Key Tasks for September
As things are becoming more 'normalised' and 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. 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 as possible, using the 12 day preparation programme.
Once you have completed any games you may have had, 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.
Traditionally, September marks the beginning of autumn. A time when conditions can be more favourable for carrying out maintenance tasks such as seeding and turf recovery. The temperatures can be more generous without the extreme heat and long dry spells (location dependant) which can cause issues through the height of summer and there is typically more moisture around which really helps drive seed germination, establishment and growth.
The long term forecast for the month ahead currently looks favourable with a mixture of sun and showers. Average daytime temperatures in the late teens and average night-time temperatures in the low teens. Therefore, it should provide those who weren’t able to get any renovation work carried out in August the opportunity to take advantage of favourable conditions in September. Ultimately at this time of year attention also starts to focus on autumn nutrition and integrated pest management (IPM) plans. With a focus on disease management and keeping surfaces in quality condition as environmental conditions (such as dew formation) become more favourable for disease outbreaks. Therefore, at this time of year moisture and water management are key factors to build maintenance practices around.
When undertaking renovation activities that incorporate seeding, good contact with the soil will ensure the seed can utilise any moisture and use the favourable ground temperatures to establish. Applications of plant growth regulators, such as prohexadione- calcium and trinexapac-ethyl prior to the operation, can assist in holding back competition from the existing mature plants already in situ. Which would otherwise compete against the seedlings. A simple technique which helps freshly germinated grass plants to establish in a more favourable environment.
Establishment and recovery from any maintenance operations can be assisted from ensuring adequate nutrition is available, so that once the seed has depleted its own resources there is sufficient available to maintain growth and likewise for any turf recovery situation. 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, an environmental factor mentioned previously.
Applications of high levels of nitrogen on fine turf surfaces should be avoided as this can lead to an increase in severity of a disease outbreak. Research has shown that balanced late autumn fertiliser applications can result in better spring performance. Essentially, avoid over applying readily available nitrogen which would result in excessive, soft top growth that is more susceptible to pathogen attack.
Worms will now start to become a focus for turf managers; as the moisture levels in the soil increase, it will coincide with an increase in activity. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally.
Cultural management continues to be the only route currently available which can include a combination of practices such as 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, leading to less negative lasting impression on the surface from the cast.
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 the pitch.