As the curtain falls on yet another season, the weather for the start of October sees record temperatures around the country, reaching as high as 29.4 degrees in the south.
This is the time when your irrigation system proves its worth for the majority who are in the midst of end of season renovations, as moisture retention in the soil is vitally important for seed germination. Indeed, many Groundsmen are seeing their seed come up within seven days.
It is vitally important to get your end of season renovations completed by the end of October to give your square a chance to recover through the winter. The longer you leave your renovations, the less likely you will obtain favourable germination. Air temperatures tend to drop in October thus slowing down grass growth.
Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Early in the Month 1st - 15th October
At season's end, set the mower to finish cut height and mow the square in at least 2 directions to remove as much grass cover as possible in preparation for your end of season renovation programme.
Irrigate the square so that moisture penetrates the profile to about 100mm. This will help with aeration of the square later.
Take soil samples and have them tested for nutrients, fertility and pH values.
Start your renovation programme for the square, and not forgetting your outfield as well.
Later in the Month 16th October - onwards
October is usually the last 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.
Key Tasks for October
End of Season Renovation
All clubs have their own methods of working and renovating their squares. In most cases, the level of work will be dictated by what budgets and resources they have available at the time and what they are trying to achieve.
Make sure your machinery is up to the task with regular services. In the main, most club groundsmen are now putting on between 6-10 bags of loam per pitch. It is important not to under or over-dress your tracks.
Even in the current economic climate, it is best not to skimp on the amount of loam used. I see too many club tracks that do not perform in terms of pace and bounce because of poor end of season renovation practices. Generally, it is usually a combination of two factors that, when combined, cause problems - not getting rid of enough thatch or organic material during renovations, and not putting enough loam down to increase the bulk density of the soil profile.
However, there is a fine line between too much and too little.
Useful Information for End of Season Renovation
Outfield of dreams
If you have not had your soils tested for some time, then do so at the earliest possible chance. Soil tests commonly carried out fall into two categories: Physical & Chemical.
The physical analysis of soil reveals its texture, the amount of organic matter present, the rate of which the water passes through the soil profiles and the pore spaces within the soil.
The chemical analysis produces information on soil acidity and alkalinity, the amount of mineral nutrients available for the grass plant to take up and the amount of toxins that may be harmful to the turf.
Useful Information for Soil Analysis
Soil - biology or chemistry?
Scarification is important to remove unwanted vegetation, 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 season.
This year has seen periods of heavy rain followed by high temperatures, and grass growth has been prolific; thatch content therefore is likely to be on the high side. The best way to identify how much you have is by taking a core sample. It will be then a case of going through a vigorous renovation programme, scarifying in at least three directions, finishing in the line of play.
Depending on how much thatch is removed, where necessary clean off all the thatch debris after each pass. The square can then be over sown using a suitable grass seed mixture; do not be frightened to try out new cultivars. Sowing rates now range between 35-50 grammes per square metre. In essence, you are aiming to establish new grasses into your square.
Useful Information for Scarification
Hanging up his boots...Cricket Accessories
The very basic requirments of grass growth have never changed - Sunlight, Water and Air; three factors essential for good grass growth of all plant life. Whilst we have no influence over the quality and hours of sunlight, there is a single management operation that directly influences the availability of the latter two.
That is aeration. The purpose of aerating a cricket square is the key to producing the foundation upon which additional treatments can work. Aeration relieves compaction and improves water percolation through the soil profile, but also helps to create the general environment essential for healthy grass growth. Autumn and winter aeration treatments are beneficial to promoting drier surfaces for further maintenance practices to take place. Solid tining is usually the most common practice but, where saddling is a problem to your ends, then hollow coring over a period of time can help with settlement.
Cricket Square:- Aeration is also a key operation to help improve the condition of the soil after 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 water movement and retaining Microbial Organisms. A programme of de-compacting the soil is essential, preferably using a pedestrian powered vertical aerator, to re-introduce some porosity into the profile. Solid tine, hollow coring and linear aeration are a number of methods 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. However, there are a number of groundsmen who never aerate their cricket squares; they believe that the aeration holes formed can cause a weakness/stress line in the clay profile that could eventually break, causing problems with the pitches. They believe that the clay's ability to shrink and swell provides the necessary voids to promote root growth.
It would be interesting to find out what proportion of groundsmen follow this train of thought.
Outfields:- Ideally, on the outfields, penetration should be down to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting. Some groundsmen like to carry out a programme of hollow coring, which again increases porosity, but can also help redistribute/recycle topsoil 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.
Useful Information for Aeration
Machinery Spares, Blades, Cylinders & Tines
It's important not to overdress the square, as you will not only be wasting the precious loam material but you may also be smothering your sward. The last thing you want to be doing is to bury any vegetation, which will lead to future problems. The object of the renovations is revitalize the top growing zone, restore levels and to integrate new material into the soil profile. This will help build up the clay content in your square.
Irrigation should follow as soon as possible to assist in the germination of new seed. The seed should germinate between 7-10 days weather permitting; a germination sheet will aid this process.
Useful Information for Top Dressing
Top dressings explained
Other Tasks for the Month
General Maintenance:- Once you have put your square to bed, devote some time to the outfield. Outfields are often neglected if not used for any winter sport such as rugby or football. They do not get much attention in the way of scarifying / harrowing, aeration, topdressing, overseeding and, in some cases, not even being cut through the winter months. Mowing of the outfield should be undertaken on a regular basis to maintain height of cut between 25-35mm. On the square you should look to maintain a cutting height between 15-25mm, and continue to brush off the dew in the mornings to keep the sward in a dry and disease free condition.
Turf disease:- Turf disease can be quite prevalent in October 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, red thread and Fusarium are the most commonly seen.
Pests:- Worms can also be active this month following irrigation of your square for during renovation. Keep an eye the square and treat accordingly. Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. Ph level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the square may need to be assessed. Carbendazim is now the only approved active ingredient available for controlling worms.
Fertiliser:- Treatments of fertilisers and turf tonics 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. Most facility managers will be looking to apply their autumn fertilisers in association with their end of season renovations.
Other Tasks for the Month:- October 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.
Store away scoreboards, practice nets, sight screens and covers.
Where necessary, fence off the cricket square at the end of the season to protect it from pests, (dog walkers, rabbits, deer, foxes), vehicles and vandals.