A job for all seasons - Some advice for Groundsmen from our Pitch Advisor
September has come and gone, renovations are complete and ,as far as most players and some committees are concerned, that’s it until next May. But as Grounds people, we know different, and this time of year can often be more challenging than the summer in many ways. The clocks have gone back and there are less daylight hours available to get work done. Theoretically, it’s wetter, and cooler (not this October), grass is more susceptible to disease attacks and worms can also be an issue for some.
So, what can we do, with limited time available, to ensure our squares make it through the coming winter in the best possible condition? Firstly, for me, plant health is key. After all, we have spent good money on seed for our renovations so we need to keep it healthy and with the correct nutrition. Now, there are a vast array of fertilisers on the market and many different combinations of N-P-K available, so choosing the right combination is key. If you undertake a regular nutrition analysis you will have a plan to work to. If not then there is one general rule; use a product designed for Autumn/Winter, one which will promote root development and harden the plant against colder weather and not produce lots of top growth. The choice of make will be down to you but, remember, you do get what you pay for. Do your research. Do you need a quick or slow release product? Do you need something with added Iron to combat moss? (be wary too much Iron can affect other things) Or, with added calcium or magnesium? (this is where a nutrition analysis is key) Can you apply it effectively and at the right dose? (a spreader is a must have piece of kit for granules). And, finally, do you use liquid or granule?
Aeration is also very important, normally from November onwards and, for me, the more you can do the better; at different depths, to aid root density and depth. If you don’t have access to aeration equipment the WCGA have a machine which is available to hire at competitive rates. However, be careful because to aerate successfully your square needs to be moist to depth to allow tines to penetrate without heaving the surrounding profile. At the time of writing this we have had no consistent rain since May and squares are still hard underneath, so don’t waste time and money until conditions are right. Bide your time; mother nature will provide.
Regular brushing of the square will help keep grass upright and allow air to circulate around the sward. This will help prevent any disease attacks. At this time of year dew is a constant and, if not dispersed, can lead to disease outbreaks such as Fusarium or Anthracnose amongst the most common although there are others, so correct identification is key. You basically have two choices; preventative or curative. Both are self-explanatory but you must have the relevant licenses to spray these liquids; this is NOT a DIY job. If you need advice contact us and we can advise you of the best course of action. Regular brushing will also help to disperse any worm casts (when dry) that may appear.
Most squares will have some ends that seem to not be recovering as well as the rest. This seems more prevalent this year, especially when you consider the weather we have had. No significant rain since May, straight into a cold snap in October and only now are we getting the ideal weather (first week in November) to aid germination with mild temperature s and regular rain. If, like most grounds (unless you repaired as you went), your ends were bare form use at the end of the summer and in many cases I witnessed had unrepaired foot holes some bigger than others, then any seed in these areas will be further down under the soil than the rest of the renovated square. And without water, will have been just sitting there waiting for some moisture. I would urge you to be patient, it will grow. If you are really concerned you could always overseed these areas now; by scratching the surface with a springbok rake and brushing some seed in along with a dusting of loam to cover it . This will germinate fairly quickly in the present conditions. However, I suspect, like mine, the seed already there will now have germinated and be making an appearance. But, as always, if you have major concerns you can always ring me to discuss your concerns.
And so to finish; for those of you who had their renovations done by the WCGA, we thank you for allowing us to work on your square and we will see you in the near future to carry out the spiking operation. For those who we won’t see, we are still here to help, so if you have anything you would like our help with please get in touch.
To all, have a great Christmas, see you in 2019.
Wiltshire Cricket County Pitch Advisor