We're entering a new phase
by TurfPro Editor, Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR
Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR

With professional sport allowed to take place behind closed doors from today, combined with the warm, dry weather we've been experiencing recently, effective irrigation will be key.


We are now entering a new phase of the Covid-19 situation, with the new test, track and chase, programme coming into effect. Alongside this, the government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, announced on Saturday that there can be a return of domestic competitive sport behind closed doors, from today (June 1st). The 'phase three' guidance paves the way for live sport to return for the first time since mid-March.

It is up to individual sports to assess the risk, and consult athletes, coaches and support staff.

Horse racing and snooker can each resume competitive action on today, while the Premier League is due to restart on 17 June.

As for sport and recreation, we are seeing and hearing more reports of sports and pastimes coming back online, as long as social distancing measures can be adhered to.

A meeting I had in my role as VPA for the RFU last week, enlightened me to the fact that there’s still a lot of work and discussions to take place before we see a return to rugby being played - merely on the fact that it’s a close contact game.



However, the RFU are giving out advice to clubs regarding the potential opening up of clubhouses and use of facilities.

I read in the press that World Rugby - the game's governing body - has taken steps to help mitigate the risk to players at both the elite and community level.

This could see a clampdown on the number of scrum resets and stricter enforcements over high tackles - which often lead to face-to-face contact - as well as time spent in rucks and mauls.

Among the hygiene measures being considered are the changing and washing of the ball, regular use of hand sanitiser before, during and after matches, changing shirts and head-gear at half-time, and limiting the time teams spend at a ground before a match.

While there are no plans yet to restart the community game in any territory, New Zealand rugby is set to launch an internal competition in the middle of June, while the Pro 14 is aiming to resume derby matches from 22 August.

The English Premiership has yet to map out their return to action but hopes to resume training in June. As for football some Premiership clubs are resuming training with an aim to play their first behind closed doors matches on 17 June.

I am sure there will be plenty of professional football clubs interested to see how this plays out and hopefully all will be around to see the start of next year’s football season.

Another worrying report seen on the BBC Sports website stated that Huddersfield owner Phil Hodgkinson thinks as many as "50 or 60" clubs could go bust due to Covid-19. “English football's pyramid will be destroyed unless the game starts to plan for the financial impact of Covid-19 beyond the 2019-20 season,” he is quoted. He says he is looking at a "worst-case scenario" of no fans allowed in stadiums for the 2020-21 season.

This year continues to throw up new challenges. First we had the floods, then Covid-19 and now we are entering a possible drought.

Since March we have had exceptionally dry, warm weather, which under the current lockdown, has certainly helped us cope with maintaining our health and wellbeing. It would seem our summer has arrived two months early. June usually signifies the start of our summer season (June, July, August). However, over the last eight weeks we have seen a long period of dry, warm weather.

The rate of grass growth has notably been slowed down by this warm weather and in some areas of the country, they are now talking of drought conditions and looking at possible hose pipe bans.

Our soils are drying out at an alarming rate as you can see from the picture below that I took on a recent walk.


These dry current conditions will indeed initiate the need to irrigate our playing surfaces - however this can only be achieved if you have the appropriate water resources and equipment to apply water efficiently. Water is becoming a precious resource and we need to be responsible in its use and not waste it.

With the spring heat stress resulting in pitches, courses and courts across the country looking like July we caught up with Alastair Higgs, Rain Bird’s golf district manager for UK, Ireland & Iceland.

Alasataie gave us the following advice:

“The summer of 2018 is still fresh in the memory with all the issues it caused to the turf industry without efficient irrigation. It effected turf managers right across the UK with surfaces being under stress and underperforming with increased costs of water, electricity and remedial actions like hand watering and other cultural / chemical practices. The players also had their games effected and sometimes even cancelled. We are already seeing increased stress in 2020 which if it continues could even surpass that of 2018. Weather data on sites across the UK is consistently showing less or similar rainfall year to date than in the same months of 2018 despite the heavy rain in the early months. In May well over 100mm ET deficit has put turf grass under stress.



“Applied vs useable water is a very good subject to consider right now with the ground become harder and water looking like becoming ever more precious resource as we head from spring into summer 2020.

