The Root Of The Issue

•Find money to aerate. Spending money on weed control and fertilizers and then skipping aeration is much like getting a blood transfusion but opting out of an urgently needed coronary bypass. Aeration provides the channels for nutrients that keep grass healthy. Aeration is a process of drawing out three-inch plugs of turf and soil to keep essential nutrients flowing to the grass. It prevents soil compaction so that oxygen and water can reach the root system. In addition, it prevents fertilizers from becoming stagnant and thatch buildup, which commonly strangles the grass plant.

•Select seed over sod. In the majority of athletic fields, seeding and over-seeding will be more effective and less costly than installing sod. With the proper care, the root system from seeding will take less time to become fully established, and it will be less susceptible to disease. In many cases, it can be difficult to prevent the seams of the sod strips from knitting, and the uneven spots can cause injury.

•Invest in an irrigation system. You will actually save money over its lifecycle. Manually providing water is labor-intensive and puts fields through the stress of the summer heat and increased wear and tear. However, irrigation at the optimal time before dawn (thank goodness these systems have automatic timers) will relieve some of the pressure. Additionally, most applications of fertilizers and broad leaf weed control will be more effective when irrigation follows.

One other suggestion that ties together all these strategies is to think about attending seminars on turf management. Check out a local college or university agronomy department to find how to attend a workshop at little or no cost. That might just be the best investment in the safety and quality of athletic fields.

Susan Langlois has over 25 years experience as a college professor, athletic administrator, camp director and sports facilities consultant. She is currently the campus director at Springfield College School of Human Services in Manchester and St. Johnsbury, N.H. She can be reached at susan.langlois@comcast.net.

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