Guest Column - March 2010
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Field Maintenance

Spruce Up Your Sports Field for Spring

By Thomas Serensits

Your turf survived the long, hard winter and now it is time to get your field ready for play again. Hopefully you prepared your field for the winter during the fall and you are heading into the spring with a strong, healthy turf stand. Even if your field is not in the condition you want it to be in at the beginning of spring, there are things you can do to get it ready for the first game. After all, you know that as soon as the weather breaks, your field will be a busy place. Here are some tips to get your field looking great before that first game.

Have a Plan

Be prepared. Take time during the winter to plan out your maintenance schedule so as soon as the weather warms up, you will be ready to go.

Take a soil sample and send it to your local testing facility (most universities can test your soil). You will get a report back with fertilizer recommendations that you can use to set up your fertilizer program. You will also find out if you need to correct your soil pH.

Be sure to have all equipment, seed and fertilizers on hand before they are needed.

Get ready to battle Mother Nature. Spring rains can create water-logged fields. Make sure all of your baseball tarps are in good condition and explain the consequences of playing on a saturated field to the coaches, administrators, parents and players.

What to Do When Spring Has Sprung

Survey your fields. Identify potential problems like high-wear areas, and on bermudagrass fields, look for areas affected by winterkill and spring dead spot. Be sure to give extra attention to these areas so they can recover quickly. Consider rotating or sliding your fields to spread out the wear. Sometimes sliding a field over just 10 yards can make a big difference.

If you used growth covers over the winter, remove them after four or five consecutive days of warm temperatures, but don't put them away. Be prepared to put the covers back on if you get an early spring cold snap.

Seed or sod high-wear areas and areas that did not survive the winter. Fill in low areas with sand or soil to prevent puddles from forming and seed or sod them. If you fix the problems now, you won't be battling them all year long.

Prepare your irrigation system. Once you charge the system, check for broken heads and leaky pipes that need to be repaired.

Cool Season Grasses

The following are recommendations for managing Kentucky bluegrass and/or perennial ryegrass sports fields in the spring.

Mowing properly can make a big difference in the look and performance of your field. It is important to keep up with your mowing schedule, especially in the spring when the turf is growing quickly.

  • Begin mowing as soon as the turf begins to grow.
  • Be sure to use sharp blades so you get a clean cut.
  • Do not remove more than a third of the leaf blade per mowing.
  • Mow frequently—you will improve the density of your turf with more frequent mowings and you will not leave unsightly clumps of grass behind. You may need to mow three times per week during the spring flush of growth.
  • Delay mowing on waterlogged fields to prevent ruts.