Dry weather has its advantages – Mark Samaru

A dry spell isn't all bad, particularly if you are on a heavier loam with greater binding properties. It guarantees consistent weather to be able to soak pitches with confidence that you will be able to get them dry.

What is the role of water in the standard cricket pitch? Obviously it is needed to some degree to support life in the grass – but what else?

Water is the agent we use to break the binds between clay particles to allow us to re-organise them through rolling – this point is key to preparing pitches in drought. You cannot properly prepare a cricket pitch without water – and watering to depth and rolling frequently but for short periods as it dries out is critical. It isn't actually the rolling which creates firmer pitches, but instead the action of “drying out” where clay particles bind together.

The opportunity to properly soak pitches - confident in the knowledge that you can get them dry – is a chance to maximise the potential of your pitches – there are bonuses to dry conditions – if you can get water to your pitches!

A good soaker hose, left on for 6-10 hours on a Sunday night will give you workable surface by Monday afternoon – if you can get the water on at this time. You then have all week to develop your pitch for the weekend.

The best soaker hose I have found is here:-

http://www.sherriffgrasscare.co.uk/products.aspx?pname=Reguflow-Perforated-Irrigation-Hose&prodid=150&catid=11

It provides 10 ft coverage at the equivalent rainfall of 4mm per hour – but needs satisfactory water pressure.

If your water pressure isn't great – consider a water tank with pump – approximate cost £500 to £1000. I have just installed a 5,000 litre tank with pump for under £1,000 including hoses, fittings etc.

Don't be afraid to “flash” water your pitch if it looks like it is getting too dry – watering for an hour or so, followed by rolling. -This will also give you a “sealed finish” if you want a professional look, but more importantly prevent the “top from going” - where balls create a puff of dust as the surface explodes when it is too dry! The ball can (and does) do anything when this happens. The Test and First Class matches that have been called off after only a few overs are a reminder to watch out for a “crusty surface!”

Another benefit of drought, particularly this early in the year – is that poa annua – Annual Meadow Grass – which is shallow rooted, will be the first to disappear -preferably before it has seeded too! There is a real opportunity to do it some harm with a verticutter or the like!

It is also a time to work out how your own square plays best – you are in control of the water content! If you have a root break, a surface thatch layer, or have changed loams in recent years – you might find that your pitches play better with moisture at different depths below the surface?

Repairs are often best done in dry weather – you can control the moisture!

Stress your grass plants as little as possible particularly if you have difficulty getting enough water to them:-

·         Cut down late – Thursday or Friday for Saturday

·         Leave the Grass Longer

·         Water after Use

·         Soak completely after the weekend's play

·         Rotate Pitches & Rotate Watering

·         Aerate after use

·         Water in the early evening if possible – avoid a thin film of water during the heat of the day – soak completely

·         Ensure fertiliser levels are high – plants are less “wear tolerant” without the right nutrients

o    Fertilise pitch by pitch if you have to, to avoid “scorch” - but always ensure it is watered in.

o    Fertilise in light rain if you get it!!

 

But above all, remember.......if the plant dies – the roots die too!