Regular mowing and scarifying of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches, as you move through the month. Make sure your machinery is up to the task with regular service.
Even with the season’s end just around the corner after care of the wicket, with repairs and renovation to used pitches should still be undertaken, player safety is paramount. Foot holes may require more intense work so pay particular attention and do not neglect your outfield either.
Outfields are often prone to drying, to almost wilting point; allowing surfaces to remain too dry can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil. The uses of wetting agents (outfields only) have now become an integral part of the maintenance regime with applications on a monthly basis throughout the summer. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme.
Make good use of the weather conditions in August and start undertaking wicket renovations now schools and colleges have closed for the summer term. This will help establish some good grass growth whilst soil and air temperatures remain consistent.
Use this time, before the start of renovation programmes, to plan and order your consumables. You don’t want to find yourself short when it comes the time to start your renovation work.
Depending on the size of your square you can assess how much seed and topdressings will be required. Groundsmen are now sowing at rates of 50 grams per square metre, thus increasing the amount of grass cover going into the winter period.
Many Groundsmen are reducing the amount of loam being applied to their squares also, generally now between 7- 10 bags per strip. This prevents the build up of saddles at the ends and prevents the smothering of existing grass cover on the square.
The square should be maintained between 6mm and 14mm, and the outfield between 12mm and 25mm, so will need to be mowed on a regular basis to control the growth and thicken the sward. Stand up the grass using a drag brush prior to mowing if you don’t have a verdict option. When using verticutting units, be very careful not to mark/scar the soil surface, as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out.
Covers are used to control the soil moisture content of cricket wickets, especially when preparing for play. Portable or roll–on covers are very useful in protecting surfaces during hot dry and inclement weather.
When the soil is moist but not too wet you will want to use ballast rollers to help prepare the wicket for matches. A simpler method of testing the soil is ready is to stick 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. Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play. Ideal rolling conditions would suggest the soil be in a state of plasticity or “plastercine".
Consolidation will still be your aim throughout the season. The pitch is required to be consolidated throughout to a depth of no less than 100mm.
A Proctor test can also be used to evaluate the compaction characteristics of the soil. This test determines the maximum density the soil can be compacted to, and at what moisture content the soil is most prone to compaction. Proctor testing is useful in determining how compacted a soil is in the field.
There needs to be sufficient soil moisture present to activate fertiliser products, so take care when applying. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual 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.
Dry soils are not viable for applying fertilisers as the plant cannot make use of the nutrients. Irrigate your square well to enable efficient transfer of nutrients to the plant.
Pitch preparation should start 10-12 days prior to the match. Following the guidelines below will help you achieve a good standard of pitch. 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 @ 8mm, light roll to consolidate surface levels.
DAY 3 Scarify or Verti cut to remove lateral growth and surface thatch avoiding deep surface disturbance. Mow @ 7mm. continue medium light rolling 1000kg 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 @ 6mm, increase weight of roller to 1500- 1700kg 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 overnight.
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
After Care of the Wicket
The after care of the pitch is just as important as the preparation. Renovation and repairs should be carried out as soon as possible following the conclusion of a game.
Sweep and remove any debris as soon as the match has finished, this will help avoiding any damage to your machinery. Mow the whole of the pitch at final cut height, and then thoroughly soak the pitch by hand in order to penetrate the surface, ensuring not to pass the 5 foot marks as the ends need to be kept dry at this stage.
Sarrel roll or spike once the surface has partially dried off, this will offset any compaction created by rolling and also aerate the surface and produce a good seed bed.
Using a mechanical or pedestrian spreader oversees the pitch with perennial rye grass and apply a low nitrogen fertiliser. Germination sheets will speed up the process of recovery of the pitch. The seed has a better chance of germinating if it is well worked in or brushed into the holes created by the sarrel roller.
Repairs to the batsmen and bowlers foot marks will be the next important step. If repairs have not been carried out during 2 days or more of cricket on the same pitch these areas may be relatively deep. Repair by using the wicket loam native to your pitches, which will help bind the soils during recovery.
Firstly, prepare a stock of preferred virgin wicket soil to just a damp stage, but still quite firm. You should be able to squeeze it together in your hand like plastercine. If you had your topdressing delivered in bags, it should have sufficient moisture to carry out your repairs; if not, dampen whilst still in the bag and leave overnight or until required. Add some grass seed to your mix if you are repairing the ends where the pitch is being taken out of play, this will assist in the germination process and speed up recovery.
The tools required will be a lump hammer, fine spray water bottle, a rammer (elephant's foot used for tarmacing), a fork and a plastering trowel.
Pay attention to the bowlers and batsmen foot holes and sweep in the same direction as you would for intervals. When swept, ram the dry holes very firmly and any spots the bowlers may have moved. Hammering the edges to where the damage ceases is important, as it will create an edge for the new soil to be rammed against when it is hammered into place.
