Guidance on the maintenance of synthetic nets and match wickets
Happy New year and welcome to a new edition of TurfCareBlog.com new blog.We are are looking at the essential maintenance tasks to be carried out on either your match pitch or your net area.
Questions kindly answered by Alex Bennett(nottssport),who is in the above photo,unsure what he is signing:)
Tell us a little about yourself and your company Alex.
I’ve been working with clubs & schools to help them provide non-turf cricket pitches & nets for nearly 20 years now.I work for S&C Slatter, who are the leading UK sports pitch contractors, and I also represent Notts Sport in the south of England. As S&C Slatter install Notts Sport cricket systems, it means that I can help clients all the way through a project from design to construction, and with post-installation maintenance advice.
Alex,Can you tell us a little bit about the different type of match pitches ?
There are three generic types of non-turf pitch:
A traditional stone-base pitch reflects the natural style of play of a grass square: slower & lower when wet, quicker after a light roll.
Concrete/tarmac systems provide fast & bouncy option that doesn’t react to ground conditions, but generally a more akin to a southern hemisphere bounce than a UK pitch
Some companies also provide a double shockpad system that is a middle ground between these two – it provides a constant pace and bounce like concrete, but with a much friendlier medium-fast UK feel.
Are all match pitches to be maintained in the same way and do they all require rolling ?
The big advantage of concrete is that they don’t require any rolling at all, but the performance issues means that it is not an ECB Approved option.
Thankfully the poor advice that was often bandied around before the ECB Code of Practice that ‘artificial pitches don’t need rolling’ is no more, and all reputable companies now accept that compacted stone bases left outdoors in any application will gradually decompact through heave (aka freeze/thaw), just like compacted stone bases do in every other walk of life.
I recommend rolling non-concrete/tarmac bases pre-season a couple of times with a light hand roller, just 5-10 minutes per pitch per roll, always when damp/wet, and after the frosts have finished.
After this, the double shockpad systems are roll-free until the following pre-season, but the traditional stone-based pitches will benefit from occasional in-season rolling as required. But you’d be unlucky if even this type of pitch needed more than 30-40 minutes rolling through the season.
is it ok to power wash and clean a non turf surface. ?
It depends on the age of pitch, but generally this is OK for all but the very oldest pitches. If a club has a stone-base or double-shockpad pitch, and plans the day well, you could pressure wash it in the morning, leave the water to saturate the base, and then do one of the pre-season rolls in the afternoon.
How do we remove any grass that has seeded itself into the carpet during spring?
The best way is to spray using a glyphosate based herbicide, and then brush off 10-14 days later when it has died off. Simply pulling weeds out risks puling some of the fibres away as well, which could accelerate the wear on the material, but spraying first then brushing puts little to no stress on the artificial grass.
Please note to use herbicides you need have a PA1,PA6 or and or PA2 spraying certificate.
Moss can be treated the same way, but using a prophylactic such as MMC Pro.
To edge or not to edge a match pitch ?
It depends on the pitch and the perimeter. If the pitch has a timber frame and there is a smooth transition between the artificial and the natural turf, edging back will not cause an issue.
Often though the pitch doesn’t have a timber edge as they are next to the square, and the surface is fixed using long galvanised pins. If this is the case I wouldn’t recommend edging all the way to the perimeter as the grass growing over the edge of the carpet helps the strength of the fix and the transition from natural to artificial turf.
The best thing here is to measure 1.3m from centre stump to each side, lightly half moon along this line and use a shovel to pick off the turf that had encroached more than this. This will leave 2.6m of the surface clear of encroaching turf, but leave the fixing at the edge secure.
Is there a basic guide to maintaining a match pitch ?
We’ve pretty much covered it with the previous questions: rolling after the frost have finished, pre-season maintenance, and occasional in-season rolling, depending on the pitch specification.
Other than sweeping the surface to make sure there is nothing on the surface that could cause irregular bounce, the only other standard task is re-painting creases as they wear.
In very dry years (such as summer 2018) it may be advisable to water the artificial as well – much like a natural pitch an artificial needs a little moisture to stay together fully, so if it gets too dry it can become a little fluid.
Pitches by the square often get this moisture when the square is watered, but it’s worth keeping an eye on net areas, and if they start to become a little inconsistent in prolonged dry periods, watering & rolling is likely to have a positive effect.
If the pitch is installed correctly and uses a contemporary base specification with graded stone and membranes, there shouldn’t be any need to do any lifting of the surface & relevelling until the surface itself wears out if this little-but-regular regime is followed.
How can holes be repaired in match pitches and net areas?
Holes can be patch repaired at the blockholes and in low-wear areas in the run-ups – many companies sell repair kits with instructions. The best way to get the best surface match is to contact the original supplier for advice.
If the holes are in an area where the ball bounces, or at the front foot bowling crease, repairing is much more difficult to do without either affecting consistency or being subject to failure respectively. Damage in these areas often means a full resurface rather than patch.
How often is a match pitch carpet likely to last ?
Older style woven carpets still should last 10 years or so, while newer technologies can last double that.
The best way to extend the life of the surface and to minimise the risk of holes needing repair is to prevent players from wearing spiked footwear when the artificial is the main playing pitch.
Running across a non-turf pitch in spikes when fielding is not generally a problem, but twisting feet on the surface is spikes when batting or bowling, or sliding when getting ready to turn for a second run all create excess wear in.
Remember, ”spike-resistant” is not ‘spike-proof’!
The base elements underneath should last almost indefinitely as long as the surface doesn’t develop any holes as they are protected from UV wear or foot traffic.
So if you have a pitch that also separates out the base layers with membranes to make sure they can’t mix, as most of the higher end systems now do, you should be able to continually resurface the original base.
Is there any training courses we can go on to help us look after our match pitches better ?
That’s a very good question, and I don’t think that there is a non-turf specific course.
However, maintenance of non-turf pitches is one of many elements covered within the IOG course “Level 1 Cricket Pitches: Spring Preparation and Summer Maintenance”.
Are there any funding streams for clubs to help with installing a non turf surface?
There is more money available than a lot of people realise.
The ECB should have some small grants for clubs in 2020, and maybe larger grants for women’s & girls’ cricket. Sport England is worth a look, and Landfill companies also often invest in sport in the immediate local area
There are often local grant sources that can supplement these, local authorities, charitable trusts and corporate donations if you know where to look.
The best advice is to contact your local County Cricket Board Development team, and they can point you in the right direction and explain what support is likely (if any) from cricket itself.
I’m always happy to advise on this too, as options vary hugely according to location.
Top tip –after seeding and loam dressing during renovations ,if you have a machine with brush attachment ,brush the non turf if any seed or loam has drifted onto the surface to prevent the seed germination. Hand broom is also a option, sorry.
Thanks for reading