Maintenance Matters

One common misconception is that aerification increases weeds and decreases the effectiveness of disease barriers. From my experience, aerification actually loosens the soil, allowing turf to come in thicker, but it will not influence the barriers for weeds or pathogens.

Fertilization

Last, but not least, fertilization is the keystone of spring maintenance. Before fertilizing, it is best to do a soil analysis to identify which elements and nutrients need replenishing. Tests should be done at least once every three years since nutrients can drastically change with use and extended maintenance. A soil report will help determine what type of fertilizer to use and with what focus–potassium, phosphorus or lime.

One thing that will not be included in the report is nitrogen levels, which are extremely important to turf. Nitrogen application can be difficult because if it is applied too early when there is still a risk of a late freeze, it may be detrimental to the overall turf. For cool-season turf grasses, fertilizer plus nitrogen will help jump start growth for spring. On the other hand, with warm-season turf grasses, be sure to wait until the risk of a deep freeze has passed so the turf has enough time to establish a healthy root system before the nitrogen adds focus to shoot growth.

The type of fertilizer is based on the specific needs of the soil. I use a biological fertilizer–endoROOTS–because it poses a smaller risk to the environment, animals and humans. On high-use fields, you may have to use a different fertilizer that increases root strength and helps with excessive wear, such as ROOTS KCS.

Even if your grounds aren’t nearly the size of those at Virginia Tech, each of these maintenance concerns is critical to prepare turf for spring. All turf requires similar maintenance, but you should analyze your specific needs, and alter your maintenance program to achieve the best results. With proper maintenance, you can be on your way to providing healthy and vibrant turf throughout the year.

Jason Bowers is the Sports Turf/Athletic Grounds Manager at Virginia Tech University. Before his current position, he worked as an Assistant Superintendent at Whiskey Creek and Beaver Creek Country Club in Maryland, and as a Turf Specialist at Bozzuto Landscaping. He graduated from Virginia Tech with an Associate’s Degree in Agricultural Technology. Bowers can be reached at jabowers@vt.edu

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Related posts:

  1. Pre-Season Prep
  2. Toro Field Maintenance Forums
  3. Putting Turf To Bed For Winter
  4. Major League Maintenance
  5. Multi-Use Sports Field Maintenance

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