“By considering the application of water in volume rather than minutes, we can fully consider the importance of applied versus useable water. How much of the water applied is actually being used by the turf? If your control system has a Cycle + Soak feature enabled, you have a significant tool for preventing water waste and saving money. It allows the user to precisely schedule and apply irrigation to be consistent with the infiltration rate of the soil in each specific area.

"The soak time enables water to be absorbed into the surface reducing wasteful run-off.”

5 ways to improve irrigation on your turf


Ensure your rotors and nozzles are consistent
This ensures uniformity in the volume of water applied. Check regularly for damaged or non-uniform nozzles as several out of action on the course will make a significant difference to coverage and ground conditions. When replacing them, try and ensure zones are consistent; don’t mix and match nozzle types in a zone if that can be avoided.

Ensure the rotor settings are correct
Incorrectly set rotors can result in loss of performance of up to 60%. Check the head levels with a spirit level. Rotors tops should sit parallel to the playing surface and a slight tilt of just a few degrees will affect coverage. Ground moves over time and rotor positions can be damaged by machinery, affecting the height, level and performance.

Conduct an irrigation audit on your worst area
Even small environmental or mechanical changes can result in water being applied ineffectively. Are there areas of your site where you are regularly hand watering? Conduct a before-and-after audit on your worst area to ensure the pressure is correct for the set spacing. This will provide data that demonstrates the importance of regular maintenance and consistent monitoring in order to deliver optimum results from your system.

Create management zones and understand their needs
Set up area-specific management zones for your site for different microclimates, turfgrass and soil types, to ensure evapotranspiration data is managed efficiently. Use accurate soil moisture sensors to monitor moisture levels, enabling you to irrigate to target volumetric water content in each zone.

Be proactive with your maintenance
A planned approach can help identify issues before they result in costly breakdowns, repairs and replacement. Many irrigation systems have a raft of features and are often underutilised. Ask the manufacturer and look out for training events and seminars in your area and at trade shows which focus on improving irrigation system efficiency. When your software’s working as hard as you do, it becomes a really valuable member of your team.

Alastair Higgs can be contacted at: ahiggs@rainbird.eu

I personally think that sports clubs at all levels should now start thinking about investing in efficient watering systems to aid the maintenance and management of their facilities. Especially as I have read an interesting article that stated our country is in danger of experiencing regular drought conditions withing the next twenty years.

The National Audit Office (NAO), in a report published last Wednesday, says some parts of England, especially the south-east, are at risk of running out of water owing to decreased rainfall and a need to cut the amount taken from natural waterways.

Water companies will have to reduce the quantity of water they take out of rivers, lakes and the ground by more than 1bn litres a day, creating huge shortfalls in the coming decades, the NAO warned.

Parliament’s auditor predicted that 4bn litres of additional water supply would be needed each day by 2050 to counter the growing risk of drought from the climate emergency.

Despite their critical role under lockdown

This week's WEB ONLY story is 2.7 million people in Great Britain are without a local park with that figure set to increase, according to data published by Fields In Trust.


Since reopening of courses
GGM have reported a surge of interest from reopened golf clubs

GGM Groundscare has reported a surge in enquiries from golf clubs, together with its first fleet order since the government’s recent announcement that clubs are able to reopen.


GGM Groundscare has reported a surge in enquiries from golf clubs, together with its first fleet order since the government’s recent announcement that clubs are able to reopen.


Since lockdown restrictions started to ease, the dealership says they have received a number of calls from golf clubs who are keen to improve their playing surface and invest in new Baroness equipment.



Managing director Chris Gibson said, “Now that people are able to exercise more freely, golf clubs are well and truly open for business. It’s extremely encouraging to see that they want to invest in and commit to new machinery, after this terrible time for both our country and our economy.”

GGM say they have already installed a fleet of new Baroness machines at popular Cheshire golf club, in the week it reopened its doors.

The 18-hole parkland golf course, who chose to stay anonymous, says it signed up 25 new members in the first week after lockdown alone.

Their aging fleet had become unreliable, so the course general manager called upon GGM Groundscare and trialled three machines from Baroness - the LM315 Greensmower, the LM551 5-unit fairway mower and the GM2810 semi rough rotary mower, just prior to lockdown.

