Laurence Gale impressed with Dennis and SISIS Cricket Seminar

Turf Matters’ Laurence Gale attended the Dennis and SISIS Cricket Seminar. He was impressed…

Laurence Gale impressed with Dennis and SISIS Cricket Seminar

Dennis and SISIS have again hosted another successful cricket education event, which attracted well over 160 practising Groundsmen to St Albans School, Woollam Trust Playing Fields.

The event follows on from the hugely successful ‘For the Groundsmen by The Groundsmen’ series of seminars that has now become an industry must attend series of Cricket education days.

The St Albans event was a mix of indoor presentations and outdoors practical sessions, kindly organised and hosted by Ian Smith, the Schools Turf Consultant. It has been a long ambition of Ian’s to host a practical demonstration day of cricket pitch renovation techniques, making good use of the facilities he has on hand at St Albans School.

Robert Jack from Dennis, began the day giving a warm welcome and thank you to all those who had taken the time to come and support the event, with a special thank you to all of the key sponsors and guest speakers.

Company sponsors were: Boughton Loam,, Durant Cricket, Ecosol, Headland Amenity, Limagrain, Poweroll and RT Machinery.

Guest speakers: Alex Vickers IOG; Keith Exton, Perfect Pitches; Andy Mackay, Sussex and Hove HG; Andy Clarke, IOG; Ian Smith, St Albans Trust Turf Consultant; Rob Kendle, ATB Sports Solutions and Darren Matthews, Ops manager for Ecosol,

The event was officially opened by Mark Illott, St Albans School Cricket Professional and former England Test player and Essex County cricketer who spoke about his career and how he admired the important work of the Cricket Groundsman and was pleased to know they are finally getting the recognition they deserve, with such events.

The morning sessions covered a wide range of topics, centred on the benefits of undertaking a thorough end of season renovation, first up was the renowned Soil Scientist, Alex Vickers, who himself is a practising volunteer cricket groundsman and player. Alex’s key message was to have a better understanding of what your needs are in terms of carrying out your annual renovations.

There are too many clubs, invariably undertaking a renovation programme without understanding what they really need to address, often wasting valuable time, money and resources.

Out of an audience of 160 plus, only a handful carry out regular core sampling to access the soil profile of their square, therefore understanding what is going on beneath their feet.

Alex then, showed several core samples and explained what issues could be identified by a simple inspection of these cores that clearly identified the level of thatch content, soil breaks, rooting depth and density.

Couple with the fact if you sent samples off for a soil particle size analysis / nutrient and pH status, along with loss ignition test, you would be able to have more information on hand to help you make better decisions on your maintenance and renovation requirements.

Rob Kendle of ATB Sports Solutions was next up giving an informative talk on the modern methods of undertaking cricket pitch renovations and pitch reconstructions, using such machines as the Koro fraise mower, tractor mounted scarifiers and spreaders.

The morning session was concluded with a Q&A session by Keith Exton and Andy Mackay who had inspected a number of core samples brought in by a number of delegates attending the day.

Again, this centred around identifying the physical characteristics of each core sample and identifying the level of thatch content, root depth / density and any root breaks giving relevant feedback on the results of their findings.

During the lunch break, the delegates were able to talk to many of the sponsors and look at the vast range of Dennis and Sisis equipment being shown on site, Powerroll also brought some of their cricket rollers for people to try out.

However, what caught my eye was a brand new inflatable pitch cover, designed and patented by Durant Cricket, who have been working closely with Keith Exton to develop this new product, that will enable Cricket Groundsman to help produce better playing surfaces, particularly at the start of the cricket season. This new tented environment (mobile greenhouse) will allow the groundsman to control the amount of moisture / air temperatures by the use of humidifiers, blowers and heaters.

There will no doubt be other add on’s in terms of the potential to fit lighting rigs and watering systems to further enhance the performance of this new innovation.

For me, the best part of the day came after lunch, when the delegates where split into three groups and sent off to see practical demonstrations of renovation techniques going on, at three different cricket squares.

