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How πŸ’ͺ🏻 strong is you loam

by TurfCareBlog


Welcome to the November blog ,rather packed edition will try and not make a habit of it .A lot packed in we look into soil strength testing ,including a practical step by step demonstration and some details regarding our upcoming AGM.

We have tasks for the Month and Andrew Savidge answers 5 quick questions and some very interesting and insightful answers.

These are just some notes and things l have learnt over the years l am far from a expert in construction materials and testing techniques but l hope this article gets us all thinking.


Is your loam to blame?

Before l start having the highest clay 28%plus isn’t  always your aim as a club groundsman ,they sit wetter,colder and are much slower to dry out and if irrigation is limited dries  out to sooner ,so you need to match your loam to your resources.

High clay content soil are better for clubs with covers  ,so they can manage the above conditions i.e. Keep Moisture in ,prevent from soil from getting to wet and delaying games and Maintenance procedures.

Also need to consider organic matter (dead roots,leafs)within the soil profile ,thatch layers,diameter of roller,timing of rolling ,if all these aren’t right then changing to a higher clay content will not assist much .If a wicket is playing slow and low we should be looking at possible root break or thatch layers as no 1 before thinking about increasing the clay content.


Soil strength tests (motties )

The Adam and Stewart soil binding test (ASSB) or motty tested it  is commenly know is still a very good method for measuring soil strength ,particularly as can be done at home with a few simple instruments and techniques.

As a groundsman it is important to identify your soil type and soil classification ,mottys will give you a general feel for the strength of you soil if taken within the top 20-100 mm (cut the top off and discard).

If planning on introducing a new loam or carrying out a surface regeneration i.e. Add 25/50mm of loam then l would recommend sending off for a particle size distribution analysis(PSD) testing  of the loam you plan to use and the native soil/loam on your square to test for compatibility.It is important to specify a pipette method  test  as the common way of performing a PSD test will yield false results on a cricket square.

Changing loam should also be avoided if wicket are playing well and all the above is tested and considered and clay content should not be increased by more than 2/4 % in one year.

I have been to sites where the loam was not compatible and this had caused root break in the soil profile so changing loam should be taken lightly and should always be the last result rather than the first port of call for problems with a squares performance.

For me motty testing is for a rough idea of soil strength but if l was going to  change loams or plan any major projects then l would opt for particular size distribution testing as is so low in cost at around Β£60




Differant loams and soil have differing shrinkage rates ,some shrink by 24 % other 10 % and when they shrink if they are not compatible in shrinkage  then the two loam/soil will separate upon dying this ,will create a void in the soil profile and will dramatically effect pitch performance.

When to carry out  particular size distribution anylsis testing

-Planning  on changing loams ,due to supply issues at worst speak to the Loam supplier about compatibility testing

-Surface renewal works or construction of a new square and you don’t know if the Proposed loam is compatible with the native soil,sending both away will give him the answers also testing of the organic matter percentage in the native soil can be tested relatively cheaply.

-Mottys  are very weak and you want to introduce a new loam to strengthen it up.


When  to do motties (soil strength)

-Testing of existing loam to ensure you are getting the strength of loam in terms of motty strength as advertised by your loam supplier in the technical data ,ask for this information should be avaible on request.

-Basic testing of your existing loam or native soil  to get a feel for its strength qualities

Example below on the details in the technical data sheet


-When you are concerned with the strength of your existing native soil as pitches don’t perform as you like though you have at least 25 mm of good Loam on top


What can you do with this information

If existing native soil is weak with only a few millimetres of loam ,if this is the case and is often with annual topdressing of around 1/2 mm (8/9 bags a pitch)applied you will need  to managed the player expectancy levels towards the surfaces performance

There also organic matter(dead roots,leaf matter ) to consider in older soils ,as this builds up its creates a sponge in the soil and anything over 10 % is said to have a effect on pitch performance.

Considering  a newly constructed square is to be built with a minimum 100 mm in depth of loam sure you can do the math to get that depth by topdressing.


what can we do about this

Small steps/manage expectations.

Manage  expectancy and slowly continue to improve the square with thorough scarification and annual topdressing  once you get to 25mm ,improvements can be more apparent.

