Cricket Square Renovation at Fakenham C.C.

Cricket Square Renovation at Fakenham C.C.

Written by: WILL DUNGER

Written by: WILL DUNGER

OWNER & HEAD LAWN TECHNICIAN

As well as maintaining lawns, we’re also able to offer our services to local sports clubs within Norfolk. We have been fortunate enough to work with Fakenham Cricket Club for a few years now, which is one of the most picturesque in the county. We assist with preparing the outfield and the square during the year, including the end of season renovation.

One of the key factors in a sports turf surface being up to standard and being suitable for play is the end of season renovation (EOSR). This takes place as soon as one playing season has finished, and is designed to prepare the playing surface for the following season. In this case for Fakenham C.C. the EOSR takes place in September ready for the following April when play will recommence.

Within this blog, we will take you through our process of renovating Fakenham Cricket Clubs square on 12th September 2022.

The square at Fakenham CC being prepared for a game during the 2022 season.

EOSR – Stage 1

Once all matches have finished the square can begin to be prepped for the EOSR. The first task to carry out is to cut the square down ready for scarifying to take place. This involves using a cylinder mower to gradually reduce the height of cut and remove green vegetation from the surface of the square. Multiple passes and directions were required to do this to reduce the height to a suitable level. This is important so that when the scarifiers come into use, the blades have better access to the soil surface.

EOSR – Stage 2

Once the square had been cut down, scarifying could commence. We scarified in four different directions to remove as much debris from the square as possible. It is worth noting that unlike lawns, a cricket square contains very little thatch and zero moss, therefore in comparison the debris removed from a square in much less than a typical lawn.

After scarifying it was important to leave the surface as ‘clean’ as possible, removing all loose vegetation to allow for the grass seed to have better access to the soil. The clean up process was carried out using backpack blowers, a powered sweeper and rotary mower.

Scarification carried out in four different directions.

As well as thatch and debris removal, the scarifiers are very good at creating grooves in the soil which we refer to as a ‘seed bed’. Once the seed is applied much of it will drop down into the grooves to then be covered with loam, creating a much better environment for seed germination and establishment.

Scarifier grooves ready for seed.

EOSR – Stage 3

Next up was the application of the grass seed and a pre-seed fertiliser. On lawns we typically use a ryegrass and fescue grass seed mixture to create a hard-wearing thick grass coverage. This type of seed mixture is not suitable for a cricket square. Instead, we used a 100% dwarf perennial ryegrass mix. This is much better suited to a cricket square as it tolerates close (short) mowing.

The grass seed was applied at the recommended rate of 50g/m2. This should allow for a nice even coverage of grass once germinated. The pre-seed fertiliser which was an ICL 8-12-8 product was then applied at 35g/m2. The correct blend of nutrients including Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium would provide the thousands of new grass plants with a much needed feed, promoting fast establishment and a good root structure.

Grass seed and fertiliser applied with our SR2000 spreader after the scarification.

EOSR – Stage 4

The final stage of the end of season renovation was to apply the top dressing. Again, different to lawns where a typical top dressing would be a 70/30 sand based soil mixture, a cricket square uses ‘loam’. Loam contains more clay which allows it to be heavily compacted for the playing season to produce harder/firmer pitches to play on. We applied Ongar Loam from Binder Loams at 250kg per track using a tractor-towed top dressing machine.

Once the loam had been applied to the square it was important to ‘work it in’ to achieve an even coverage. This is vital to ensure the surface is left level with no undulations, as this could cause an uneven bounce to the pitch during the following season. The loam was worked in with a combination on a 3m levelling-lute and a drag mat. As some high and low spots naturally occur during the playing season, especially in the crease area, these two tools do a fantastic job of pulling excess loam from the high spots and leaving more in the lows.

This concluded the main stage of our end of season renovation. Now we were to leave it to nature and wait for the rain to arrives.

Scarified, seeded, fertilised and top dressed.

What did we do next?

Over the coming weeks it was a matter of patience as we had to wait for the rain to arrive to achieve some seed germination, with no watering system available. Fortunately, a suitable amount of rain did arrive to allow the square to begin making a full recovery. We had a good combination of wet and warm weather which helped the square enormously, where we were then able to carry out the first cut of the square following the EOSR. The square was then cut every two weeks as we headed into autumn to encourage tillering (prompting the grass plant to become thicker).

First cut on the square 06th October. 24 days after EOSR.

With the grass coverage improving nicely with the odd thin spot on the ends of the square, however this wasn’t a problem and was fairly common, maintenance continued in order to prepare the square ready for the colder months.

Regular drag-matting was carried out to remove the dew from the square. By reducing the amount of moisture being held on the leaf of the grass, this reduces the chances of getting outbreaks of disease. Diseases such as Red Thread and Fusarium can lead to a weaker grass plant and the square regressing, both in health and appearance.

Six weeks following the EOSR it was time for another application of fertiliser. The feed applied at the time of renovation would have been used up by the plant, therefore the square required more nutrients. Another balanced fertiliser containing a low amount of Nitrogen, some Phosphorus and a slightly higher amount of Potassium was applied to keep the square kicking over and strengthen the grass ready for the colder months.

Dew control on FCC square.
Fertiliser application 6 weeks after the EOSR

Review

The renovation period, including the end of season renovation on 12th September through to the end of October had been a success. The square had progressed very well and was looking strong heading into winter.

Remaining tasks prior to the new year included spiking the square using our Groundsman 345HD machine. This was to take place during late November when we could achieve depths of 5” with the solid tines. Spiking is key following an EOSR so we can promote deeper rooting for the thousands of new grass plants we had sowed. Deeper rooting will also allow for much better playing surfaces during the following season.

We were pleased to be involved in preparing the square at Fakenham CC for the 2023 season and look forward to seeing how the pitch plays next year!

Fakenham C.C. square in November 2022 following a successful renovation.