Square 1: Saw Andy Clarke and Ian Smith discussing renovation techniques on a budget, using a range of Dennis and Sisis equipment, they showed each group the process of a good thorough renovation of a square, starting with the cleaning up of the square, removing has much surface debris as you can, scarifying in two/ three directions, rectifying surface levels, applying the seed and loam.

It was also good to see the full range of dedicated cricket machinery/tools on offer from Dennis & SISIS, ranging from hand tools, Tru lutes, mowers, cassette systems , scarifyers, spreaders seeders and brushes.

Square 2: Saw Keith Exton, Perfect Pitches, and Darren Matthews, Ecosol, give a demonstration of two different ways to carry out deep aeration of a cricket square using a fast acting Weidemann solid tine spiker fitted with 10mm tines and the unique Ecosol Deep drill using 8mm diameter drills both able to achieve depths up to 200-220mm. Prices for this type of work based on a ten pitch square would vary between £300-£600. Deep aeration of cricket squares is a skilled operation, in the wrong hands you could end up doing more damage. Timing of this work is generally completed in the autumn when the soils are at the right moisture content

Both forms of deep aeration are now becoming a popular method of deep solid tine aeration, the ability to get deep down into the square has many benefits. Especially when it allows, the opportunity to get some additional loam dressing deeper down into your soil profile, Ecolsol have in recent years offered the drill and fill option. Both companies offer a wide range of services too clubs that include renovations, aeration and reconstruction works.

Square 3: Saw Rob Kendle, of ATB Sports Solutions, give a demonstration of some of the specialist equipment he now uses to renovate and reconstruct cricket squares. On show was the now popular Koro Fraise mower, which can be set to take off surface vegetation from 3mm-15mm. Taking off any more would be deemed a reconstruction job requiring the need to power harrow, reset levels and over sow. He also demonstrated some tractor mount ed scarifiers and topdressing machines.

Dennis and SISIS, along with Ian Smith, must be congratulated for putting on another fantastic cricket day, the day could not have gone any better, a great venue, a full turnout, superb food and hospitality, exceptional weather and a wealth of experienced speakers delivering a packed programme of presentations and active demonstrations.

I cannot wait for the next one.

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Laurence Gale takes a look at the implications of the current dry spell

Laurence Gale takes a look at the implications of the current dry spell.

Laurence Gale takes a look at the implications of the current dry spell

As a practising gardener/groundsman, I cannot remember having experienced such a dry winter and spring as we have experienced this year. It is likely that 2017 will go down as one of the driest springs on record, indeed, a recent report in The Telegraph states that Water companies have warned that parts of UK could see a drought this summer after the driest winter in more than 20 years.

Having spoken to many of our leading industry groundsmen, they themselves have, also not experienced such a dry winter/spring period. In some parts of the country many cricket grounds are witnessing many new batting records being set in April, resulting from the exceptional dry weather

Lack of rain over the autumn, winter and early spring has left some rivers and reservoirs, particularly in the south and west, with dwindling levels. With weather experts warning that there is little sign of rain to come, many farmers and gardeners are desperately watering their crops as the ground dries out. Until now water companies have played down talk of hosepipe bans, but as the dry weather continues the public has now been warned that restrictions could be on the way in some areas unless reservoir levels are replenished by prolonged rainfall.

Kent and Sussex are almost entirely dependent on groundwater from rain. A spokesman for Southern Water said: “The winter of 2016-2017 was drier than average, particularly in the months leading up to Christmas. This means there are lower water levels across our regional water sources.”

Water companies say work has started with farmers to reduce the impact of the continuing dry weather as summer approaches. Environment Agency officials have admitted that the dry weather could lead to drought management measures’ for some regions.

Britain has experienced parched weather in the six-month period between October and March – the driest since 1995 and 1996, according to the Met Office. According to long-term forecasts, the next three months will also be dry, making water restrictions likely.

Nowadays, irrigation is an important and integral part of the turf grass management industry, especially as the demand for better quality playing surfaces has increased. This demand has been largely due to extensive televised coverage of major sporting events. Seeing immaculate aesthetically presented golf courses, football, rugby pitches and horse racing courses has increased the expectations of the players and viewers.

