What to do on the Cricket ground… November
I have been asked to write a short blog about cricket grounds works. I’ve been involved in maintaining grounds since the age of 13, learning as a volunteer and then progressing to Loughborough University where I was the Cricket groundsman for 25 years and Grounds Manager for the last 5 years.
Looking after your club ground can be very rewarding but is certainly not easy with small budgets and little help.
As temperatures drop and day light hours reduce over the coming months there are still plenty of jobs to do at your club.
Autumn renovations to the square will have been carried out, and new grass should have germinated. Check that the new sward is strong enough to take cutting without pulling out new seedlings by looking to see if the grass plant has reached second or third leaf stage and is around 25mm. Once the grass sward has reached this stage set a sharp mower to 25mm and choose a dry day for cutting to reduce picking up of the loam on the mower. Regular mowing through the winter (fortnightly) if possible, will help to thicken the grass sward.
Regular brushing in the mornings will remove dew and worm casts, which will help to keep turf diseases at bay. The Square may start to look a little yellow at this time of year as the first stage of leaves start to die back so applying an application of winter fertiliser @ 35gr/m2 will help with colour, thickening of sward and disease resistance (read the bag and apply as instructed).
Aeration with a mechanical spiker needs to be carried out between November and January but under the right conditions – the soil needs to be moist down to 100mm but not soaking wet. If you do not have access to a spiker, a garden fork and plenty of your membership will do the same thing! The more holes the better and if you can get a spike in 100mm this will help with draining the surface and provide channels that the grass roots can easily follow to a depth. Attention paid to foot marks with extra holes will encourage deep rooting, a little bit of seed can be added to these areas if temperatures allow.
I have had a lot of questions recently about controlling worms on the cricket square, as these cause casting which leads to bare and uneven ground. Worms thrive in mild damp conditions but break down organic material in the profile and reduce thatch on the surface, boost microbe activity and help with aeration. So to reduce worm activity, a thatch free surface will help. Box off clippings and use a verticutter to keep thatch to a minimum. The use of drag mats and brushes will also help to disperse casts before mowing. The use of acidifiers such as chelated iron will also reduce worm activity. Saponin plant extracts, available through your local reps, irritate the worm’s skin and often kills them (but is off label use).
Regular cutting of the outfield when conditions allow will help to keep grass healthy, and stop grass becoming long and difficult to cut, saving time in the spring trying to get the ground ready for the first match. Try to keep leaves brushed up, this is also a good time to cut back any overhanging branches and repair fencing.
Schedule in over December and January for mowers to be serviced ready for increased grass growth in the spring.
Finally keep an eye out for pests and diseases. Please send me pictures if your struggling to identify problems on your square and I will try to give you an answer. My next blog will discuss dealing with moles and getting the square ready for the start of the new season.
Stay safe and well.