During the trial the club were able to cut all of the fairways, rough and greens in 3 days as opposed to the usual minimum of a full week, saving 40% of staffing costs and time

The club's general manager said, “We’re absolutely delighted to be able to open our course again, and these fantastic new machines have given us the perfect start. We’ve heard great things about Baroness from other club managers and the fact they come with an extended warranty was very reassuring."

GGM's Chris Gibson concluded, “It’s great news that golf has re-opened. Since GGM have been working with Baroness alongside Kubota we have been able to offer real Japanese excellence to our customers. This coupled with our after-sales offering allows us to tailor-make packages to meet the individual needs of our customers and to offer expertise and advice as we negotiate these difficult times."

PPE and headbands for face shields
The donated TimeMaster in use at Rivers Hospital

As well as the PPE and headbands which have been manufactured with a 3D printer, Hayter has donated a Toro TimeMaster mower to a local hospital.


Health and care facilities have thanked Hayter Limited, and its parent The Toro Company, for its support during the current pandemic crisis after it donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and headbands for face shields which it manufactured using 3D printing.


The donated TimeMaster in use at Rivers Hospital


The manufacturer say they were keen to do what they could to offer support to local health and care facilities when it became clear people didn’t always have access to the protection equipment they really needed.

Working with a network of contacts, the company began supporting the manufacturing of headbands via a 3D printer. The headbands are used to hold face shields. So far the business has donated nearly 700 of the headbands, which it continues to produce.

In addition, thousands of PPE items have also been donated to the Rivers Hospital in Sawbridgeworth, St Clare Hospice in Hastingwood and South Street Surgery in Bishops Stortford. A new Toro TimeMaster mower was also donated to the Rivers Hospital.

Many of the donations came about due to contacts employees at Hayter and Toro had within these facilities and all the donations were greatly received.

Rosie Knowles at St Clare Hospice said, “Thank you so much - this is very generous and has come at the perfect time. Hayter has been a long-standing supporter of St Clare, from donations and staff fundraising to in-kind support for our raffle. It means so much to us that our friends in the business world are thinking of us now, when we know that everyone is facing hard times.”

Andy King at The Rivers Hospital, which is a private hospital currently providing free emergency capacity to the NHS during this pandemic, said, “It is heart-warming when a company like Toro makes contact with us, to firstly offer the PPE to our hospital and then make the incredible donation of a lawn mower. It shows big companies have a heart and are aware of helping others in locations nearby.”

Dr. Sarah Dixon at South Street Surgery added, “We are extremely grateful and this will help ensure we are able to continue to safely see patients both at the surgery and at our local Hot Clinic where we see symptomatic patients together with the other local practices. Thank you once again”.

Tom O’Riordan, manager - xourcing EMEA, at Hayter said, “It was clear early on that businesses needed to do what we could to support our NHS and care staff so they can carry on safely doing their jobs which are keeping us all safe and looking after those in need. It’s been challenging at times but nonetheless, it’s nothing in comparison to the daily challenges faced by our NHS and care workers.

“We hope our donations have gone a small way to helping and mostly would like to say a big thank you to everyone on the frontline working tirelessly and selflessly to battle this virus.”

Delivers one of the best greens in the Midlands
Broomfield Bowls Club

Broomfield Bowls Club boasts an immaculate green thanks to a volunteer greenkeeper who praises Limagrain UK’s MM range of grass seed.


Broomfield Bowls Club is considered to have one of the best surfaces in the Midlands. The immaculate green is thanks to the drive and determination of a volunteer greenkeeper who, in turn, praises Limagrain UK’s MM range of grass seed.


Jonathan Blakeman has a long affinity with his beloved bowls club dating back to when father Steve joined in 1985. Steve tended the green at Smethwick Cricket Club between 1988 and 2006 with Jonathan taking the reigns during the 2008 season, he then proceeded to continue to maintain the green to the high standards that the club had come to expect.

Two years later and the club was forced to start looking for a new home. After a lengthy search they eventually moved to the nearby Mitchells & Butlers Bowling Club, Portland Road - who were more than happy to accept their neighbours. The former Cape Hill Brewery Sports Ground was opened in August 1930 and once boasted three crown green bowling greens. Broomfield was given its own green for its members but unfortunately it was not exactly at the standards they were used to.

