Pre-Season Prep + High-Tech Fields

For cool season grass, the summer months are quite stressful. You should complete the aerification, overseeding and sod patching in the spring and fertilize with slow release fertilizer in the hot summer months then increase your agronomic activities in late summer and fall as the season progresses. In either case — warm or cool season grasses — you want the turfgrass to be as healthy as possible going into season with a moderate layer of thatch and mat to withstand the rigors of fall sports such as football and soccer.

Multi-Use, Multi-Season Fields

Some of you maintain fields that are used nearly year round if not all year round. On these fields you must look for windows of opportunity to do the work that needs to be done whether or not it is the best time agronomically.

Try to aerify whenever you can; it is one of the best cultural practices you can do for your fields. If you are concerned with the time constraints and clean up of core aerification use solid tines.

Keep nutrient levels moderate to high with slow release or a combination of slow and quick release nitrogen sources to keep grass growing without a flush of growth. And, in the case of cool season grasses, keep viable seed in the ground at all times.

As with everything else in today’s world, even sport fields are going high tech. But what does that really mean in the construction of sport fields and what are the benefits to you?

Here are some high-tech basics… High-tech fields are built with a high content of sand (~80%), usually a smaller proportion of an organic component such as peat (~15%) and sometimes a soil amendment such as calcined clay or diatomaceous earth with specific water and nutrient holding characteristics (~5%).

This mixture of sand, peat and amendments is called the “root zone” and can vary from 8 to 12 inches in depth. It is usually placed over 4″ of gravel.

Almost all high-tech fields have an underground drainage system to carry excess water away from the site and an automated irrigation system is a must.

This article isn’t going to be a how-to article per se, but rather an exploration of the concept and what a high tech field may or may not do for you.

Why Sand?\Or for that matter why high tech? There are three reasons to build high-tech fields, and they are drainage, drainage and drainage.

It only takes one game of football, soccer, lacrosse or field hockey played in the rain to ruin a natural soil field for the remainder of the year, and the best way to drain water out of a field is with sand.

Sand, or at least the right sand, is porous. It allows water to quickly penetrate the surface, yet if your field is designed properly it will hold a reservoir of water six to eight inches from the surface which will train roots to grow deep.

But not just any sand will work; it must be graded by particle size and particle distribution and mixed with the proper organic and other amendments in order to provide the drainage, footing and nutrient holding capacity needed to grow turfgrass and withstand the rigors of sports.

In essence, then, what a sand-based field does, if designed properly, is move water as quickly as possible from the surface, drain the excess water away and hold, either in organic matter, soil amendments or a perched water table, enough water to grow good strong sports turf.

If a high-tech sand-based sport field is designed well, built well and managed properly, you will have the best playing surface possible.

Struggles with Sand

While all of this sounds great, there are a few things to know before you embark on building a high-tech sand-based field.

First and foremost, they are not indestructible.

Over scheduling and overuse of natural grass sport fields will doom them for destruction whether they are built of sand or native soils. They are, after all, a living, breathing ecosystem that needs to be in balance with their use.

They need time between seasons to heal and repair themselves and they need to be managed properly in order to do so. However, if managed properly, they can take substantially more use and abuse than a native soil field and they will repair faster in the off-season.

Second, there is a learning curve to managing high sand content high-tech fields. Due to the large pore spaces in sand, when the water flows through so do the nutrients. Both watering and nutritional practices must be altered.

Remember, though, that these pore spaces also provide for an easy exchange of air for the roots and an easy place for the roots to grow deep into the root zone.

Third, not all high-tech fields are alike. There are many variations of depth of the root zone, types of sand found in the area, types of peat and types of soil amendments. Some designers are actually adding a small percentage of soil into the root zone to increase stability.

Bells & Whistles

Page 2 of 3 | Previous page | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Pre-Season Prep
  2. Turf Time
  3. Laying The Groundwork
  4. Quick-Reference – Maintenance Tips
  5. Off-Season Prep
  • Columns & Features
  • Departments
  • Writers