Feature Article - February 2009
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Field Goals

Maintaining Sports Fields & Grounds

By Emily Tipping

Here is a basic list of things you need to consider when it comes to making sure your natural turf fields are properly cared for. For more specific information on your particular field, consult—or better yet, hire—a professional grounds manager:

  • Know Your Soil and Fertilize: You can't know what your field needs if you don't know, well, what your field needs. If you haven't already done it, you need to get your soil tested. That information will help you learn how and when to fertilize. There are entire books on these subjects alone.
  • Cut the Grass, As Often as Possible: The essential rules for caring for your home lawn applies to your sports fields as well: keep your mower blades sharp, never remove more than a third of the growth in a single mowing, and don't collect your clippings—leave them in place to provide food for your growing grass. If you mow as often as you can, you'll be rewarded with an actively growing, lush green field.
  • Aerate: Aeration is essentially shaking things up to relieve compaction of the soil. It's important to do this when your field is actively growing, so spring is ideal. Don't do it in hot weather, when your grass may be dormant.
  • Quench the Thirst: Ideally, you want 1 to 1.5 inches of water a week. If rainfalls are few and far between, you'll want an irrigation system set up.
  • Topdressing: This means adding more sand or soil to the surface. It can give you a chance to improve the quality of your soil or just even things out when the surface develops ruts and wear patterns where the play usually occurs.
  • Grow More Grass: Overseeding is a regular part of maintenance. You can fill in bare spots and encourage better growth by adding more grass seed to the field.

Again, these are just the basics. Depending on the type of field and the amount of use, you'll need to adjust what you're doing.

"I'm always partial to grass, and I think that if maintenance practices are budgeted properly and usage of the fields is budgeted properly, you can do a lot with a grass field," Anderson said. He added that if you could take the money you would spend on the synthetic field and its maintenance over time and put it into a fund to use for maintenance of a natural grass field over time, along with controlling usage on your fields, you probably would come out even. "But if you can't or are unwilling to control usage on the field, you're probably better off going with synthetic," he said.