“I think it is fair to say that the green we were given had fallen into disrepair,” said Jonathan. “The members of the club had tried their best to maintain it but unfortunately it needed a lot of work.”

Jonathan, who was also working full-time, came up with a plan. Armed with the knowledge passed onto him by dad Steve, Jonathan began working round the clock to transform the green.

Ten years later and the green is regarded as one of the best with many players praising its immaculate surface. It’s no surprise to see why the green is so widely lauded when you consider how much time Jonathan puts into maintaining it.

“In the growing season it is cut four times a week and we do verticutting once a month depending on conditions. Then there are the usual treatments and taking the dew off in the mornings.

“Rather than leaving work and doing a hobby somewhere else my interest just happens to be looking after the green for Broomfield.”

Ever the perfectionist, Jonathan decided to start looking for a grass seed which would help the green stand up to such heavy usage, and that was when he first became acquainted with Limagrain UK.

“At Broomfield we have eight league teams so that amounts to about 80 or 90 visiting clubs and that’s just competitive use. On top of that, we have internal competitions and players practicing or playing socially. It’s safe to say that the green has a lot of use between April and September.

“Historically I had always used another brand, but I eventually started looking elsewhere. I knew Mark Allen from Agrovista Amenity and he highly recommended the seed mixtures from Limagrain. That was five years ago, and I have been using the MM range ever since.”

Jonathan relies on both the MM10 and the MM11 mixtures – both of which are traditional 80:20 Fescue and Bent mixtures ideal for overseeding, renovation and construction. 

Although similar mixtures, a variance in the formulation brings out the best in Broomfield’s green according to Jonathan.

“We are always trying to introduce different cultivars and finer species into the surface and the reason for rotating between MM10 and MM11 is because each mixture has a different make-up of cultivars. I just think that the more you have in your surface, the more resilient it can be against the challenges of disease, wear, and drought tolerance. They also produce a fantastic colour all year round.

“One application of either the MM10 or MM11 is all we need and that sees us through the season. We tend to overseed with the mixtures after end of season renovations which are normally within the first ten to fourteen days in October. We’ve got a routine which has worked incredibly well. Firstly, we will scarify heavily and then we overseed with MM10 or MM11. Finally, we top dress and then we don’t have to use any more seed throughout the season because we maintain a good coverage.

“I would absolutely recommend MM10 and MM11 to other crown green bowling clubs – because they really can make a difference.”

As both national and local dealer
Spaldings has been appointed by Honda

Spaldings have been appointed as a Honda national dealer for the UK and Ireland, and as a local dealer in the Lincoln area for selected products.


A new range of cordless professional hand tools - plus other products from the Honda Lawn & Garden range - have being introduced by Spaldings following the company's appointment as a Honda national dealer for the UK and Ireland, and as a local dealer in the Lincoln area for selected products.



Spaldings say all the Honda products are now available through their multiple sales channels - online, by telephone, through the regional sales team, and at the retail counter in the company’s premises on Sadlers Road, Lincoln.


As with similar products, Spaldings say return-to-base service and repairs support is available.


Steve Constable, Spaldings managing director, said, “As an approved Honda service agent we are able to offer genuine Honda Lawn & Garden products to our customers giving them greater choice in their decision making.


“The expertise gained from over a decade of being a main servicing dealer for other well-known brands ensures that Spaldings can offer full service and warranty back-up as standard, maintaining our reputation for first class service, quality and value built up over the past 65 years.”


Steve Morris, head of Power Products at Honda (UK) said, “Spaldings has established itself as a trusted name in the ground care sector, so Honda is delighted to be working alongside the business.


“The company’s decision to stock a wide variety of Honda Lawn & Garden products, aimed at both professional and domestic users, is only the start of good news to come from this partnership in the future.”

Pedestrian mowers delivered
Part of the Etesia fleet

Terry Harrison Machinery has recently equipped two of the largest councils in Wales with new fleets of PRO 46 mowers.


Terry Harrison Machinery has recently equipped two of the largest councils in Wales with new fleets of Etesia PRO 46 pedestrian mowers.



