Root growth is very important for all sports turf especially on cricket squares. The roots will help to keep the surface intact in the summer when wickets are cut closer. To achieve root depth on cricket wickets it is essential to have a regular mechanical aeration programme. There are proprietary products such as Mascot Activate "R" that will help root development. However, without vertical spaces made by tining the turf will suffer due to the soil/loam used on wickets and the compaction caused by rolling.
Slit tines are not advisable after January on cricket wickets as they can cause cracks to form in a dry spring. The use of solid round tines does not cause this risk so they are preferable.
In frost free conditions try to carry out deep aeration using large slitting tines. If a club does not possess this equipment it may be hired. Your local representative will usually be able to help find a reliable contractor.
Continue to aerate using solid round tines; depending on the latitude of the venue some nutrition may be applied in February. This should have a ratio of 1-1-2 such as 5-5-10 + Fe . Any worm activity, which sometimes begins this month, should be controlled using Carbendazim at the rate of 4 litres per hectare – this applies to the outfield as well as the cricket square.
If there is growth due to mild weather mow the turf with a machine set at approximately 8mm. Ensure the cylinder is correctly set on the sole plate to ensure a clean cut. This is a good month to use root development products, particularly after aeration. Start rolling with a light machine unless the wickets are very wet.
If work on the outfield was not possible in January it is now advisable to address the issue. If possible control any moss using either liquid or granular products. In both cases some nitrogen should be incorporated.
Try and remove any dead leaf tissue that has accumulated through the winter. Do this without significant disturbance to the surface by using a stiff brush or a machine set about 1-2mm above the turf. The weight of the machine should take the verticutting blades into the surface of the turf without the risk of too much drying out should the weather become dry. Gradually reduce height of cut from 8mm to 6mm.
Continue to aerate the wickets which are not to be played early in the season.
Towards the end of March apply a spring fertilizer with a ratio of 3-1-2 similar to Mascot Fine Turf 12-0-9 . If equipment is available use a liquid fertilizer on the square as there are many advantages.
If the weather is suitably dry it may be a good opportunity to apply some cricket loam. This should be the same as the loam used for autumn renovation.
Continue rolling gradually moving to a heavier piece of equipment.
Presumably this is the month that matches begin. Having gradually reduced the height of cut on the square from 8mm to 6mm consider reducing it further to 5mm. This will help the turf suffer less shock when preparing a wicket for a match.
The reinstatement of a wicket after a match is vitally important work. If it is to be used again soon afterwards repair the ends using your chosen loam and use a trulute or similar piece of equipment to ensure a level surface.
When a wicket is not to be used again for a while, ensure the whole area is aerated with round solid tines. The wicket ends should be worked on using a sorrel roller. This will make thousands of small holes enabling seed and loam to be worked into the surface rather then being on top of the existing loam. It is important that whenever loam is used every effort is made to incorporate this into the profile rather than applying a layer on the surface. Root development on cricket wickets is always difficult, to assist this consider using Mascot Activate 'R' . This is available in both liquid and granular form.
In all areas of Britain the grass should now be growing well. It may be helpful to apply further nutrition in the form of a liquid fertilizer. A suitable analysis for late spring and summer is 17-2-5 Mascot Microflow – to an area such as a cricket square this can be applied using a knapsack sprayer. Always ensure there is no residue from previous use, particularly if pesticide has been applied.
The amount and weight of roller used will depend on the weather to a great extent. Remember grass roots grow in the spaces between the soil particles. If the profile is so compacted by rolling that roots cannot develop wickets will become fragile at the surface.
The start and finish of rolling lines should always be in the direction of play.
Reduce thatch by scarifying the square, which, in turn, should lead to improved bounce and pace.
The season is now in full swing and there are long hours of daylight. This is helpful for seed germination so try to repair the wicket ends after each match. The amount of disturbance allowed will depend on how soon the next match is to be played. However, in all cases ensure the grass seed used has a good loose surface in which to establish. Grass seed will germinate on compacted surfaces providing there is sufficient moisture but it cannot establish. Always use a seed mixture with suitable cultivars which have been selected for their low crown.
Use a liquid fertilizer such as Mascot Microflow to rejuvenate a wicket after use; liquids have the advantage of not requiring much irrigation to make them available to the grass.
In hot weather use Amino Form to reduce stress on the turf.
Very similar to June, always ensure when repairing wicket ends that a trulute or similar is used to obtain a level surface.
Check machinery to ensure it is well-maintained and cleaned after use. Mechanical failures at this peak time of the season could be a huge problem.
The use of wetting agents on the outfield to prevent Dry Patch may be continuing throughout the summer months. Regular applications will help moisture reach the soil where the roots reside, helping to ensure an even turf quality.
Aim to mow the square twice a week and the outfield once a week, but this will depend on local conditions.
The outfield should be cut at around 12mm.
If the square is not large wickets may be becoming very worn. Pitches may be being used for the second or third time in the year. Diligent repairing of wicket ends earlier in the season will now pay dividends.
When the second half of the month arrives keep a watch for fungal disease, particularly if covers have been used. Ultraviolet light will help kill fungus so using covers reduces this benefit. When possible remove dew from the surface of the turf - this is also helpful in reducing disease attacks.
Make sure all materials/products are ordered in time for renovation work taking place next month.
Usually the season finishes this month so it is probably the most important for a cricket groundsman.
Remember through the playing season the use of the roller will have created compaction of the soil profile. This must be rectified if the existing turf and new seedlings are to establish good roots.
Firstly, scarify the whole square to remove any organic matter which has developed at the surface. Follow this by slit tining with large deep tines, as previously mentioned this equipment can be hired. The next operation is to aerate using round solid tines. This will make thousands of holes so that the wicket dressing can be keyed to the existing profile.
When these operations are complete apply autumn fertilizer with a ratio of 2-1-4 or similar. Mascot OC2 is ideal, the analysis being 5-2-10.
Keep out a watchful eye for disease and treat before it becomes established - the first 48 hours after first signs are critical.
After applying cricket loam, brush or mat this into the holes made when aerating. Not all of this will go into the holes so ensure no areas are left with loam lying in thick patches.
Try to continue to remove morning dew, using a drag brush or switching rod. As the daylight reduces the risk of disease increases, always have a spare application of fungicide as an insurance. Red thread and fusarium are the most common at this time of year, though many more may be seen.
October can be a month when worms are active. Control with Carbendazim if necessary.
Continue mowing but raise the height of cut to 8mm, this will help the young seedlings to establish.
The square may be fenced off to prevent unnecessary damage.
November / December
Very similar to October. Do not allow the turf to grow too long if mild weather continues. Continue cutting at 8mm and remove dew whenever possible.
Avoid working on the square if there is frost on the surface.
An application of Mascot Turf Hardner is good practice providing there are frost-free conditions.