As normal for this time of the year, squares will require a lot of time management, scarifying, mowing, rolling and marking out; then there is your outfield, which will require mowing, aeration, raking or harrowing to raise the sward.
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 for good consolidation.
Ensure your machinery and equipment is serviced, in good condition and ready for use.
Pitch preparation should start 10-12 days prior to the match. Following the guidelines 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
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. Reduce HOC & mow @ 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 HOC mow (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
Soil and air temperatures should begin to rise substantially as we move into April. The application of a spring and summer fertiliser will also increase the vigor, sward growth and density. Ideally, get your soils sampled for nutrients, organic matter content and soil pH where possible. This information will help decide on the appropriate course of action with regard to applying the correct NPK balance for your site. Liquid fertilisers are becoming popular again – see Agronomy section.
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
One of the benefits of doing this monthly agronomy diary is that you get to build up an excellent picture of what the conditions have been like over a period of time.
As we head into May, I can’t clearly recall what conditions were like at this time last year, but reading back through my notes, it is apparent it was very similar to what we have experienced this year. Very challenging in terms of producing growth that will either bring together a surface or give sufficient recovery from play. Relatively mild day temperatures, with periods of sunshine coupled with low night-time temperatures, have put the grass plant under considerable stress; especially when you also factor in the lack of rainfall we have had. Irrigation can and has had to be used, but in doing so, you are acutely aware that the irrigation water is cold after a long winter and isn’t helping to encourage soil temperatures to rise. This has pushed progress a bit further back for some in terms of where they predicted their surfaces would be heading into May. It is not ideal to unrealistically manufacture growth in these conditions, therefore it is advised to work with nature, where possible, rather than try to force growth.
The forecasted month ahead for May looks more encouraging, as night- time temperatures appear more favourable, with good day-time temperatures in the mid-teens. 26 days of the month are forecast at 15°C or above during the day and 26 days with night-time temperatures of 7°C or above, which will help to start generating some consistent growth, putting more control back in the hands of the turf manager. There appears to be a spell of rainfall early in the month, which I imagine will be welcomed by most, and then as the month progresses the forecast looks set to keep improving with a period of dry weather. This combination of moisture and temperature increase should stimulate growth and assist in giving surfaces adequate levels of recovery or grow-in from renovation work; allowing for refinements of surfaces and consistency in performance.
Plant nutrition will now be well under way for many, whether granular or liquid, and depending on the site etc… applications will be different across the country. Given the recent weather challenges from the extremely low temperatures, many may well be waiting to see a response from the latest applications, depending on when it was timed. The recent stress that the plant has been under is not to be underestimated, whether it be from the extremely low amounts of rainfall we have had, or the stress from cold irrigation water, or the dramatic change from day to night temperatures. It is important to try and mitigate or alleviate these stresses. There are already signs of Poa annua seedheads appearing, due to these underlying stresses on the plant. Grooming can be utilised to physically remove seedheads, although this should be weighed up against the action of creating a new seedbed for any seeds which don’t make it into the grass box. Another important factor is current growth conditions and how well the plant will be able to recover from such actions.
Nutritional inputs may need to be adjusted to meet the demands of the weather. Dry conditions may affect the performance of granular fertilisers, where there is less nutrient available in solution due to dry conditions. Therefore, until rainfall is expected, utilising liquid applications of a readily available nitrogen source, such as ammonium sulphate, will encourage gradual growth and recovery.
Using surfactants where possible will assist in even moisture distribution through the soil which, in turn, improves plant health via improved rooting and nutrient uptake. Whilst applications of wetting agents are being made, it is a good opportunity to include biostimulants in the tank, which can be targeted to reach the rootzone area of the profile. These biostimulants will help mitigate any plant stress that is present.
Recently, there have been the first sightings of Crane fly emergence, and brings to the fore one of the major issues currently for turf managers. There is still no registered chemical control for this pest to be applied at this time of year, however if damage is significant, there is the option to consider a spring application of nematodes to try combat the problem. Steinernema feltiae can be used at soil temperatures above 8°C and Steinernema carpocapsae above 13°C, therefore it’s important to choose the right treatment for your site at this time of year. We will wait to see if emergency approval is granted for the use of Acelepryn on chafer grubs in 2022. Installing pheromone traps allows you to monitor which species you have on your site and to plan accordingly; it also means you can track the peak flight period to time your product application for best results.
The forecast looks good for May, so let’s hope it brings consistent growth which will allow the best surfaces to be produced.
B.Sc (Hons) | BASIS | FACTS
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.