After previously working in the groundcare industry for 23 years, Terry Harrison formed his company in 2012. Terry started his career as a service engineer before progressing into a management position, gaining experience and knowledge in every aspect of running a groundcare machinery business.


Over the years the company has witnessed continuous growth and Terry has also worked hard on adding machinery franchises to its portfolio - one of which is Etesia.


Just recently, Terry sold 34 machines consisting of PRO 46 PHTS3 single speed self-propelled and PRO 46 PHE3 push pedestrian mowers, to two of the largest councils in Wales.


Commenting on his recent business, Terry said, “The Etesia brand is hugely popular with our customers. They are comfortable for operators, well balanced and they do the job they are supposed to do.


“Users find that they do not break down and they do not need to buy parts or take them to workshops. It is for this reason why they are so good for councils and local authorities, especially with the amount of use they have. In fact, the councils tend to order new fleets of Etesia every year - which shows just how good they are.


“Working with Etesia UK means a lot to me," continued Terry. "We have had a great relationship with the company for many years and Les Malin (managing director of Etesia UK) has always been one of the most helpful people I have ever dealt with in this industry. I couldn’t say enough good words about Les and Etesia UK.”

To support customers

Reesink Turfcare have announced that TYM Tractor customers can choose from an interest-free or a low rate five year finance deal.


Reesink Turfcare, UK distributor of TYM Tractors, has announced that customers can choose from an interest-free or a low rate five year finance deal.



Reesink tractor sales manager Steven Haynes said, “We understand that for most this year’s forecasts, plans and budgets have been hugely affected by the effect of Coronavirus and it’s vital that as a distributor we support our customers in delivering against their objectives without significant initial cash outlay.”


The company  says they have been working with its long-term finance partner Hitachi Capital Business Finance to create two interest rate finance deals for its entire range of TYM tractors. There is also a three year ‘Bumper2Bumper’ warranty across the entire range available.


One deal offers zero percent interest for two years. With a payment break until September 2020, then 24 monthly repayments thereafter. The scheme is based on financing up to 50 percent of the tractor’s retail price.


The second option is a longer-term finance package with a low interest rate of 1.5 percent over 60 months. Based on a 1+59 payment profile and again, financing up to 50 percent of the tractor’s RRP price.


Steven said, “These finance options are designed to help customers buy the tractors they need without compromising cash flow, allowing them to replenish or add to their fleet in a way that suits their financial situation.”


Both deals are available from now until 31 August 2020. Finance is subject to acceptance and business users and only available in the UK.

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Catch up with Laurence Gale's recent blogs
TurfPro editor, Laurence Gale

Want to catch up with one of editor Laurence Gale's blogs? Here is the place to do so.


Impressive response from our sports turf industry


Golf courses reopen


Of the pandemic


After six weeks of lockdown


During the Covid-19 crisis


During the lockdown


As best and as safely as we can


Our pace of life has changed dramatically


Grasping the effects on our industry


Covid-19's impact on our sector


Makita launch 30 new products


It takes years to acquire all the turf professional skills


New month to hopefully bring much needed sunshine and drying winds


Come again another day!


What can we do to help?


Essential renovations


Amenity Forum making plans


Successful BTME 2020


Our industry can help tackle the growing obesity crisis


Plenty to occupy in January


What might 2020 hold in store?


View all of 2019's blogs here


View all of 2018's blogs here

Find our previous features here
TurfPro Feature Archive

If you want to catch up with any of TurfPro's previous features, here is the place to do so.

Debate brought back into focus


Running golf design projects from home


Cementing the reputation


10 years at the helm of Olton GC


The day the Lord's outfield reconstruction proved its worth


Finding a sensible way forward on defining "essential maintenance"




Fundamental to the survival of almost all courses, if not of the game itself


. . along with ‘lunch is being taken early’


An urgent problem


Successful BTME 2020


Opportunity to embrace new methods


Major investments taking place


A great success


Buoyant GIE+EXPO


At Gleneagles


Behind the scenes at the Solheim Cup


2006 - present


Boorish media comments about pitch quality are wide of the mark


360 Ground Care serving professional facilities


Judging the Green Flag Awards


What does it all mean in managing turf surfaces?


