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Welcome to Groundsmans corner, a new link  composed by your happy, smiling  groundsman Bazza Glynn. The idea of this is to keep members informed of the work done on the ground, some simple explanations of how the work is done, what needs to be done, aims for the future all hopefully tinged with humour.

End Of Season Renovation

So the first instalment is to update you on the end of season renovations that were performed at the end of September. This work is crucial to the following seasons quality of pitches and has to be done in the right weather conditions.

At the end of another increasingly busy season it was time to renovate the square. Basically this involves three processes, scarifying, seeding and top dressing with fresh cricket loam. This happens after the whole square is cut as short as it can be. First stage -the square is then scarified in three directions across the square with a machine that has a set of thin blades that are set to dig into the surface to a depth of about 10mm. This machine has to be hired in for the day, although I do possess a scarifier that is ok for in season work but is not man enough for the renovation work. The purpose of this is to rake out all unwanted surface debris or thatch in particular that develops over the season and to create a seed bed for the new seed that will be sown into the square. As each pass of the scarifier is made, the resulting debris has to emptied from the collection box into a wheelbarrow.

The second stage is to sow the seed. This is done using a pedestrian walkover seeder over the whole square. About 65 kilos of special dwarf rye grass seed is used.

Then the seed has to be brushed into the thin seed bed lines that the scarifier created with a wide stiff brush called a drag brush. The whole square is gone over in two directions.

Third stage -  the special cricket loam has to be applied. Again a pedestrian walk in front spreader is hired for the day for this. This loam comes in 20 kilo bags and approximately 130 bags are used. After all the square has been covered with this loam, it is spread evenly using a combination of a metal drag mat and a handtool called a lute. The point of this loam is two fold. This loam is in fact the basis of the structure of a cricket square. Firstly the new loam fills in the grooves made by the scarifier and covers the newly sown seed, providing it with cover form the weather so to aid the germination of the seed and also to level out areas that may be slightly worn and depressed after a seasons use.

I mentioned earlier that the weather plays a crucial part in the success or otherwise of renovations. If is very dry, it makes the scarifying hard because cricket squares have to be hard. If it rains whilst trying to put the loam on, it is impossible as the loam sticks to your shoes and is impossible to spread. This reliance on the weather is the reason why a groundsman needs a large window of opportunity for end of season renovation. It should not be performed later than towards the end of September because if the weather turns cold , the seed will not germinate. If the ground temperature goes below 10 centigrade, seed will not grow.

The cost of the loam and seed for this operation now is approximately £1000. The cost of hiring the required equipment is another £400. This is not a one man operation if it is to be completed in one day. This year I am indebted to Sam Burge, Henry Glynn, Malcolm Lawford and Darren Spragg without whose hard work on the day, I would not have got it done in time. Every year this help is required. I prepare the square for the day during the week and if the weather is right, can perform a bit of the scarifying before but basically, it needs to be done in a day if possible and is very labour intensive. I reckon on covering about 15 miles on the day walking about the square.

This year, we were blessed with an unbelievable Indian summer in October, I have never experienced such warm dry weather at that time of year. This actually brought about its own problems! I had to water the square manually every other day in October to make sure the new seed did not die. Groundsmen are like Farmers, we are always moaning about the weather whatever it is like, normally too wet in England!

But Im glad to report that the square is looking very good currently with a healthy sward of new grass having come through. Since the renovation, the square has been liquid sprayed to combat wormcasts and has had two applications of granular fertiliser to aid growth and to combat the inset of winter moss. The square will be sprayed again for worms in February and have another dose of winter fertiliser applied after Xmas.

The square has to be spiked in the winter to allow air down into the roots. Grass is a living thing and needs air just like we do. Obviously, in the summer, this does not happen because the grass is continually flattened under a heavy roller to produce the correct playing surface. This again requires the hiring of a machine. This should be done more than once but the cost of hire is quite expensive and we are looking into the possibility of obtaining our own spiker.

The Outfield

Due to the very warm weather in October and early November, I was cutting it until middle of November. The outfield on the Hurst Park side has developed a moss problem over the last three years. The main reason for this is that the six Popular trees at the Hurst Park end have grown too tall and are depriving the outfield on that side of much needed sunlight. Grass does not grow in the dark but moss does! So next January/February the plan is to get the tress cut down to about half their height. Some other work is really required to the outfield like machine scarifying and reseeding but until we get the trees cut, there is no point doing anything because the grass will not grow. This of course all takes money but we have to look after the whole of our playing area because that is where we play our cricket. There has been a large increase of wear on the outfield over the last three years due to the huge increase in colts training, cricket weeks etc. This is great but we must take steps to insure the grass can take it. Another reason for trimming the trees is the enormous amount of leaves we now get falling. Unless cleared, these leaves will also kill what grass there is and encourage moss.

Other Winter Work

I do not obviously work as many hours in the winter but still can be found at the ground most days doing a couple of hours or so. Theres always the dreaded leaves! Trimming of the area by Graburn Way and around the new colts nets. I dragbrush the square couple of times a week and try to keep the square as free of leaves as is reasonably possible. The square is cut when decent growth has been obtained after about six to eight weeks form renovation. I fertilise the square with combinations of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium over the winter to help develop root growth and general well being of the grass plant. Winter is also the time to do some simple machine maintenance. The roller is emptied of all the water ballasts that give it the extra weight in the summer and greased before being put away for the winter. But the the outfield triple mower and the two pitch mowers have to be sent away for specialist serving and repairs. This is very expensive but vital Im afraid as no mowers means no cricket!!! The existing nets are put out of action as are the mobile cages. The new covers have had their covers taken off and I’ve stored them away for the winter. The existing nets require some tlc as well but more of that next time.

I hope this has given you a taste of what goes on the ground at this time of year. I’m always available to answer any questions should you have any and am quite happy to bore you to death over my job which is a labour of love.

Lets hope we don’t have a winter like last year! So far so good!