Questions and Answers

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Q: Having taken over as groundsman of my local cricket club I am now in the process of ordering winter dressings. I would like to move onto Ongar loam from Mendip Loam, would this cause me any problems, or do I have to do it this winter as a 50/50 mix of both loams.

A: Moving top-dressing applications to Ongar Loam from Mendip would not cause an initial problem – in actual fact you may well perceive a harder surface in the first season of usage (dependent on the quality of the soil profile beneath.

However it is the long term that it would prove detrimental as the physical properties of Ongar (higher clay & shrinkage value, low organic content) are incompatible with Mendip Lower clay & shrinkage, higher organic) and over the seasons, successive build ups of top dressings would create a discontinuity or root break. This in turn would lend towards low, slow playing characteristics and a less healthy sward, especially re-growth after matches. This effect can become apparent when a depth of between 15-25mm has built up (around 6-10years).

Mixing 50/50 to begin with in theory sounds ok but the applications are thin (and should be – never over apply) and the same results would ensue. If you really wish to move to a another loam probably the best way would be to apply via a thatch free grooved surface and closely spaced hollow tine holes with dry loam thoroughly worked into the holes as much as possible by continual brush/drag matting. This would go some way towards ameliorating the new material within the profile and not just laying on the surface as a “skin”.

It is essential that this procedure is completed thoroughly and under dry weather conditions.

Good luck with your autumn renovations.

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