Dry weather conditions continue to keep turf managers focused on moisture management


Death of Wimbledon’s influential grounds manager


At Top 100 classic Berkhamsted Golf Club


Investment paying off at Kenilworth Road


At Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens


The vital impact of parks and green spaces on health and well-being


Without carbendazim


Battery-powered outdoor power tools are now turning the heads of professionals


Sand-based pitches are now the norm in professional sports


We must maintain industry standards


11 things you need to know . . .


Q&A with BASIS ceo, Stephen Jacobs


Hosted at research trial grounds in Bingley


Leicester City FC invest in new role


Mick Hunt bows out after 49 years


Is it really necessary?

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Cricket under covid
by Laurence Gale, TurfPro editor
Karl McDermott sent this picture of his work at Lord's, mostly carried out alone under lockdown

I have spoken to number of cricket turf professionals, including Karl McDermott of Lord's and Durham's Vic Domain, about how they have coped under the current circumstances and the importance of end of season renovations - even with very little play this year.


It will be interesting to see how the sport of cricket will pan out in the coming months. At the time of writing we are still awaiting final details from the ECB of when and how clubs will be able to implement cricket matches at their facilities.

It may be too little, too late for some cricket clubs. The schools cricket calendar may have already been decimated at many school grounds, while grassroot cricket clubs are still waiting for the go ahead and no doubt will be restricted on the amount of games they can play at both senior and junior levels.



As we all know this lack of cricket activity will have a profound effect on the club’s finances - which in turn may lead to clubs not being able to afford to undertake some essential maintenance works.

During the current Covid-19 lockdown The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) launched their ‘Together Through This Test’, a nationwide campaign shining a light on the work undertaken by the game in response to COVID-19 and highlighting the resources available to the public.

Cricket staff, volunteers and players across the country - from both the professional and the recreational game - have already taken part in over 200 initiatives during lockdown.

Projects include long-distance charity runs, delivering food to the vulnerable and a dedicated phone support service for those left isolated by coronavirus.

The ECB also have published a list of guidelines that clubs should adhere to during this pandemic.

On 31 March, the ECB announced an interim funding package of £61million for the recreational and first-class game. This will provide immediate cash assistance to the game.

Just over £20million of that interim funding package will go specifically to supporting the recreational game.

The ECB continue to talk regularly to the County Cricket Boards (CCBs), leagues and clubs across the country to ensure they are able to offer the support that is required.

In addition, cricket clubs and leagues are now able to apply to three new funding schemes specifically designed to help see them through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Click here for comprehensive information on the ECB Emergency Loan Scheme, the Return To Cricket Grant Scheme and the ECB League Emergency Loan Scheme.

There are a range of other financial support packages that are available to recreational sport and the ECB strongly encourage local clubs and leagues to investigate their eligibility for these, which are available immediately subject to meeting the respective criteria.

I personally know it’s going to be a difficult season for all cricket groundsmen, not knowing the full remit of what can and cannot be achieved. I am hearing on the grapevine that some clubs are going to have save money somewhere - and will it be the groundsman who has to go without?

By this I mean that some clubs are talking about saving money by not undertaking any end of season renovation work on their square and outfields - especially if they have had very little, or no play on their pitches.

I recently called up a number of groundsmen to ask them their thoughts on how they have managed to cope to date:

Karl McDermott, Lord’s

"It’s been a strange ‘season’ so far. The pandemic has meant that I have been working on my own for the majority of the time which has been lonely but also given me a chance to get to know Lord’s and the ground dynamics a bit better as I’ve been cutting every blade of grass myself.



It has also been unusually dry. I can count the number of days rain we have had since lockdown on one hand. Growing conditions have been great but there have been times where I felt like I have just been a grass cutter and not a cricket groundsman - it’s been eat, sleep, cut, repeat!


I know it has been the same for many club groundstaff around the country. From the wettest of winters to now the driest of summers. Both have created issues and it’s sometimes funny how things work out when we all thought the squares and grounds would never dry out - now we can’t get enough water on!