When the hole is prepared, give the area a light watering and ensure all parts are dampened, including outside of the foot hole. Let the sign of any water dry or soak well in before starting to fill the hole.
Prick the base to create holes for the topdressing using the fork, this will help in the keying of the soils. Fill the foot hole with soil and hammer into the edges. This pushes the new soil against the edges you have prepared. Continue to add more soil, filling in the drill holes, you should be able to ram and hammer the soil with little or any soil sticking to the hammer.
When the hole is completely filled, use the elephant's foot to ensure the edges are consolidated and there are no depressions in the foot hole. If so, continue to fill until level with the ground.
Always use a straight edge to level off the surrounds to prevent raised ends and a saucer shaped square! When you are satisfied, spray the surface with water. Using the plastering trowel, smear the surface until it is smooth and shiny, and then cover with the sweepings you have saved.
The sweepings are much better than grass cuttings if you want the ends to dry quicker but, if it's germination you require, then the ideal situation would be to use a germination sheet. It might be a good idea to keep some of your dried clippings on hand for future use if you have more than one pitch to repair.
It may require trial and error to get the moisture content just right for your soil. The time taken to do your ends will be about 30 - 40 minutes, depending on the extent of the damage. The players and umpires will appreciate your hard work and efforts, as well as a lot of self satisfaction.
Remember - good patching on your pitches is the icing on the cake. Do not be afraid to ask the umpires if you can carry out any remedial work during a game preferably between innings or overnight. You may need their OK.
The outfield should be treated the same as any other natural grass pitch, don’t neglect it as it has a major effect on the game, carry out regular mowing, raking or verticutting, aerating and feeding programmes.
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?
An application of sand dressings, if possible, and regular spiking 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.
Maintain a cutting height of 10-14mm, although due to undulating outfields a more realistic height may be 12-25mm. 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.
August is a good time for another organic fertiliser application; with a two month longevity, an application in August will take you through to October, which is the perfect time for an autumn winter feed. Maxwell Turf Food Myco2 4-6-12+4%MgO provides a nice kick of phosphorous, potassium and magnesium for plant resilience and colour but without too much nitrogen so as not to encourage excessive soft lush growth. The mycorrhizal fungi combined with the phosphorus content means it is also especially good as a fertiliser when sowing seed.
Renovated cricket squares will really benefit from an application of the fantastic new Lebanon Proscape 16-25-12 pre-seed fertiliser which is producing fantastic results when maximising the establishment of newly sown areas.
The combination of warmth and humidity is going to place stress on the plant which means aeration is vital to keep the soil oxygen ratio balanced, 8mm needle or 12mm standard tines down to a depth of 200-300mm with a vertical aerator will be particularly beneficial in allowing the soil to breath. Combining this Sarell rolling or Star Tine aerator will provide a large volume of aeration into the sward and thatch layer to provide a rounded approach to aeration.
Polymer and penetrant wetting agents will help manage soil water percolation and retention more effectively by moving rain fall away from the surface.
You may have noticed disease pressure has been high during July and is only likely to continue into August. Heritage Maxx fungicide is great as a preventative and early curative. In humid conditions Red thread will also thrive, although switching and brushing is the first line of defence when aiming to minimise disease activity.
Weeds, Pests & Diseases
Prevention is always better than a cure, so keep an eye out for turf disease. The plant can become susceptible to disease attack with the combination of moist soil and surface moisture on the leaf blade. Many turf grass diseases such as Fusarium and Red Thread can be active at this time of the year.
Recently, there have been incidences of diseases such as Microdochium Nivale (Fusarium) on greens with Fairy Rings and Red Thread through a lot of outfield turfs. By applying a systemic fungicide such as Heritage Maxx will be the most effective form of control, application before symptoms are visible is the key to success when adopting a preventative approach.
Orange/brown patches 2.5-5cm are symptoms of Fusarium, you may also find a creamy white mycelium in the centre and towards to the outer edge.
Removing the dew in the mornings via brushing, switching or drag matting will reduce the likelihood of a disease outbreak. 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.
A close inspection of Red Thread will reveal red needle like structures which are attached to the leaf blade, pink mycelium will also be visible in early morning dew. The needles become brittle upon death and are easily detached allowing fragments to spread the disease.
Applying systemic curatives and protective fungicides such as Chlorothalonil and Iprodione, can be used to control any outbreaks. 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.
You may find worms are active at this time of year, so if needed Carbendazim can be used for controlling them. Moles can be active where worms are prevalent and can cause a lot of damage to the surface.
Machinery and Products
Replenish stocks as required and keep machines overhauled and clean. Get into the habit of washing down and cleaning your machinery after use and ensure you look after your equipment and store in a safe and secure place.