Q&A on Cricket Loams is a new blog in which takes a look at that strange stuff that the grass grows in on a cricket pitch. In this blog David Goodjohn unpack some commonly asked questions and helps us all understand more about loam ahead of renovations.
Cricketers up and down the country will prod it, look at it, come out with sage comments whilst nodding in a selfsatisfied manner
“Mmmmmm yeh gonna do a bit off the seam”
“Shirt front, HAVE to bat first”
“Bit damp and grassy, GOT to bowl”
They can’t all be wrong (but most usually are), so what is that strange magical soil that grounds staff nurture lovingly, propagating their precious Dwarf Perennial Rye Grass mixes. As Cricketers and Cricket Groundsmen the term Cricket Loam is often used but what does it mean?
What is a LOAM
Loam is soil composed mostly of sand, silt, and a smaller amount of clay. By weight, its mineral composition is about 40–40–20% concentration of sand–silt–clay, respectively
This is probably more of a Gardener’s definition so….
Let’s define Cricket Loam (but let’s not forget Tennis Loam while we’re at it)
sediment whose particles are larger than silt (typically greater than 0.06 mm)
sediment whose particles are between clay and sand in size (typically 0.002–0.06 mm)
sediment with particles smaller than silt, typically less than 0.002 mm
These are the technical definitions of the components of Loam, but inevitably as natural topsoils (or blends of soils) they will include an organic content – let’s say that ought to be under 5%
If we assume Cricket Loam stays the same (we’re always told not to change loams as they never ever alter not ever) let’s take a look at what options are available to us:
We haven’t touched on the products’ Strength & Shrinkage (we mention this later on in the Compatability section), Bulk Density or Chemical Analysis (pH and so on) but maybe that’s enough data for the time being (watch out for future blogs!)
(Geographical locations have been used to preserve the anonymity / intellectual property of the various manufacturers, but this is information many will not have seen in this tabulation in the past*)
You won’t find much of this info on the Producers’ websites as Loam is a closely guarded market prone to secrecy (hence the need for this blog). Brand names have been removed to save breaching copyrights and patents, but most of the important information is included in this tabulation. What relevance then do the numbers have to us as Ground Managers (Custodians of the Hallowed Turf)?
Most zero in on the CLAY CONTENT. Whilst this is important to indicate the kind of binding strength to expect from a product, it is not the sole factor we need to focus on. Higher clay content can INDICATE a high binding strength, but soil is complex so a combination of the sand, silt and clay with a lower clay and higher sand content CAN give a more resilient product. Particles interact, so the correct BALANCE is often superior to simply having a higher count in one or another category.
ORGANIC MATTER (OM) can often be as vital as simple Clay content. If a loam has a high organic quotient, soil development over a period of time will produce humus and vegetative matter, both of which can contribute to an increase in OM. Inefficient or insufficient end of season renovation can be a major contributor to this menace to cricket squares.
Why do Sand and Silt matter? They don’t seem to contribute, do they? Incorrect once more my friend. We all have to bow to the maxim of BALANCE. It has been said in the past that the ‘perfect’ loam (for these usages) would be 33.33% each of Sand, Silt and Clay but this rarely if ever occurs in Nature.
Are these Loams all Natural Products then? Very rarely would we be able to say this hand on heart as the bulk of Loams for commercial sale are actually blends of different soils.
Should I always use a sterilised loam?
This is a bit of a misnomer which goes back to the olden (not necessarily golden) days of Horticulture. Back then, Gardeners preferred a Sterilised Loam into which they could pot their plants so that they didn’t encounter any pesky weeds. The sterilising process involved lots of nasty chemicals that quite simply ‘nuked’ the soil obliterating most of the natural goodness as well as the relatively few weed seeds lurking in the loam.
Nowadays the ‘sterilisimg’ process is not so much of a chemical blitzkrieg but much more of a simple ‘heat treatment’ whereby Steam can be applied to the processed soils in a bid to eradicate weed seeds.
Does ‘sterilised’ (heat treated) loam do a better job than unsterilized? That would depend on whether you choose to lose up to 90% of the goodness of your loam (microbes, beneficial humus etc.) in return for the possibility of removing a few percentage points of weed seeds. Loams are without exception produced, packaged and stored in a rural setting, so weed seeds can become incorporated simply by being blown in, so there is no such thing as a truly ‘sterilised’ loam. The choice is yours.
Am I right to think that a different Loam would not be compatible with my square?
Don’t ALWAYS believe someone who is selling a product to you, prove it to yourself! There is a very straightforward test called the Motty (or ASSB) Test that can help you with the evidence of your own eyes. ( link to my article ‘The full Motty’)
By a process of creating Loam spheres of your own simply with soil and water, you can create a Motty of your own square material and one of the prospective loams. Different loams have different Shrink and Swell Characteristics in that they swell more or less readily when they are wetted, and they shrink more or less readily as they dry. By dividing each soil medium in halves, introducing a slight ‘key’ to bind them together and then to combine them to be left to dry (naturally and gradually away from direct sunlight) you will see for yourself whether or not they separate through incompatability. If there is little or no difference, the soils are unlikely to be incompatible so therefore you can make a choice on performance qualities instead of simply price or availability.
What is the PERFECT Loam then?
The PERFECT Loam is the one that is PERFECT for you in your unique set of circumstances.
Please feel free to make comments, ask questions, but please always keep an OPEN MIND
Thank you for reading these thoughts
David Goodjohn is Owner/Operator of Green Infrastructure Europe Ltd suppliers of Natural Products, Loams and Dressings from the Heart of the English Countryside.
Now we all l hope a increased knowledge of loam, how about some information on seed –https://turfcareblog.com/?s=seed
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