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Groundsmens' Tips for the Christmas season

Published: 29th November 2008 00:13

Mowing outfield

G'day folks , some hints for the winter , if you can get anybody to do it !!
The end of season work has been carried out, square fenced off and everything stored away as the nights draw in and temperatures start to drop with the onset of winter. It's time to forget about things until spring.
Sadly, no! The days of "putting the square to bed" and forgetting about it are long gone. With the milder winters we are experiencing, growth is continuing all through the fallow months.


Assuming the autumn renovations have been carried out successfully and the new seed has germinated and established, there are a number of tasks to be carried out to encourage the sward.

As soon as the grass has reached the two-leaf stage it will be ready for its initial cut. This operation, and subsequent ones throughout the winter, are best carried out with a rotary mower fitted with an adequate grass collector. The benefit of a rotary over a cylinder mower is that it lifts the grass, keeping it erect. It also sucks up debris such as leaves and twigs associated with the winter months and avoids smearing any worm casts.

It is vital that the blade is sharp to avoid damaging the tender leaf blade, which would encourage disease.

As a rule of thumb never remove more than a third of the leaf in any one operation and gradually reduce the sward height to maintain at 20-25mm throughout the close season.

Following the first cut it may be considered prudent to apply a preventative fungicide to strengthen the sward. Whilst rye-grass is not particularly susceptible to most common turf diseases (fusarium, dollar spot), instances of leaf spot and damping off are becoming more prevalent. An application of Sulphate of iron as a dilute spray (2 kilo in 25 litres of water) can also be beneficial as a turf hardener and to reduce moss.

Soil enhancing products

Many soil enhancing products exist on the market and some are very expensive. Without a full soil analysis of microbial activity it is almost impossible to recommend one. However, experience has shown that a simple programme of an amino acid root enhancing product will greatly increase both root density and depth, especially in conduction with a correct aeration programme.

Worm control

Whilst worms have a beneficial effect within the soil they have no place on a cricket square due to casting. Worm casts create an uneven surface, act as an ideal seedbed for undesirable grasses and weeds and, when smeared by either machinery or foot traffic, smother the grass sward.

No treatment exists to eradicate them but treatment with a carbendazim based product will greatly reduce their activity.

Worm control treatment need only be conducted as and when they become a problem.


Before instigating a programme of aeration it will be necessary to take soil profiles from the square to determine whether any problems, root breaks, layering, discontinuations etc., exist.

By its very nature a cricket square needs to be compacted to ensure an adequate playing surface offering pace and bounce, whereas the grass plant, and especially the root system, requires a supply of water and oxygen to mature and adequately anchor the soil. The two requirements are diametrically opposed, therefore a balance has to be achieved.

Aeration programmes need to be tailored to suit individual needs.

All squares will benefit from regular surface pricking using a spiked roller. This helps keep the surface open, assisting the ingress of any applied products and reducing the instances of moss and algae

The most readily available method of aeration available is to hire a Groundsman Industries pedestrian punch action spiker from your local Cricket Groundsmens Association. Fitted with six 7/16" tines on 1/2"
holders, for the majority of clubs this machine proves ideal and, in conjunction with a correct winter management routine, greatly increases root depth and density.

For deeper-seated problems it may be necessary to deep drill or vertidrain the square, but actions as drastic as this will depend on the results of a soil profile analysis.

Hope it is looking good for next year , merry Xmas to you all

Mick the mower


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