Key Tasks for September
As we move through the month, regular mowing of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Continue with your “after care of the wicket”; repairs and renovation to used pitches should still be undertaken even with the season's end just around the corner. Player safety is paramount.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme.
Pay particular attention to your foot holes as they may require more intense work. Do not neglect your outfield either; as this is the largest area of maintenance, it still needs to be carefully managed.
Preparing for matches should be as normal, using the 12 day preparation programme as outlined in last month's diary.
If you have completed your season, set the HOC between 4 and 5mm and give your square a final cut to remove as much vegetation as possible.
Irrigate the square copiously to allow moisture to get down into the soil profile to aid machinery, such as scarifiers, to do their work.
Check delivery schedules for end of season renovation programmes
Start end of season renovation of the square.
September is usually a good month to carry out any additional ground works, particularly drainage, especially when using heavy pipe laying machinery. Ground conditions are able to sustain the weight and action of these machines without causing too much damage to the turf surface.
End of Season Renovations
As a general rule of thumb, 6-10 bags of loam are applied per wicket. It is important not to under or over dress your pitches, remembering that your ends must also be considered. Applying to the middle of the pitches only will create a crown.
Do not to skimp on the amount of loam used. Too many club pitches do not perform well in terms of pace and bounce, as wear and tear is magnified during use. Generally, it is usually a combination of two factors that causes most problems: failure to remove enough thatch/debris material during renovations and not applying enough loam to increase the bulk density of the soil profile, resulting in slow and low pitches.
However, there is a fine line between too much and too little. It's important not to overdress the square, as you will not only be wasting the precious loam material, you may also be smothering your sward. The last thing you want to be doing is burying any vegetation, which will lead to future problems such as thatch layering.
The object of the renovation is to revitalize your square by restoring surface levels and encouraging new growth. Scarification is important to remove any unwanted build up of vegetation and organic matter, but also to produce a key for the new loam material to sit in.
The level of scarification required will be dependent on how much of a thatch layer you have generated throughout the playing season. The best way to identify how much you have is by taking a core sample. Then it will be a case of going through a vigorous scarification programme.
Scarify in at least three different directions, finishing with the line of play. Ensure you clean off all the thatch debris after each pass. Follow this by sarrel rolling, in four directions to encourage as many seed holes as possible, before over seeding the square using a suitable grass seed mixture; do not be afraid to try out new cultivars. Use a quality seed; cheap seed is a false economy. Sowing rates now range between 35-50 gm per square metre. In essence, you are aiming to establish new grasses into your square. Some may wish to carry out deep aeration to de-compact their squares at this point by solid tining, if ground conditions warrant it.
It is then a case of topdressing with loams compatible to native or existing soils to restore levels and to integrate new material into the soil profile. This will help to build up the clay content in your square. Irrigate to wash in new loams and to help speed up germination. The seed should germinate between 7-10 days weather permitting. The use of germination sheets will encourage new growth by retaining moisture and keeping the soil warm.
Once you have completed your renovation programme on your square, devote some time to your outfield. This area does not get much attention in the way of aeration, topdressing, over seeding or mowing through the winter months. If you have not got a maintenance programme for the outfield, then you can't expect it to perform as well as your square. Mow the outfield regularly through the winter months where possible, at 30 -35mm every six weeks is a good start, this will help keep your levels and you will soon see improved performances next season.
On the square, however, you should look to maintain a cutting height between 12-30mm, and continue to brush off any early morning dew to keep the sward dry and disease free.
Aeration is a key operation to help improve the condition of the soil following a season’s play. Soil compaction is often the main contributing factor to poor grass growth; the lack of air in the soil profile inhibits many beneficial activities, such as retaining beneficial organisms, soil water movement and the washing in of fertilisers.
A programme of de- compaction of the soil is essential to re-introduce some porosity into the profile. Solid tining, hollow coring and linear aerating are a number of methods now being used to aerate soil profiles. These operations tend to be carried out on a frequency basis depending on the type and size of the tines being used.
Ideally, where outfields are of a concern, de-compaction should be to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting. Some groundsmen prefer to carry out a programme of hollow coring, which again increases porosity but can also help redistribute/recycle soil around the outfield which, in turn, helps restore levels.
The frequency of aeration activities will often be dependent on the resources available; money, time and machinery available. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the autumn and winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.
Turf disease can be quite prevalent when soil moisture levels increase, coupled with the presence of early morning dews. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the susceptibility of disease attack.
Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak. Many turf grass diseases can be active at this time of the year - fairy rings and red thread are the most commonly seen.
Have your soil tested by an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results. Most ground managers will be looking to apply their autumn fertilisers in association with their end of season renovations.
September marks the beginning of autumn and, for the wild grass plant, a time for May’s flush of growth, June’s fluorescence of flowering and July’s efforts of ripening to bear fruit; as the seeds dropped onto the ground in August take maximum advantage of the available warmth and adequate moisture in the soil to germinate, develop and grow. This is a process nature has set in place to afford young seedlings of the next generation the opportunity to establish a foundation, such that they can overwinter and then spring forwards as temperatures return the following year.
It is now that the turf manager mimics nature’s perfect blueprint, as across many surfaces we set about renovating at the end of the growing season.
Seed sown with good contact to the soil will be able to draw up moisture and use the residual temperature to establish. Applications of growth regulators, shortly prior to the operation, can assist in holding back competition from the mature plants already in situ.
Adequate nutrition is as important as ever. An application of energy from phosphorous helps to synthesise ATP, the energy currency of all cells. Calcium will provide the raw ingredients to drive cellular generation at the growing tips of roots and within new leaves. Additionally, it will strengthen the primary cell wall, strengthening defences against pathogenic fungal attack, particularly as cooler nights coincide with warm days to produce heavy dews.
Avoid heavy applications of nitrogen on fine turf surfaces in particular. Avoid also inputs designed to stimulate biological activity.
A productive soil ecosystem is a core fundamental of a healthy rootzone and, in turn, grass plant. That said, a soil-plant ecosystem which is too productive during the autumn can lead to an excess of nitrate nitrogen, leading to soft growth more susceptible to fungal diseases.
For Chafer Grubs, Entomopahogenic nematodes can be applied throughout the month. Warm soil temperatures and available moisture are conditions which play nicely into the hands of Entomopahogenic nematodes who swim in the water film on soil particles in their bid to search out a larval host.
Worms will also take advantage of the morning dews with casting becoming a problem on many areas. There are no legal controls for earthworms and anything applied which directly affects or deters them is done so illegally.
The responsible course of action is cultural management via a combination of localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts.
Compiled by James Grundy - Senior Technical Manager | BASIS No. R/E/7542IFMAT
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.
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.
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