Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependent on the need and condition of the ground. It is important to maintain a constant HOC on both the square and outfield. The square should be maintained between 15-20mm with the outfield maintained at between 25-35mm.
Aeration of the square is often delayed until mid or end of November. Aerating when the square is too dry can lead to problems of root break. Ideally, you need moist soil conditions of around 75 -100mm to enable good penetration with the aid of solid tines. Most areas of the country will be ok following all the rain brought in by those storms in October. Sarrel roll your square to keep the surface open and surface moisture to a minimum.
Too many clubs tend to neglect their outfields, it is important to undertake some work on the cricket outfields as they are an important part of the game, they need to be firm, flat and free from weeds. Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter sports pitches, and the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby).
Ideally, on the outfields, aeration should penetrate to a depth around 150 to 200mm to promote deeper rooting. This can be achieved by deep slitting or solid tining. Some groundsmen like to carry out a programme of hollow coring, which again increases porosity and can also help to redistribute/recycle topsoil and which, in turn, helps restore levels. The frequency of aeration activities will often depend on the resources – money, machinery and time – available. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.
Some cricket grounds may have a number of mature deciduous trees nearby, which will inevitably lead to some amounts of leaf debris lying on the square and outfield. It is essential to remove leaves from the square. If left to accumulate, these leaves will become wet and which, in turn, will restrict light and air being available to the grass plant, thus putting the grass under stress and resulting in it turning yellow and then decaying. Vacuum, sweep or rake up leaves on a regular basis.
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.
November is late Autumn in the northern hemisphere and the time when our annual voyage around the sun determines that the shortening of the day length really starts to have noticeable impact. To illustrate this, November 1st graces us with a sunrise of 06:53 and a sunset of 16:34 with a day length of 9 hours 40 minutes. On the final day of the month, those numbers have altered to 07:41 sunrise, 15:55 sunset and a day length of 8 hours 13 minutes. So it is then that, over the course of the next few weeks, we will lose 1 hour and 27 minutes of day length. The consequences of this march towards winter for turf grass surfaces are:
- less available sunlight for photosynthesis
- less available warmth to promote growth
- less time for wet leaf blades to dry out during the day
All of these environmental factors drive environmental conditions away from favouring the grass plant and towards undesirable factors, the ones which benefit from a reduction in photosynthesis, temperature and day length, including:
- Mosses and algae.
- Fungal diseases, in particular Microdochium nivale
Managing those undesirable factors requires an understanding of the conditions which promote them, for example excessive thatch, poor surface drainage and little and often deposits of nutrients onto a surface – all lead to a proliferation of moss and algae, which being simpler forms of life than grasses, are able to rapidly colonise in areas where the grass plant is on the back foot; for example, because light levels are low, soil temperatures are low and relative humidity is consistently elevated.
Disease incidence can be correlated with the factors in the disease triangle. All three factors are required to coincide for an outbreak of disease. The major pathogen on turf surfaces throughout November will be Microdochium nivale.
Consideration of the contributing factors
- Susceptible host – excess leaf growth and stress will lead to the grass plant (host) becoming more susceptible to fungal pathogens. The key factor here is appropriate nutrition. In practice this means the Goldilocks zone of nitrogen, just enough to keep the plant healthy but not too much to cause a flush of soft growth which allows the disease to attack more successfully.
Providing the plant with calcium, silicon and phosphite strengthens the cell walls and helps the plant to resist attack without resorting to chemicals. Applying plant beneficial biostimulants, such as seaweed and carbon energy when conditions favour the plant, primes its metabolic defence responses and assists beneficial microorganisms to help repel the disease.
- Virulent pathogen – Is the pathogen being provided with the resources it needs to thrive? In the case of fungal pathogens, this would be prolonged periods of leaf blade wetness and nutrition. Manage this situation by removing dews, reducing humidity within the thatch layer via aeration and the application of penetrant wetting agents. Also avoid applying biostimulants such as seaweed and carbon energy at times when the pathogenic activity is actively on the rise.
- Favourable Environment – prolonged humidity as a result of overcast days and nights, rainfall, cool temperatures which slow grass growth and low wind speeds which extend drying times are the factors which, when they align, drive the race between host and pathogen away from the grass plant and towards the disease. Monitoring forecasts and historic patterns facilitate prediction of high disease pressure, allowing turf managers to act appropriately.
Nutritional requirements will be aligned with growth; put simply, the more growth the more nutrition required. Typically, fertilisers applied during renovation operations should see the majority of surfaces through November and into December. As a result, NPK applications will be
Limited; however, targeted application of secondary macronutrients and micronutrients with calcium to elicit plant responses, such as those outlined above, will bring tangible benefits.
Maintaining appropriate water/air ratio is a key factor in reducing turf stress during periods of the year when rainfall increases and drying opportunities are reduced. Little and often aeration, via methods such as star tining and sarel rolling, facilitate diffusion of oxygen into the profile and carbon dioxide out. This allows the plant roots and beneficial soil microorganisms to breathe, which reduces plant stress and sustains their population numbers respectively.
Maintaining water percolation into deeper aeration channels and drainage systems, via the application of penetrant wetting agents, reduces the tendency of water to be held at the surface where it acts as a barrier to gas exchange and increases localised relative humidity; something which helps fungal diseases to grow and spread.
Regular applications of products containing sulphur will acidify the local soil surface environment and discourage worms from casting. Avoid regular products containing iron which is not in a liquid chelated form, as this will quickly oxidize and build up in the soil chemistry causing numerous problems such as reduced pH, iron panning, nutrient lock up and inhibition of microorganisms.
Servicing time, so get your machinery booked in.
Store away all other equipment in a dry area; cold and damp conditions can do a lot of damage.