Laurence Gale takes a look at the implications of the current dry spell

Most, if not all, professional sporting facilities have irrigation systems of one sort or another. Without them they would not be able to prepare and maintain their playing surfaces.

Water is influential in all chemical, physiological and biological processes of plant growth. The soil/plant water relationships is critical to the sustainability of any grass plant. Having an understanding of these relationships is critical. All grass plants are a continuum of water movement. Over 90% of the plant’s water requirements are transported through the plant from the soil profile, via the roots and stem tissues into the leaves and out into the atmosphere. Knowledge of these relationships is important when designing and operating irrigation systems. The main aim is to achieve a water balance within the soil profile ensuring that the grass plant is able to access available water from the soil.

Technology has moved on, and we now see a wide range of irrigation systems from stand alone, self-travelling or boom sprinklers to computer controlled high tech pop up gear driven or jet sprinkler systems able to deliver precise amounts of water. Today many of the top golf courses have what is called wall to wall irrigation systems designed to irrigate greens, tees, approaches and fairways, enabling the course manager to have full control of his watering requirements.

These systems do use a lot of water, albeit more effectively, so consideration needs to be given to the resource available. Is it mains, borehole, well, river or lake water? In most instances an abstraction licence will be required to obtain this water even though the source may be on club owned land. Irrigation constitutes a major user of water resources at times, and in places, when resources are often at their lowest, such as the summer. Incorrect use of irrigation can lead to a waste of water and, in turn, can cause other problems such as increased drainage water, often resulting in the leaching of nitrates into watercourses with the possibility of pollution.


In recent years the Government has brought out a number of laws and regulations regarding the use of water resources. Irrigation can impact upon the environment in two main ways; by depleting the surface and ground water resources and, secondly, by encouraging the leaching of nitrates from the soil to the ground water. Water used to irrigate crops and turf will often not return to the water course but will be taken up by the plant and returned into the atmosphere. Thus, during dry periods, water ground supplies can be severely reduced. Leaching occurs when the soil is wetted beyond field capacity and water drains from the root zone. This drainage water contains nitrate in solution which will eventually be carried to the drainage ditches or ground water. The main risk periods for leaching are in the spring when nitrogen has been applied to the crop, and in winter when nitrate remains in the soil after harvest, and drainage is at its maximum.

So, what can you do to save water and ensure we are using water more efficiently?

  • Only water essential crops and plants Laurence Gale takes a look at the implications of the current dry spell
  • Water at night to reduce evapotranspiration.
  • Ensure your hoses and sprinklers are not leaking and wasting water when in use.
  • Choose an appropriate sprinkler / watering system to suit your needs.
  • You can use timers to control water usage
  • Use recycled water where possible
  • You can mulch shrub beds to retain moisture
  • Only water newly laid lawns, established lawns are quite resilient and can cope with dry periods.

Mulching helps conserve water. On bare ground about sixty percent of the water can be lost through evaporation. A 75-mm layer of mulch will help hold onto the water so the plants can use it.

When watering, a thorough soaking to wet the soil to a depth of 150-200mm is much better for plants than light frequent watering. Between 20-30 litres of water applied to one spot under the canopy of trees or shrubs should thoroughly saturate the root zone in that location.

Again, when watering lawns and sports pitches, apply enough water to thoroughly soak the soil to a depth of 50mm, an efficient irrigation program on turf should not begin until the lawn grass shows signs of moisture stress. Symptoms include a dull and bluish-green colour and leaf blades folding. The most efficient time to irrigate is between sunset and sunrise because of less evaporation, less wind and lower temperatures. Early morning is the next most effective time to irrigate while midday is the least efficient.

Also avoid fertilising drought-stressed plants. Fertilisers are chemical salts and will actually dehydrate roots when water is in short supply. If you need to apply a pesticide, make certain the plant is not wilted at the time and spray during early morning or late afternoon. You should also avoid unnecessary pruning of plants during drought. Pruning encourages new growth which has a high demand for water.