You can help promote new pitches and re-establish old strips by maintaining consistent moisture levels. Uniform irrigation of the square is important as pitches come out of use. Make sure your machinery is up to the task as you will need to continue regular mowing of the square whilst preparing the pitch.
Repairs and renovation to used pitches should be undertaken as the month progresses. Foot holes may require more intense work, but make sure not to neglect your outfield - as this is the largest area of maintenance it still needs to be carefully managed.
IRRIGATION - Water, together with the use of ground sheets and covers, helps control the rate the clay soils dry out, and aids in repairing wickets. Many clubs have to rely on weather to provide enough rain to keep the sward alive, as they don’t have adequate water pressure near their square. This can present problems, and your surface will begin to crack up with insufficient water supply.
Using roll on/roll off covers and flat sheets are important in controlling the amount of moisture you allow in your soil profile. Getting the balance right can be tough, but you will using them to not only protect the soil from rain but also preventing the pitch from drying out. There is no hard or fast rules for how long to use them, however, leaving them down to long can cause deterioration of the sward, leaving it yellow.
Where there is sufficient soil moisture and nutrients present you will find the grass growth this month will likely be prolific, especially with an increase in soil and air temperatures. Longer daylight means an increase in the photosynthesis taking place, with the net results being more mowing, feeding and watering to maintain a stress free sward.
FERTILISING - If you haven’t got a fertiliser programme you should have your soil tested, if you do you should continue treatment and turf tonic in accordance with your annual programme.
In July, you would be looking to use a 12:0:9 for your square and a 9:7:7 for the outfield, or similar compound fertiliser blend, or applying a slow release fertiliser to see you through to August. Soil type and weather can be factors in your choice of material and how well it works, with moisture and soil temperature being the catalyst for growth. Weather can also influence the performance of slow release fertilisers, often producing a flush of growth. Some grounds managers use straight compound granular or liquid fertilisers which activate when in contact with moist soil conditions, effectively stimulating grass growth within days.
MOWING - Mowing equipment should be kept clean and serviced as you cannot afford to have it breakdown during the peak growing period. Badly adjusted mowers will affect cutting operations, leading to problems such as scalping, ribbing and tearing of the surface. To avoid this make sure you keep an eye on fluid levels and remember to check your height of cut and sharpness of the cutting blades.
As a guide, the square should be maintained at between 10-14mm and the outfield 12-25mm, which both being mowed on a regular basis.
Verticutting should be continued, as it will train the grass to grow vertically. If you don’t have a verticut you can use a drag brush to stand up grass prior to mowing.
The outfield can have a major effect on the game if left unattended so make sure not to neglect it. You should be carrying out regular mowing, aerating, raking or verticutting and feeding programmes to maintain a healthy sward. 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.
While maintaining a cutting height of between 10-14mm, a regular tining and if possible an application of sand dressings will improve soil water movement. As most do, you may find your outfield to be undulating and uneven so these aren’t realistic measurements, and probably mow closer to 12-25mm. Rotary mowers tend to scalp undulating ground, where as a cylinder or hydraulic gang mower with floating head can give a better finish.
During wet conditions, the outfield may have been damaged by both fielders and bowlers, and are particularly bad along the bowlers run up, with strong depressions being made during games. These will be a need to be lifted, in filled to restore levels and overseed.
The 10 -12 day prep shown below is only a guide; most groundsmen will have their own interpretation of these activities.
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.
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 minutes 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.
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
The after care of the pitch is just as important as the preparation. After care renovation treatment must be carried out as soon as possible after the game.
As soon as the match finishes, remove as much debris as possible to avoid damage to your machinery, then sweep and mow the whole of the pitch at final cut height. Next, soak the pitch by hand in order to penetrate the surface, avoiding passing the 5 foot marks as they need to be kept dry.
Once the surface has dried, sarrel roll or spike which will offset any compaction created by the heavy rolling, it will also aerate and produce a good seed bed.
Overseed the pitch with perennial rye grass, using a mechanical or pedestrian spreader, which will give the seed a better chance of germinating, it’s important that the seed is well worked into the holes created by the sarrel roller.
Batsmen and bowlers can leave relatively deep foot marks, to begin repairing use only the wicket loam native to your pitches which will help binding of the soils during recovery.
Preparing a stock of preferred virgin wicket soil to just a damp stage but still quite firm should be your first priority, squeezing it in your hands should be like plastercine. If topdressing was delivered in bags there should be sufficient moisture to carry out your repairs. However, if not, dampen while still in the bags and leave overnight or until required.
The tools required will be a fine spray water bottle, a rammer (elephant's foot used for tarmacing), lump hammer, a fork and a plastering trowel.
To begin, pay attention to the foot holes created by bowlers and scars from batsmen and sweep in the same direction as you would for intervals. Afterwards, very firmly ram dry holes and spots bowlers have moved, hammering the edges as it will create an edge for new soil to be rammed against as it’s hammered into place.
Prick the base to create holes for the topdressing to fill, using the fork, will help in keying of the soils. Fill the foot hole with soil and hammer into the edges, which pushes the new soil against the edges you’ve prepared. Continue adding more soil, filling in the drill holes, you should be able to ram and hammer the soil comfortably.
If you find the soil is sticking to the hammer it’s too wet and you will need to use a drier mix. When the hole is completely filled use the elephants foot to ensure the edges there are no depressions in the foot hole. When you are satisfied, spray the surface with water. Using the plastering trowel, smear the surface until it is smooth and shiny, and cover with the sweepings you have saved.
If it’s germination you require then the ideal situation would be to use a germination sheet, otherwise the sweepings are much better than grass cuttings if you want the ends to dry quicker. If you have multiple pitches to repair it might be a good idea to keep some of your dried clippings on hand.
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.