Total reconstruction (rare)

This is no small matter and the club may need to find a temporary home for a season while this happens and settle in.

Surface regeneration

This has happened at a number of club ,the top has been planned off ,roughed up to destroy  any continuity breaks in the soil profile and the 1/2 inches of compatible loam has been added and levelled ,this can be used for the next season with good management over winter and spring .

How do we collect the soil for the soil tests or for visual inspection of thatch layers etc.

Soil profilers in the below picture ,the big one is Β£175 he smaller one around  Β£40 ,a apple corer has been used as a cheap alternative or using a knife to cut out a triangle  of turf ,up the side of a wicket and refill with loam .remembering we only want the soil from depths of between 20-100 mm max.

Soil profile should be taken in a w shape ,across the square this will ensure the square as a whole is examined rather than just one pitch.





Motty precedure


Crumble the loam down into a  workable size ,removing all fibrous material (roots etc)and stones .


Next slowly add water (distilled best if to hand)until it can be mounded by hand ,as it says add water slowly so it doesn’t becomes to wet to mould.

Then  mould vigorously for 5 minutes to destroy all aggregates ,add a little more water if too dry

Once the above is done ,roll the same into a ball as in above picture and leave a damp towel over it for a couple of hours.







After 2 hours remould ,it should have the consistency of putty ,with little tendency to stick to the hands ,then roll into sausage shapes as above (12mm in diameter )and cut into 25 mm sections.

Next carefully roll the small sections into  small evenly round ball and leave in a dry place ,out of direct sunlight for around a week .







Top left motty rolled into a balls ready for drying .

Top right the fun bit,using a set of scales and two pieces of wood(this prevents scale damage).place the motty between the two pieces of wood and push down at the point the motty break you have your soil strength,in this case it broke at 45 kg ,meaning the soil/loam was weak.

Take 5/6 reading and discount the very lowest and make a average of the rest of the intervidual  breaking strengths

See the link below this includes a table which will show you under what breaking strength weak and strong is classified in kilograms .




Andrew Savidge (Wivelsfield Cricket Club Groundsman)

1)Are you happy with the way renovation went anything learnt for next year?

Good 2018 renovation. I used 2 bulk bags of Surrey Loam this year instead of 3 last year – mainly due to cost, but put more seed on. Looks ok though.
2)What work on the square do you have planned for the winter ?

Aim to cut often when it is still growing, with more fertiliser applications in small amounts. We will try and do 2 or 3 aerations to improve root growth as some parts of the square seem to suffer from compaction.
3)Best piece of advice has been given to you in your groundmanship role ?

I think the best advice I have recd is to not be afraid to leave more grass on the wickets. They can still be rolled out well, but the extra grass can give a more balanced strip between bat and ball, plus it helps the strip regrow afterwards.

4)What new thing/have you learnt this season that your take into next ?

Being one who likes to find the easy way to do things, I now use the auto rotorake to deep scarify old wicket ends to reseed them. It gives very good results with very little effort.

5)what do you like best and worst about being a groundman ?

Best part of a groundsman’s work is preparing the first strip of the season when everything looks pristine and the grass smells freshly cut!
Worst thing has to be pre-season rolling on a freezing cold April morning…


November jobs 

Hopefully no squares have been put to bed as yet πŸ˜‰

-Contunue to cut the square at around 18/20 mm in hieght,keep in cut.

-Granular feeding if losing colour or poor growth.

-Take down fence ,remove leafs and cut and re erect ,,may save on horrible yellow grass early season when you take fence down.

-Worm treatments(vital)

-Start to think about spiking ,the association has a spiker ready to go around clubs.

-Last chance to get some seed down ,before frosts hit and growth slows,still at 1/2 cuts a week.

-Start to think about Winter servicing of machinery .

-Attend the Association of cricket groundman AGM on the Evening of the 29th at Hove.


Website of the month 


Body set up to suport ,train groundsman across the Country.


I hope this blog hasn’t been to complicated any questions leave a comment .

I look forward to writing next Month’s edition(much shorter) ,it will be the 1 year Anniversary edition  of this blog ,thank you for support by reading it .

Brian 🌱


















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