Dressing Up Turf

Remove debris immediately, before it has a chance to decompose and filter into the turf and down through the infill. Each time a field is used, do a quick post-game inspection, and clean any spills or stains, using warm water and a mild soap.

Natural Fields

Ideally, all fields should be maintained year-round for strong turf that is resistant to wear, insects, weeds and disease. Realistically, however, by the end of winter, many fields are in rough shape. After all, not much can maintain or refresh snow-covered fields.

• Start by removing debris from the fields. If you are concerned about the health of the turf, contact a soil expert to do a test each spring and make recommendations.

• Test all irrigation equipment to ensure there are no leaks, breaks or blockages. If problems are found, consult construction diagrams to locate and investigate them.

• Look for any bare or skinned spots on the turf, and ascertain that no weeds are growing there. If grass seeding has been done or is planned, make sure no invasive plants crowd out the new grasses.

• If cool-season fields have not been dormant-seeded in the fall, many field managers will core, overseed, and drag the fields to break up the cores and ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Once all danger of frost has passed, begin regular aeration to minimize compaction and help grass plants develop deep, healthy roots. Core cultivation is one method of aeration; another is deep-tine aeration. The latter is used if compaction is minimal.

• Begin fertilizing. The type of fertilizer depends on the individual grass species, the climate and more. Once growth has begun, nitrogen-rich fertilizer is a good way to aid recovery of fields and speed green-up; however, the trade-off is that this type of fertilizer contributes to a weak root zone, which can make fields less resistant to constant use. Consult a turf manager or field builder for specific questions.

• Once grass is actively growing, begin mowing. Do not mow fields when they are wet, as the grass can sustain damage. Various types of grass are kept at different heights; however, the mistake most often made is cutting grass too short. Remember that a taller blade will shade the soil, keeping it cooler and helping to maintain moisture. It also resists wear, and has a better root system.

• Guard against weeds, which can ruin the consistency and health of turf. When to apply herbicides is a matter of debate (some turf experts believe spring is the best time, while others say fall is better). Find out what works best for specific fields. Remember that if you have already planted grass seed, you may need to forego using herbicides for the present.

• Insecticides may be necessary from time to time. Always use the least toxic method of insect control available.

• Other aspects of field care (sometimes overlooked by those who don’t work with turf) are:

1. Thatch management–tending the tightly intermingled layer of living and dead grass leaves, stems, roots, rhizomes and/or plant parts that develop between the green, living grass and the soil surface

2. Topdressing–adding sand or soil to the surface of growing turfgrass to improve soil quality, control thatch, fill small depressions, and create a more even playing surface

3. Overseeding–adding grass seed to existing fields, often during the season if the fields become so worn that they are not recovering.

Throughout the season, work with coaches, grounds crews and others to keep the fields in good shape. If possible, limit the use of the game field to specific times, and allow it to rest between uses.

The grounds crew also can set up and rotate temporary goal posts for practice. There may be times when fields simply have to be closed for rejuvenation, such as after extra-heavy use or bad weather.

It may become essential to have backup plans for fields, since they shouldn’t be used when they’re wet. Not doing so will undo all the maintenance hours you’ve put in, and leave you with muddy, torn-up fields.

Note: The American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) is a non-profit association helping designers, builders, owners, operators and users understand quality sports- facility construction. For more information, call (866) 501-ASBA (2722), or visit www.sportsbuilders.org.

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