A Groundsman’s reflections of a cricket season – This is my story of the year, the challenges my responses, what I did and will do differently. I’m not a hard-nosed experienced pro groundsman, just an enthusiastic retiree doing it for a few years running two squares that provide a massive number of matches at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire.
All that rain last autumn certainly made it tough. It hindered germination on the squares and then the cold Spring meant no overseeding. And the rain turned our usually well drained outfield into a quagmire. The wetness of the squares which normally drain easily concerned me. Through this site I was introduced to a Rocastem liquid agent which acts as a soil aerator. The monthly applications of this certainly made a difference and improved the sward.
I also found an old metal drag mat buried in the shed to haul over the squares to spur added life instead of drag brushing. Knackering! The outfield was awful and a bigger problem to sort. The rain and the mash of wormcasts plus the grass too long because it was too wet to cut in autumn accentuated the problem. To help it was harrowed in early March (huge error) and then it didn’t rain making it rutted and weed-strong. For first time I had it weed and feeded, which made a huge improvement although hardly anyone commented!
Now, it’s to be vertidrained to stimulate growth and to be drag matted across winter to control wormcasts, so that we don’t get a repeat to get it back to its good self. During the winter I did the GMA’s online winter pitches course in the absence of a cricket one to learn about turf management. It taught me much about fertilisers and the science behind what we do. This Winter I plan to do the Cricket Level 2 online.
Link to GMA learning- https://thegma.org.uk/learning
Pre-season I had a bit of a departure, to source new matting on a tight budget for our 3-lane nets which were in severe need of renovation. The end result proved a huge success, spurring better numbers training. About then I was struggling a bit after the covid jab, and one of our guys did the preseason rolling for me using our old sit-on Atco. But the overall growth across the squares was a concern, an issue caused by the wet winter and cold spring and thereon challenges all season in square management.
Good Results with Liquid Fertiliser
I had no option but to play the early season games on a middle prime league strip which put the schedule out of gear. Following on from applying Rocastem, the rep from Aitkens made regular site visits to design a programme for the season. The smell of the organic liquids certainly wouldn’t make an aftershave to endear you at a dinner date!
The results of the treatments were not necessarily visually apparent, it’s about the roots of the grass. What was evident was that the tracks had more pace, consistent bounce and gained excellent reviews. Any nutrition programme does require time and isn’t a quick fix.
There are times you do have to think out of the box. One weekend with Saturday washed out and a cup game then on the Sunday which looked like the two teams would have to end up tossing a coin. The prepared track was far too wet, so I cut an unprepared strip to the top of the square and thought we could just about get away with it – and we did. The easy option would have been to call it off. That experience and yet another day of torrential rain made me do something to source cheap additional covers.
Reflections of a Cricket Season-Always a bargain to be had
We have a large climate cover but the heavy rains were washing down our sloping square underneath it. So again, thanks to the cricket groundsmen facebook groups (link-https://www.facebook.com/groups/717957209036259), I found a big new cover for £200 which subsequently paid huge dividends, enabling us to cover eight strips.
I also need to get better at overseeding and the sarel roller on the Dennis isn’t easy to use so I snapped up one off FB Marketplace for £80, bargain. Across the five busiest weeks of the season in July and August we had matches on both squares almost every day on various pitch lengths – from 16 to 22 yards. By filling crease holes, I double used tracks for different lengths.
With rain around I also put three tracks next to each other for two matches on the Friday and the league one on Saturday so that all were covered if it rained, it worked a treat. With cricket during this July/August period on both squares watering had to carefully undertaken. At this time, we had very few rainy days and mostly a few isolated downpours.
In spite of the extensive use, the wickets remained good in growth and performance. Amazingly I squeezed about eight matches out of some tracks. I put much down to the feed programme, not cutting too short, minimal rolling and using the Dennis and Sisis brushes. In total we had 167 matches – obviously many junior matches repeatedly using the same strip.
Considering that workload it says a lot for the squares and how they coped.
I don’t cut the outfield that’s done by a contractor but the amount of work on the squares and the ground perimeter is huge. One guy Hugh does an awesome job on the perimeter and then I had Gavin who helped me, especially mending the sprayer and then the senior players muck in on Saturdays.
I do make a rod for my own back by agreeing to lots of hirings such as Herts Youth and Seniors and other organisations. But it’s about the club delivering cricket. I’m already planning the square management for next season and what’s good is that even before seed germination the two squares have good growth in the performance areas.
I’ve treated the squares with Aitkens Terralift T Thatch to reduce organic matter before the scarification and they will also get a monthly organic feed and iron treatments until the end of the year. They’ll also get monthly Rocastem for aeration and for the first time I’m using Bru Clear, an organic liquid to control worms. We’ll see how that goes.
Our rotary roller mower for the squares died and a replacement was needed. I managed to grab another bargain with a Hayter Harrier 56 for £250 (hell of a beast) to keep the squares in good order across the winter along with drag brushing. Well, that’s my story, bit long. A busy but highly satisfying year.
I hope you enjoyed a look into my world, A Groundsman’s reflections of a cricket season by
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