This blog l hope unpacks the need of end of season renovations and then gives a rough guide to carrying it out, especially useful to any new groundsman taking on renovations for the first time.
Renovations -Why do we Need to Renovate a Cricket Square?
Access/Removal of dead grass, that white/brown grass below the height of the mower, if it’s not removed it can turn into thatch, the number one culprit in underperforming pitches. The depth of scarification should be 1mm lower than the depth of thatch you have.
To gauge the depth of thatch, take a soil profile, this can be done with a knife, apple corers or with a specific soil profiling tool below. Take a minimum of three samples and take these from areas outside of play i.e. up the edge of the pitch.
Don’t take any samples from the end of wickets as this could well misguide you.
Scarification is often hurried to one pass, but if you can invest time into an extra direction or more, you are doing a great thing. They say keep scarifying till you get scared of the mess and then keep going, many squares do not perform well.
Be aware the more you scarify the higher a seed rate and loam will be required.
Where do we start?
Firstly, I’d recommend watering the square heavily for a couple of days prior to renovations, this helps soften ups the soil profile and helps the scarifier impact the surface and keep the dust down.
Aim is to moisten the profile, rather than have a wet top, when scarifying.
Prior to watering is also good opportunity to get the height of cut down to your lowest possible height on the square.
We cut the grass as low as possible, usually around 4/5mm in height, we don’t want to be scalping the high areas, so that dictates how low to go.
We start scarifying in a couple of directions, just going into the soil a few millimetres to remove the grass canopy and any surface dead grass (usually white).
We scarify in soft diagonals something like 30 degrees, 60 d and 45 d (avoid cubing), and most people work their way down to the final direction which is usually in line of play of around 5 mm deep.
Do remember if you have 7 mm in depth of thatch, you need to scarify to 8mm to ensure you get it out and one direction, will probably not be enough.
The area being scarified needs brushing up during scarification with the use of a brush unit cassette, ideally after each pass. Some people use leaf blowers/rotary mowers also to removal surface debris (thatch).
Aggressive scarification is also a great way of removing poa (annual meadow grass), it is shallow rooted and hates to be hit hard, so renovations are the perfect opportunity hit it hard and replace it with ryegrass.
If when you finish scarifying and you still have a good canopy of grass, sadly you have probably under scarified. If a canopy of grass remains, it is likely to get buried under the cricket loam, which you really do not want and creates major issues.
Spiking during end of season renovations?
Most clubs at this stage usually bring on a sarel roller/overseeder to create more holes for the seed to sit in, but some also try and spike.
If you can invest some time in watering the top inch or there is enough moisture present, then a spike to half inch/ inch, would be beneficial and would give the seed and loam the perfect hole to germinate in.
If the surface plucks or lifts, either re-water or leave it. Lifting can this can create issues within the soil profile. so, if you can’t spike without lifting just leave it.
Spiking is not a vital requirement of renovations, unlike aggressive scarification.
Re seed, the aim is to get the full canopy of rye grass back in place of any bare areas, failure to do this will result in areas or moss, weed and weed grass (poa).
Every hole and or grooves is a goal, when it comes to seeding. If the seed just sits on the top of the surface, it may just get eaten (birds) or washed off by rain water.
A depth of 10-15 mm is the ideal depth for seed to germinate in, but it must be touch soil.
Don’t be tight with seed, you will save money from not having to treat the moss or weeds later.
Brush the seed in and if you can spread the seed over the area, in a few directions rather than the one it will be more fruitful.
Restore levels, that’s the aim when we top dress, just to restore what has been removed via wear so 6-8 bags a wicket is about right, with a few separate bags for levelling off the low ends.
We only need to replace what we have taken out in terms of topdressing, unless we are looking to build up the square or incorporate a better loam.
Just a word of warning, going over 10 bags a pitch can lead to layering, so if intend on using over 10 take some professional advice.
Pre seed fertiliser or not?
Only need a pre seed fertiliser if the area seeded is bare, and without existing grass. (This is a rule of thumb). If fertiliser is applied to an existing sward, the established plant will out compete the seedling as it will be quicker to take advantage of the nutrition.
Basic end of Season Renovations Guide
Reduce the height of cut on the square to as low as possible without scalping and water for a day or two, if required.
Cut the square and vericut any pitches that haven’t been used and thin out, to reduce the grass canopy/matt down.
Scarify the square in a minimum of two directions to a depth of 5mm, this is the minimum and will probably require more directions, only you can gauge this.
5mm, is assuming you don’t have any thatch below that.
After each direction clear up debris from scarifier, as in above notes.
Half rate of seed application and then brush seed into the scarifying grooves.
Water, to soften the square if required for the sarel roller or and shallow spiking.
Make some holes with the spiker or sarel roller and apply seed in a few directions and brush in.
Restore levels, topdressing with 6-8 bags a wicket, maybe slightly less on unused pitches.
Work the loam in, with a loot or levelling tool you may have.
The use of a drag mat can be a useful bit of equipment, but remember if you want to improve you levels a dragmat mostly follows the contours of the square.
If you have any high/lows an old ladder or 3 m frame would be a better option, as it will pull off loam from any highs and deposit them into any lows.
Personally, l like to go back and work on the ends levels individually and l use a 3 m stick/straight edge to top up any low end.
Lasts two jobs
Possible application of a pre seed fertiliser if using.
Fence up and feet up and remember the first two weeks after renovations are key to getting good germination from the seed, so keep it moist.
If the above work can be split over more days or even over two weekends, this will buy you more time to get each stage right, it doesn’t have to all be done within a day or two.
It easy to write, but also aware of the challenges of those who read, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it took many many years to get to a point l am happy with what we do renovations wise.
If you missed the first part of this blog earlier in the week, here is the link – https://turfcareblog.com/end-of-season-renovations-survey-summary/
Also take a look at the Grounds Managements Association recommendations for end of season renovations, which l am sure will also be updated soon- https://thegma.org.uk/guidance-interim-works-your-sports-turf
There also a interesting recording of a zoom meeting via the Essex Association of Groundsman in conjunction with the GMA below..