October Maintenance

Key things to keep an eye on during October will be night time temperatures, humidity and periods of leaf blade wetness. This month could swing either way from prolonged dry spells dry patch to wetter days.

If you find night time temperatures are falling, growth rates of both grass and fungal pathogenic growth will start to drop off. This will also lead to heavier morning dews, prolong periods of leaf blade wetness and increased risk of attack from fungi.

Water stress can quickly creep in if you conditions tend to be at the drier end of the spectrum, especially on windy days when evapotranspiration rates are higher. This can be particularly risky for newly sown seed which may be in the initial stages of germination and establishment. 

Nutrition and Disease Management

Favouring products such as the methylene urea contained with the Lebanon range is both sensible and cost effective. Nitrogen applications will still be required and Ammonium sources should be applied with care so as not to force too much soft growth which is susceptible to disease.

However, readily available ammonium is useful in maximising establishment of sown areas ahead of the winter, but be sure to really keep on top of mowing and remove dews whenever possible so to avoid rapid spread of fungal diseases.

An application of a preventative systemic fungicide such as Bayer’s Interface® or Dedicate®  and Syngenta’s Instrata® will help to guard the plant against infection during times of high susceptibility.

Magnesium is the element at the centre of the chlorophyll molecule and applications of this secondary macro element as the days draw in will help the plant to maximise photosynthesis efficiency. Potassium is required in a higher proportion as we enter the autumn winter period.

Combining little and often applications of a soluble or liquid fertiliser with a straight liquid nutrient is a key tactic in marinating plant health, for anyone looking to be in fine control of nutrition. Different elements don’t always mix cleanly together, so it is worthwhile performing jug mixing tests and then alternating little and often applications either every two weeks or once per month depending on disease pressure arising from environmental factors. 

Phosphite is particularly useful at this time of the year when it comes to providing the plant with an easily accessible form of phosphorous which also helps to resist the spread of fungal diseases. Calcium and Chelated Iron are also vital nutrients when it comes to toughening up the plant and increasing cell wall thickness. 

Finally; a tonic of trace elements will help to sustain levels that may have reduced over the growing season and facilitate the plant with  abroad spectrum diet moving inot the winter period.

Renovations

In most cases the methods of working and renovating their squares comes down to what budgets and resources a club has available at the time and what they’re trying to achieve.

It’s important to not under or over-dress your tracks, as most club groundsmen will look to put on between 6 and 10 bags of loam per pitch. Too many club tracks do not perform in terms of pace and bounce because of poor end of season renovation practices, even in the current economic climate it’s best not to skimp on the amount of loam used.


Not removing enough thatch during renovations and spreading insufficient loam down are generally the combination of factors that cause problems. However, there is a fine line between too much and too little.

Soil Analysis: - Commonly soil tests are carried out fall into two categories: Physical and Chemical. If you haven’t had yours tested for some time then now is the time do so, at the earliest possible chance.

The physical analysis reveals the amount of organic matter present, it’s texture, the rate of which the water passes through the soil profiles and the pore spaces within the soil.

The Chemical analysis produces information on soil acidity & alkalinity, the amount of mineral nutrients available for the grass plant to take up and the amount of toxins that may be harmful to the turf. 

Scarification: - Scarification is important to produce a key for the new loam material to sit in and remove any unwanted vegetation. Depending on how much of a thatch layer you have acquired during the season will effect what level of scarification is required. The best way to identify how much you have is by taking a core sample. It will be then a case of going through a vigorous renovation programme, scarifying in at least three directions, finishing in the line of play. 

Sowing rates now range between 35-50 g per square metre. In essence, you are aiming to establish new grasses into your square. Depending on how much thatch is removed, where necessary, clean off all the thatch debris after each pass. The square can then be over sown using a suitable grass seed mixture; do not be frightened to try out new cultivars.

Aeration: - Sunlight, water and air are the basic factors of grass growth and are essential for all plant life.