I have been in contact with many ‘groundies’ all over the country and I am always pleased to see the wonderful photos across social media of cricket grounds and squares looking so well. There is a nationwide battle with poa and believe me when I say I also have that problem at Lord’s. It’s a curse!

Fingers crossed there will be cricket soon, and then our planning goes into pitch preparation and how we can get the most out of what’s left in the season.


I know it’s early, but I also have one eye on the end of season renovations. This is the most important time for a cricket square and I can’t stress enough how crucial it is. Even if we have no cricket you should still renovate your square. There will be a build-up of thatch and debris on the surface from your mowing - you would be surprised how many clippings don’t end up in the grass box. I know finances are currently tight in clubs but speak to your committee now and plan well in advance.


It is easy to look out at the ground and see how pretty it is, and the danger is that you feel it’s a waste to rip it up. It’s not, and you will reap the benefits of a better surface next year. So, my advice is to plan now and renovate whenever your season comes to a close.


The earlier you get the works done the better."


Vic Domain, Durham County Cricket Club


“Living on site made working during the Coronavirus outbreak quite easy for me personally. Being behind locked gates, with only two other members of staff, made social distancing easy.


My deputy Mark and myself adopted what we called a maintenance programme of simply cutting and watering. Feeding was kept to a minimum to hold back excessive growth.

Renovations this season could be seen by certain clubs as an area to reduce spending, but in my opinion it would be a mistake which could have repercussions in coming years. With pitches not being thinned out and prepared for games, there could be a lot of organic decay in the base which will require severe scarification, otherwise we could get low and slow pitches next season.

As there will be less damage to the square from playing games, it could be possible to use less seed and loam, which will help the treasurers."


Keith Exton, contractor

"As a sports turf contractor this pandemic has hit my business hard. I have only done a couple of small jobs in the last 8 weeks. It was my choice to self-isolate for the first month, but after that the phone just stopped ringing.


Supplies were taking a long time to be delivered, and other contractors were working for what appeared to be a poor rate of return, especially on the Pitch Improvement Programme from the F.A grants scheme.

I have quoted for a lot of work later in the year and hope I get some of the contracts, but who knows? I can survive for another couple of months with little or nothing coming in, but after that it will be difficult bridging the gap before work hopefully picks up. I have not been eligible for one reason or another for government schemes/grants - but healthy enough to carry on when and if we get back to the new normal.

Although not actively involved in looking after a cricket venue on a day to day basis, the evidence I am seeing on my travels is that clubs are tending to leave a longer sward on their squares because of no required cricket preparation and also because of this exceptional dry period we have had through March, April and May.


I have seen squares that have very little irrigation, no feed, and are cracking badly, to the other extreme squares have had a lot of fertiliser applied and backed up with plenty of irrigation, giving a beautiful colour and a very lush sward.


The beauty of this industry is no two venues are the same, but if only a couple of month’s worth of cricket is played there will be many pitches that are not played on.

Pitch preparation by its own nature of disciplines, allows a for a good clean out, mowing lower, scarifying, brushing, giving a clean sward, a mini renovation in its own right.

If pitches are not used, even with regular verti cutting / scarifying, and with the additional length of sward clubs are adopting, these practices never get as much debris out as when it is cut short and given a proper hard scarifying after the season has finished.

Pitches that have be played on, and often over played, with the rolling, will have at least 40% of grass cover lost, and not just at the ends.

So, which ever situation this cricket season ends up in, I personally would advocate a full renovation should be undertaken.

Add a couple more points to the equation.


Because of last Autumn/ winter being so wet and warm, POA Annua is rife all over the country, also a lot of last years renovations had wash off before new seed had chance to germinate, leaving a thin sward of DPRG which if additional over seed in the spring might have failed because totally opposite conditions prevailed, then the lonely DPRG will have gone clumpy and will go woody, left to its own devices with out work this Autumn it will end up so strong, even with good pitch preparation next season, you will end up with an uneven density of sward, which will invariably give you an uneven bounce, and seam movement.

On the plus side, with out so much heavy rolling taking place, grass roots should have gone deeper into the profile, this in turn should give a better recovery after a good scarification has taken place in the Autumn, so in may well be a case of not using quite so much seed, and as long as your scarifying machine leaves deep enough grooves for the seed to get a good soil seed contact, then as long as your levels are good and don’t need to be adjusted, then a reduction of loam could be implemented as well.



