July Maintenance

Maintenance Regimes

Irrigate the square uniformly as pitches come out of use. By maintaining consistent levels of moisture this will help promote new pitches and re-establish old strips.

Mow the square regularly as you prepare other pitches and for this you'll need your machinery to be up to the task so make sure it has been serviced.

Repair and renovate used pitches as the month goes on. Pay attention to footholes as intense work may be required here and don't neglect your outfield as this is the largest area you have to maintain so manage it carefully.

IRRIGATION

Repairing and preparation of wickets are reliant on water. Combined with covers and ground sheets, water controls the rate at which clay soils dry out. The water supply at some clubs may not be adequate, or the water pressure may not be high enough, meaning they will be reliant on the weather and enough rainfall to keep the sward alive. This could cause problems.

In dry weather, clay soils can shrink and the surface will begin to crack up where there is insufficient root growth to bind the soils together in bare areas. Cracks can also be caused by aeration techniques used and when aeration was carried out.

Use roll on roll off covers and fleet sheets to control how much moisture there is in your soil profile. As a general rule, use them to protect the soil from rain or to stop the pitch from drying out but this is a tough balance to manage sometimes. Some sheets are breathable, but some are not and your experience will help you decide when and how to use them.

Remember that if you leave flat sheets down for too long, this can cause the sward to deteriorate. It could turn yellow and become weak and elongated if if is denied sunlight and air under cover. In addition, leaving the covers on too long can encourage disease pathogens to develop.

This month soil and air temperatures will be on the rise and as a result grass will be growing quickly. The growth will be more prolific if there is a good amount of soil moisture and nutrients available. More daylight hours will see photosynthesis increase so you will need to mow more, feed more and water more to keep your sward free from stress.

FERTILISING

Continue your fertiliser treatment and turf tonic in accordance with your annual programme. Not got one? Then get your soil tested and try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.

This month, look to be using a 12:0:9 on your square and a 9:7:7 on the outfield, or similar compound fertiliser blend. You could also apply a slow release fertiliser which will take you through to next month. Factors such as soil type and weather will influence your decision on what to choose and how well it performs, Moisture levels and temperature of soil will still be the catalysts for growth. The weather will have an effect on slow release fertilisers and can produce a sudden surge of growth when you don't necessarily expect it. One option is to use a straight compound granular or liquid fertilisers which only activate when they are in contact with moist soil conditions so they stimulate grass growth within days.

MOWING

Keep your mowing equipment clean and well serviced as a breakdown during this critical period is the last thing you need. Keep an eye on fluid levels and check the height of cut and sharpen those blades. Poorly adjusted mowers can have a knock-on effect on cutting operations which can lead to scalping, ribbing and tearing the grass surface, putting stress on the grass surface and making it vulnerable to disease.

Mow the square and outfield regularly, maintaining the square between 10-14mm and outfield between 12-25mm. Keep verticutting, which trains the grass to grow vertically. If you don't have a dedicated verticutter then use a drag brush to stand the grass up before you mow. When using verticutting units, take care that you don't mark or scar the soil surface as these can be hard to remove when the square dries out.

Outfield

Don't neglect the outfield as it can have a big impact on the game if not looked after. Treat it as you would any other natural grass surface so mow regularly, rake or verticut, aerate and feed to keep the sward healthy.

Harrowing or raking lightly assists restoration of levels and keeps surfaces open. Apply balanced fertilisiers such as 9:7:7 to stimulate growth and recovery. Making sure the outfield is aerated is important for aerobic activity and will get oxygen into the grass plant's root system.

Tine regularly and apply sand dressings if you can to the profile so soil water movement in the top 100mm is improved, all the while maintaining a cutting height of 10-14mm.

Outfields can be undulating and uneven which makes it hard to cut closely at these heights so in reality, most are mowed between 12-25mm, and look to use a gang mower with floating heads as a rotary mower could cause damage.

If the outfield has been predominantly overseeded with rye grasses it can be prone to stress if it is mown too short. On the other hand, fescues and smooth stalked meadow grasses tolerate close mowing better. Damp outfields could have been damaged by fielders and bowlers if they have had to play when it has been wet.

Bowlers' run-ups can be badly affected and depressions will have been made during games. Lift these and fill them in to restore levels and overseed.

Pitch Preparation

Refer to the 12-day pitch preparation plan as a guide - which you can read here.

Pitch Renovation

You are now likely to be around halfway through the season and after care of the pitch is as important as preparing it in the first place - and must be done immediately after a match is finished.

As soon a the match is over, sweep and mow the whole of the pitch at final cut height. Take away as much debris as possible, including studs, so you don't cause any damage to your machinery. Next, soak the pitch thoroughly by hand so the surface can be penetrated. Don't pass the 5-foot mark as the ends must be kept dry at this point.