Aeration: - The very basics of grass growth has never changed; sunlight, water and air, three factors essential for good grass growth of all plant life. Whilst we have no influence over the quality and hours of sunlight, there is a single management operation that directly influences the availability of the latter two. That is aeration. The purpose of aerating a cricket square is the key to producing the foundation upon which additional treatments can work. 
Aeration relieves compaction, assists in top dressing to migrate down the tine holes and improves water percolation through the soil profile. It also helps to create the general environment essential for healthy grass growth. Autumn and winter aeration treatments are beneficial to promoting drier surfaces for further maintenance practices to take place. Solid tining is usually the most common practice but, where saddling is a problem to your ends, then hollow coring over a period of time will help with settlement. 

Soil compaction is often the main contributing factor to poor grass growth; the lack of air in the soil profile inhibits many beneficial activities such as water movement and retaining microbial organisms. A programme to decompact the soil is essential, preferably using a pedestrian powered vertical aerator, to re-introduce some porosity into the profile. Solid tine, hollow coring and linear aeration are a number of methods being used to aerate soil profiles. 

These operations tend to be carried out on a frequency basis depending on the type and size of the tines being used. However, there are a number of groundsmen who never aerate their cricket squares; they believe that the aeration holes formed can cause a weakness/stress line in the clay profile that could eventually break, causing problems with the pitches. They believe that the clay's ability to shrink and swell provides the necessary voids to promote root growth.

Top Dressing: - The last thing you want to be doing is bury any vegetation, which will lead to future problems, so it’s important not to overdress the square, as it will also waste precious loam material and will smother your sward. The object of the renovations is revitalize the top growing zone, restore levels and to integrate new material into the soil profile. This will help build up the clay content in your square. 

Outfield

Make sure you devote some time to your outfield once you have finished renovating your square, as outfields can often become neglected. Mowing of the outfield should be done on a regular basis, aiming to maintain a heigh between 25-35mm, which will encourage a dense sward and reduce disease.

It may not be too late to get some selective weed killer applied, especially if soil and air temperatures remain favourable. Also apply a winter feed to help keep some colour and stimulate some growth.

Ideally, when aerating the outfields, penetration should be down to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting and surface drainage. Some groundsmen like to carry out a programme of solid tining, deep slitting or hollow coring, which again increases porosity but can also help redistribute/recycle topsoil which, in turn, helps restore levels.

The frequency of aeration activities will often depend on the resources - money, machinery and time - available. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.

Agronomy

There is an optimum for each plant nutrient, when coupled with soil structure and particle sizes determine how vigorous your plants are. it’s good practise to undertake at least one soil test during the year to analyse the status of your soil.

The choice of materials and how well it works, however, can be dependant on many factors, including soil type and the weather, with moisture and warmer air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.

Weeds, Pests and Disease

Particularly fusarium, are often prevalent during the autumn, mainly due to the heavy dews that are present at this time of the year. Moisture on the leaf will allow diseases to move and spread easily.

The typical types of diseases you may come across are:

  • Fusarium Patch
  • Red Thread
  • Fairy Rings
  • Anthracnose

Pests

The increase in soil moisture will mean worms become more of a problem. Long term forms of discouragement include lowering of soil pH if it is on the high side or sand top dressings which serve to discourage the worms in the soil as well as help the castings to dry out faster and disperse more easily.

The only legally approved and properly researched control of worms is Carbendazim. Using a pH buffer can improve results if your water is compromising the efficiency of this active ingredient.

Weeds

As long as soil temperatures are warm then turf weeds will still be actively growing. As a result, the early part of the month represents the last opportunity to control weeds going into the winter; something which will not only improve presentation now but give facilities a head start with this issue next spring.

Machinery

Keep machinery in good order, clean after use and top up any oil/fuel levels.

Check cutting cylinders are at correct cutting height and are sharp.

 
 
Dennis Mowers