of your pitches will limit wear; starting with the odd numbers first, if that's your preference, work across the square and try not to over use them this early in the season.
May ought to see an increase in growth activity. so be sure to mow your square regularly. Applications of spring and summer fertiliser to you're square and outfield will help stimulate the plant and keep it from being stressed. Try to take some pride in the way you present your facility, as a well presented square and outfield will impress and encourage players to perform.
Diary compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Most of your work this month will be focused on preparing pitches as well as your outfield. Pitch preparations and marking should be in full swing. Following the 10-12 day guidelines, try and produce a consistent surface with fast medium pace. Be sure to get your lines accurate and straight too. A light verti-cut or scarification of the square will help to remove lateral growth following pre season rolling, whilst mowing the square regularly will increase sward density.
Outfields may also be in need of some attention if used for winter sport, with a light harrowing, aeration, seeding and top dressing. H.O.C for your outfield should be between 15-18mm.
Continuing pitch preparations and mowing the square at 10- 12mm. The outfield should be boxed off or gang mowed at 15-18mm, avoiding scalping.
Re-commission your irrigation systems (If you can afford such luxury). Fertilising the square with higher nitrogen based fertiliser should be carried out to feed the plant to keep it from stress and disease. Be sure to water well in. but resist applying in drought conditions. Keep records of work carried out such as core sampling, fertilising, mowing and watering.
It is important to plan and programme your pitch requirements to ensure you maximise the square capacity to accommodate all fixtures. By preparing two to three pitches at any one time, you will have the opportunity of moving fixtures in the event of severe damage due to wear and tear, vandalism or weather.
Due to the cold drying winds around the country, you may experience the drying of the square; irrigate as required as moisture content is important to keying the surface, as well as to consolidate the soils.
Dry Patch is the development of localised and wide spread harder dry spots on the square and outfield, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality. This condition seriously weakens the turf, leaving a thinner sward prone to invasion by moss and free seeding grass species and, in several cases, lead to death of the plant. Corrective measures based on regular watering by hand will help. In the case of fungal-induced dry patch, particularly where no fungus is present, regular treatment is vital.
Soil temperatures should gradually begin to rise in May, thus stimulating grass growth both on the square and outfields. There will be a need to increase the regularity of cutting to maintain designated cutting height. The application of spring fertilisers will also increase the vigour and rate of sward growth. You can begin to apply some higher Nitrogen based fertilisers. Ideally, get your soils sampled for nutrients, organic matter content and soil pH. This information will help decide on the appropriate course of action with regard to applying the correct NPK balance for your ground.
Liquid fertilisers are becoming popular again. Modern products have been refined to act more efficiently, their mode of application 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. 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.
Pitch preparation should start 10-12 days prior to the match. Following the guild lines 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. 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 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
A simple method for testing the ground for rolling is to insert a knife or slit tine into the soil profile and see if it comes out clean. If it does, it's the right time to roll.
If you find you may not have completed your pre season rolling, don't despair, rolling of the entire square can still be carried out on separate occasions during May, spaced out between one another with a roller weight between 1000-2500 kg. The first pass should be across the line of play, returning along the same path until the whole square is rolled. Choosing and using the correct weight of roller is also critical for preparing cricket surfaces.
Continue to verticut, training the grass to grow vertically to produce a cleaner cut. Do not disturb the surface profile!! If you don't have a verticut options then use a drag brush or rake to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verti-cutting unit,s be very careful not to mark/scar the soil surface as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out.
A spring/summer fertiliser should now be applied to encourage top growth, using manufacturers recommended rates. Rye grasses are more wear tolerant when fed correctly. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual maintenance programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for pitch preparation, repairs and the health of the plant. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied. It's important to ensure that the water penetrates into the rootzone to a minimum of 100- 150mm to encourage deeper rooting. Check with a probe. Allow to dry and repeat irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems such as dry patch, scorching and death of the plant.
Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play. After match pitch repairs begin with the brushing and sweeping up of any surface debris. Soak the wicket, scarify and spike, top-dress foot holes and overseed. Additional work may be required to repair foot-hole damage.
Seeding of the ends where the grass is weak, sparse or bare can be continued, as the rise in temperature will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.
Remember not to neglect the outfield; it too has a major effect on a game if unattended. The outfield should be treated the same as any other natural grass pitch, carrying out regular mowing, raking or Verti cutting, aerating and feeding programmes to maintain a healthy sward.
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 has been used for other sports (football/rugby). If not, a light harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open. 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 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 helps speed up the surface.
Ideally maintain a cutting height of between 10-14 mm, however, many outfields tend to be undulating and uneven, preventing close mowing at these heights and, in reality, most are probably mown at a height between 12-25 mm. Also the type of mower used will dictate what height of cut can be achieved. Rotary mowers tend to scalp undulating ground whereas boxing off with a cylinder or a hydraulic gang mower with floating heads can give a better finish. Outfields which have been predominantly over seeded with rye grasses are subject to stress if mown to short. Fescues and smooth stalked meadow grasses are quite tolerant to close mowing and are less likely to be stressed out.
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. Creamy white mycelium resembling cotton wool can be seen in the centre and towards the outer edge of the patch.
Grass in the active patches is often slimy; once the disease is controlled the scars will remain until there is sufficient grass growth to fill in. Regular brushing, switching or drag matting in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak.
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. By mixing two or more products in the same tank can help reduce the potential for disease resistance developing. 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.
Pests: - Worm 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 active where worms are prevalent and need to be treated as they can cause a lot of damage to the surface.
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.
Pitchcare also provide a range of courses suitable for tennis clubs. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.
Some of the courses available are:
Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31
H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)
Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)
Pesticide Application (PA courses)
Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)
Basic Trees Survey and Inspection
More details about all the courses can be found here, or you can email Jeud Ennis for information.
Other Tasks for the Month
ï'§ Mark out boundary line or ensure rope is in place.
ï'§ Scoreboards are ready for use.
ï'§ Sightscreens repaired, painted and in place.
ï'§ Covers checked for damage and utilised.
ï'§ Practice nets cleaned, marked and in good order.
ï'§ Erect security netting around buildings to deter balls from damaging properties.
ï'§ Ensure stumps are correct size, bails and yardage disks are available.
ï'§ All that is left to say is "Have a great season"