When the surface is partially dry, sarrel roll or spike to offset any compaction caused by the heavy rolling you did while preparing the pitch. This process will also help aerate the surface and create a good seed bed. Overseed the pitch using perennial rye grass with a mechanical or pedestrian spreader and apply a low rate nitrogen fertiliser.

Use germination sheets to speed up the recovery process of the pitch. It is no good to merely scatter seed over the pitch and leave it. The seed needs to be well worked or brushed into the holes you have created to give it the best chance of germinating.

The next important step is to repair batsmen and bowlers' foot marks. These can be deep and exacerbated if repairs were not carried out during games of more than one day in length. Use just the wicket loam that is native to your pitches as this will bind the soils as they recover.

Prepare a stock of preferred virgin wicket soil to just a damp stage but still quite firm. You are looking to be able to squeeze it together in your hand as if it was plasticine. If your topdressing was delivered in bags you should have sufficient moisture with which to effect your repairs - if not, then dampen while it is still in the bag and leave overnight or until it is next needed. If you need to repair the ends where the pitch is being taken out of play, add grass seed to your mix as this will also assist in the germination process and speed up recovery.

You will need the following tools: a lump hammer, a fine spray water bottle, a rammer (elephant's foot used for tarmacing), a fork and a plastering trowel.

Sweep in the same direction you would for intervals to start with and pay attention to footholes the bowlers have created and the deep scars the batsmen have made. Leave the sweepings to one side, then firmly ram the dry holes and any spots the bowlers have removed. Hammer the edges to where the damage ceases to create an edge for new soil to be rammed against as it is hammered into place.

Once the hole is prepared, prick the base to create holes for the topdressing to go into - this helps keying of the soils. Use the hammer on the edges once the hole has been filled with soil to push new soil against your prepared edges. Keep adding new soil, fill in the drill holes so you should be now able to ram and hammer the soil with hardly any of it sticking to the hammer.

If this does happen, then your soil is too wet so use a drier mix. To get your moisture right, you need to know your soil. Once the hole is filled completely, it is time to use the elephant's foot to consolidate the edges and ensure there are no depressions in the foot hole. If there are, keep filling until it is level with the ground.

Always use a straight edge to level off the surrounds as this prevents raised ends and a saucer shaped square. When you are happy, spray the surface with water. Use the plastering trowel to smear the surface until it is smooth and shiny and then cover with the sweepings you have saved.

Sweepings are better than grass cuttings by a long way, particulalry if you want the ends to dry quickly. However, if it's germination you require, then ideally you want to use a germination sheet. You would be well advised to keep some dried clippings on hand to use in the future if you have to repair more than one pitch. Some trial and error might be needed to get the moisture content spot on for your soil, but the time taken to do your ends should be between 30 and 40 minutes - dependent of course on how extensive the damage is. Players and umpires will - or certainly should - appreciate your hard work!

Remember also that good patching on your pitches is the cherry on top of the cake. Don't fear asking the umpires if you can carry out repair work during the game, but preferably between innings or overnight as you may need their permission to do so.

Weeds, pests and diseases

Make sure you are always on the look out for turf disease and remember that prevention is always better than a cure. Moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can leave the plant susceptible to attack from disease and disease such as Fusarium and Red Thread may well be active at this time of year.

Microdochium nivale (fusarium), Fairy Rings and Red Thread are active, with the latter one to look out for in the outfield and disease activity certainly isn't going to lessen as summer progresses. Act preventatively and apply a systematic fungicide such as Heritage Maxx as this is the most effective way of controlling disease. Apply before symptoms are visible but when you know the threat is imminent.

The most common and damaging disease is Fusarium (Microdochium nivale), the symptoms of which are orange or brown patches 2.5-5cm across and the patches get bigger as the disease develops. Patches that are active have a distinctive 'ginger' appearance when viewed in the early morning. Creamy white mycelium that looks like cotton wool is viewed towards the centre and towards the outer edge of the patch.

In the active patches, grass is slimy and even once the disease is under control, scars will remain until the grass grows enough to fill them in. Brush regularly, switch and drag mat in the mornings to keep dew off the playing surface as this will reduce the chance of an outbreak.

Red Thread is ill-defined bleached grass with pink mycelium visible in the early morning dew. Look more closely and you will see red structures that look like needles, attached to the leaf blades. These become brittle on death and break off enabling the disease to spread.

Use systematic and protective fungicides like Chlorothalonil and Iprodione to control the outbreak, applying them in liquid form with water as the carrier. Mix two or more products together to attack the disease on more than one front - in this way you will also reduce th disease's ability to develop resistance to fungicides.

Worms can be active in July so carry out treatments if this is the case. Use Carbendazim as this is the only active ingredient that controls worms. Make sure that anybody applying chemicals is suitably qualified. Where worms are active, moles may also be active and they can cause serious damage too.

Machinery

Make sure you clean down and service your machinery after use and keep garages and storage areas clean and tidy.

 
 
Dennis Mowers