Fertiliser added to keep things ticking over dependant on your soil sample results, or in most cases what your experience from visuals tells you.
I all so think deep spiking should take place at the normal time after renovations, even if no cricket is played.

As we are aware that grass plants have die back of their rooting systems over a growing cycle, this is exaggerated by heavy rolling, but even in normal circumstances these dead roots need to be aided in breaking them down, or fibre builds up in the soil profile, and it does not matter what weight your roller is, you can’t roll fibre in high % rates contained in the profile to give the hard pitches we all strive for.

Air, water, gaseous exchange, allowing microbes to work to break down this fibre are given a head start by deep spiking, as well as the more obvious of giving new roots an easier passage through what is nearly always a near block of concrete after a seasons play.

Remember a deep rooting system not only binds the soil together, it alters the rolling regime, as transpiration is taking place from a greater depth.


You might be interested to know that from experience gained last year whist deep spiking a number of first class grounds in January, because it had been deemed too wet to get on them before then, although still wet on the surface, once the 10mm tines were driven through the profile to achieve a depth of 175/200mm, it was still hard even after all the rain we had had.

Either a dig or cores taken quite clearly showed that the top 50mm were like Plasticine but under that it was as dry as a digestive biscuit.



So if no play, thatch levels will have built up to an unacceptable levels for cricket, and will be rife for disease out breaks especially if we have another mild winter.

If it comes to pass that the ECB state in July no recreation cricket will be played this season, I would be very tempted to mow the square down to 8mm, give it a good scarifying, feed, water up.

Then repeat that operation in the beginning of September, having mown down to 6mm first.

By doing this you may well get away with what we now all term a full autumn renovation.

Its all about that thatch and fibrous control but keeping the plant healthy.

Some play. Same as above but played on pitches devoid of grass and will require renovation.

Outfields: Possibly the same problems if minimal management has taken place.

On the Question of Budgets - Many clubs have had a £10,000.00 grant payment from their local authority, via sport England.

I as a sports turf contractor have had many new enquiries from clubs that in the past just could not afford a full renovation, but this wind fall has given them a chance to have more work undertaken than they normally would.


So in Lincolnshire/ Leicestershire it is not all doom and gloom, and I presume these grants are nationwide so many clubs are actually better off than what would have been generated into the club over a normal season of relying on subs/match tax.

Now will show which clubs think that the bit in the middle is of most relevance, or that they need a new refurb in the clubhouse.

James Mead, grounds manager, Rugby School

“Here at Rugby School we are anticipating a return of 1st June for the prep school and September for the senior school. We have tackled the challenge, to keep the square cut at 10 mm with a constant grooming programme with the ATT ultra-groomer.



This eliminates any lateral or unwanted growth. We also made the decision to use a slow release 4-5-month granular fertilizer. Complemented with liquid feeds of sea action seaweed and green solutions plus wetting agents.

Seeding with a tractor mounted Blec dual dimple roller seeder with MM50 done early, maximising healthy vigorous growth. With use of the rain train, we will endeavour to aerate. What we want to achieve by September is a square ready for play but is also prepared for 2021.Food for thought? Grounds may also use this unique time. For transformation work that would usually be impossible due to time restraints. Use of the koro, if thatch has been a problem, maybe even in conjunction with a rotavator, to finally clear up any layering problems. Also, look at water supplies to the square, can this bettered with separate water tanks with submersible pumps, fed from the pavilion? Let us turn this crazy summer into opportunities to better our grounds.”


All in all, the general advice outlined above is that cricket clubs should really be looking to do some level of renovation to the square and outfield to ensure they will be fit for play next year.

The objectives of end of season renovations are:

  • To repair worn areas.
  • Prevent a build up of thatch layers (scarification).
  • Restore surface levels (top dressing).
  • Alleviate compaction (aeration).
  • Re-establish sward densities (overseeding).
  • Application of Pre-seeding/autumn fertilisers to promote sward establishment.

Let all hope after all the hard work that’s being done we are finally rewarded with some cricket being played at all levels before the end of the season.