Hopefully, by now, you should have managed to complete your end of season renovations and germination has been successful and any loam dressings will by now have settled down. It is important to go into the winter months with a good sward cover.
Winter is an ideal time for getting many repairs to the ground completed. Scoreboards, practice net posts and fences around the ground can be repaired, painted or stained. Depending on ground conditions, some clubs may be able to complete drainage or reconstruction works during the winter months.
Existing drainage systems can be overhauled and cleaned out, and additional drainage systems may be added. With soil and air temperatures now dropping, it is important not to walk across frozen ground as this will lead to turf damage.
Ideally, try and keep off the grounds until the snow has gone.
Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Early in the Month 1st - 15th December
Swish or drag brush your square (snow and ice permitting) to remove any surface moisture to discourage disease.
Sarrel roll your square, weather permitting, to keep surface open.
Inspect your ground regularly for disease, worm activity and spray as required.
Check for broken fencing and drainage problems.
Mow the outfield and square as required, and if possible.
Complete leaf collecting if not already done so.
Later in the Month 16th December - onwards
Weather permitting, aerate your square and outfield if not done so already; if your outfield is used for winter sport link the work in with your management programme.
Key Tasks for December
Brushing and Sarrel Rolling
Regular brushing and sarrel rolling to keep the square aerated. Of course, the current weather conditions are severely restricting these operations. Where, and when, conditions allow, aerate as much as possible to keep the surface open. However, keep off the surfaces if there is any ice or snow, and if the square becomes saturated as the frost thaws. You will risk doing more harm than good.
Useful Information for Brushing and Sarrel Rolling
Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependent on the need and condition of the ground. It is important to maintain a constant height of cut, on both the square and outfield.
The square should be maintained between 12-20mm with the outfield maintained at between 25-35mm. Remember; the outfield too has a major effect on a game if unattended. The outfield should be treated through the winter the same as any other natural grass surface - aeration, fertilising and mowing should not be neglected.
Useful Information for Mowing
Facts about mowing
Too many clubs tend to neglect their outfields, it is important to undertake some work on the cricket outfields as they are an important part of the game, they need to be firm, flat and free from weeds.
Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter pitches, and the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby).
Ideally, on the outfields, aeration penetration should be down to a depth around 200mm to promote deeper rooting. 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.
Useful Information for Outfields
End of the season - turn, turn, turn
Pest and Disease
Worms can also be active this month. Keep an eye the square and treat accordingly. Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. Ph level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the square may need to be assessed. Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for controlling worms.
Turf disease can be quite prevalent when soil moisture levels increase, coupled with the presence of early morning dews. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the susceptibility of disease attack. Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak. Many turf grass diseases can be active at this time of the year - fairy rings, red thread and Fusarium are the most commonly seen.
Air and soil temperatures are dropping reducing the respiration rate of the grass plant. The grass plant is now entering its dormant stage. Applying fertilisers during December and through the winter months is not a viable option. The plant cannot and will not be able to make good use of the fertilisers. Any growth produced by the plant may be susceptible to disease attack.
Soil tests:- Ideally, once or twice a year, or as required. Soil sampling is an important part of grounds maintenance. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf. There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main tests to consider are: Particle Size Distribution (PSD) will give you accurate information on the soil type and it's particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.
Soil pH:- It is important to keep the soil at a pH of 5.5-6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants. Organic matter content: It is important to keep a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile.
Nutrient Levels: Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.
Once you have this information you will be in a better position to plan next season's feeding and maintenance programmes.
Useful Information for Fertiliser
Other Tasks for the Month
Artificial pitches and net facilities:- Keep all surfaces clean, by regular sweeping and brushing to remove any algae and moss from surface.
Sand filled systems also require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.
Net facilities:- Repair damaged structures and netting, order new if required. Strim and mow around structures.Remove all net and practice structures for repair and stored away for the winter.
Inspect drainage outlets, culverts, channels and ditches to ensure that they are working. Winter months are a good time for carrying out ditch clearing operations; blocked ditches may affect the performance of playing field drainage systems.
Many Groundsmen fence off the cricket square at the end of the season to protect it from pests (rabbits, deer, foxes, and football players), vehicles and vandals.
Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All structures should be stored away or covered with protective sheeting for the winter.
Wind blown debris, such as litter, leaves and tree limbs needs to be cleared from playing surfaces.
Inspecting & cleaning of machinery. December is an ideal time to send any machinery away for repairs or servicing. Keep a good supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.
Annual evaluation:- The winter months enables you to evaluate how well this year's maintenance regime has gone, which in turn will help you plan the work for next season. You may need to seek quotations for machinery and materials. Be prepared for next season.
Failure to prepare - prepare to fail. It is important to keep records and diaries of the activities carried out, and how well the facility and each pitch has performed. The advent of the digital camera is a great tool for recording information.
Last, but not least, a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR to all you readers of this diary.