July - All about juggling priorities at your ground

Well we are halfway through July and the season is three fifths completed already, writes groundcare professional Jamie Foyster. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!

England won the first Test Match too which was fantastic and looks like my prediction might hopefully be wrong (3-1 to the Aussies).

The pitch was perfect for England and nullified the potentially fiery Aussie bowling attack so it will be fascinating to see how Mick Hunt’s Lord's pitch will be. I suspect it will be similar to the New Zealand pitch but we will see...

We have finally had a bit of rain here in Essex but still very little meaning the hoses are out constantly to keep the soil permeable and grass as healthy as possible. 

In June we had a meagre 5.1mm but I won’t keep on about it as the last time I asked for more was in 2012 and it didn’t stop raining.

July is always manic in the cricket groundsman’s calendar as everything seems to be going on this month:

  • Colts games in full swing
  • League and cup games in full flow at weekends
  • T20 games and friendlies midweek
  • Old pitches needing renovation and given the kiss of life to get the grass back
  • Irrigating like crazy
  • Thinking ahead to end-of-season renovations and ordering supplies early

I wrote about pitch renovation and irrigation in my previous articles but I want to focus on end-of-season renovations for your cricket square.

The end of season renovations are absolutely vital in keeping your square’s surface clean and along with good winter care and the correct pre-season rolling will pretty much dictate the quality of your pitches for the 2016 season.

If your club funds are tight the most important action that takes place on your square is scarification. It is vital to keep the soil surface of your square clean and not let the thatch and organic and dead material build up and which can make your pitches slow and low.

Thatch layers hold moisture like a sponge and moss can start too and the spongy layer takes energy out of the ball when it hits the surface.

I have been to three squares recently that haven’t had proper end of season renovations carried out over the last few years and each one has a thatch layer of 10mm and one was 25mm thick.

Not surprisingly each club are reporting that pitches are soft and spongy no matter how long they roll them and the bounce and carry is slow and low.

Once the thatch layer becomes so deep then the best course of remedial action is to use the Koro Field Topmaker to plane the top layer off and leave a solid bare soil surface ready for re seeding.

This is not a cheap option and many clubs have to fund raise or get grants to afford it but it really does do a fantastic job.

The photos below show a square that hadn’t been used for about 15 years having the top thatch layer Koro’d off and a new surface applied. The third photo shows the square back in play.

However, once the top has been taken off it is vital that the new surface is maintained properly and end of season renovations are carried out effectively going forward or else the thatch layer will build back up again.

If a club can’t afford the Koro then heavy duty scarification in multiple directions to remove as much of the layer as possible is the alternative but not nearly as effective in removing all of the unwanted material.

This action along with in season verticutting will need to be repeated every year to gradually reduce the unwanted material thus taking a lot more time in achieving the desired outcome.

Not all clubs have a heavy duty scarifier such as a SISIS 600HD/602/TM1000 or a Graden pedestrian or tractor mounted.

They are very expensive machinery but most clubs can have access to them through their local County Pitch Advisors or local contractors. If you are not sure where to go then speak to your County Cricket Board or Pitch Advisor or neighbouring  clubs who might be able to help you.

If you plan to carry out your own end of season renovations then now is a good time to work out what supplies you will need and talk to your suppliers about cost and delivery. Last year lots of people left it too late to place their order, especially their Loam and then had to delay their works as the Loam couldn’t be delivered on the date they wanted.

So keep up the great work for your clubs whether you be paid or a volunteer and take great pride in getting the game on in all weathers and giving pleasure to all the cricketers young and old playing on your pitches.

See you next month when hopefully we will be celebrating bringing the Ashes back to where they belong.

© Cricket World 2015