Renovation of Cricket outfields used for Football in the winter
If you’re lucky enough to have the experience of having your cricket outfields used for other sports throughout the winter, then you will know it is fast approaching the moment to begin renovations. What those renovations will look like depends on varying factors at our level; money, which sport is higher in the club’s priority (in cricket, the renovation gets started, if not it’s often made to wait), the schedule of games for the rest of the winter sports season and weather conditions.
Another factor for consideration may also be the amount of renovation work that takes place. There is the option to renovate every inch of the outfields that have been used, thus putting an end to any winter sports until next winter. There is the option to renovate the high usage areas like the goalmouths and centres of the pitches and touchlines if those come into play on the cricket outfield. There is the limited option whereby maybe only a fertiliser application is undertaken. Whatever the outcome a definite plan and process needs to be in place prior to this month coming around.
For me it’s something in-between a full renovation and the second option of recovering high use areas. The balance I have is that both cricket and football are on an even keel in terms of priority to the club, both are part of the main income through their respective seasons. This means that my renovation has to take place whilst the football season is still in full flow, or wait until 3-4 weeks out from the end of the football season, and ask for games to be rearranged to other pitches or away from home. The last option is not all that easy to get agreement for but it is something I have only done once when the outfields were particularly bad.
My plan was drawn up in January, firstly it includes the key areas in which I wanted to work, as listed above. Next came the time scale I feel it would take to get establishment of the new grass from seed.I work the time scale out based mainly on the part of the process which takes the longest, in this case it’s the growth of the new grass. The third part of my plan includes planning the specifics of the processes and works I wish to apply.
This season it includes the following for my goal mouth areas:
- Scarification of the worn areas to clean up any remaining grass sward, whilst getting a nice loose base in which to apply the following steps,(breaking things up a little by scarifying can also create some grooves in which some of the seed can sit in).I use the spring tines on the Quadraplay to do this, however you can use a petrol scarifier such as a Graden to complete this part of the process.
- For small areas such as the boxes of a football pitch I like to use a sarel roll in order to give me some extra depth for the seed to go into, along with the scarification runs ( I usually go over the area with the sarel roll a good 5-6 times, creating as many pockets as I can).You can also use a dimple seeder or over seeder here if your club can fund this, which my multi-sports club can only afford every other year. Within this I would ideally verti-drain the area to create further depths and levels, relieve compaction and send our seed further into the ground in our next step.
- Next, it’s time to apply the seed,we need to look for a fast establishing seed here that grows into a hard wearing leaf once established, we don’t have long so this is essential. I like to use a pre-treated perennial rye grass seed for this.) A simple and basic method here is to scatter the seed evenly across the area you have scarified/sarel rolled by hand. You’re looking for a nice even coverage if you are doing it in this way and want to avoid pilling the seed up on top of itself, alternatively, I also use a pedestrian spreader too.
- Once evenly covered you want to really get that seed down into the pockets, we have created with the sarel roll and to do so we want to lightly brush in the seed, again avoiding pushing the seed into piles. This part of the process, done properly, can be the part where you save your club money on the grass seed. At £70 per bag the seed I mentioned above is by no means the most expensive per bag, but these cost pile up when you start looking at 4 plus bags. With you applying the seed by hand you are able to regulate how much you use.
- Now that the seed is sitting nicely in our grooves and pockets and evenly spread across the affected area, we want to give it a covering of some fine silica sand. Here I like to do this using a powerspred by SISIS (If you don’t have one of these or similar available you can barrow the sand into the area and spread using a grader or drag mat) this allows for a perfectly even coverage. The sand isn’t just to cover the seed and help it grow though, we also want to level the area out an bring the rut that the repetitive motion over the season has created back to the level of the surrounding area.
- The Powerspread is usually very good at giving us a flat and even covering, however, I will sometimes spread a little more sand over the area than necessary and go over the area with a grader hand tool or a drag mat, this allows me to fully ensure the area is covered well, is even and the sand has followed some of the seed into the grooves we have created below.
- Last but not least ,if funds allow an application of a pre seed fertiliser,high in phosphorus ,something like a 8-12-8 analysis.
This is pretty much the process of recovering a goal mouth area during a renovation. Grassroots clubs don’t have all that much money as we know, so the practical advice based on my own experiences above will provide you with the best methods on a varying budget. The range of clubs we have reading our blogs at grassroots level varies in not only standard but also wealth. This is exactly why I have included both manual, cheap methods to complete the renovation but also tractor-based methods that included tractor mounted/pto driven machinery.
All of the above methods can be done by a contractor, which another way of completing your renovation works dependant on budget. The process for completing a renovation of the centres of a football pitch is pretty similar, but is over a larger area. This is where I would use tractor mounted machinery to cover the work quicker or alternatively bring in a contractor if the funds are available
Alex Fitzgerald (Grassroots Groundsman)
Vulcan Football Club