Rain, Rain, Rain: Play Through on Natural Grass!

Early in the day this past Saturday in Toronto, the rain began to fall. It was light at first, but it prevailed and increased in intensity through the afternoon. Match time for Toronto FC v DC United was 5pm. The rain continued throughout, with veteran Washington Post Soccer Insider Mr. Steven Goff tweeting “Raining so hard here in Toronto, looks like snow falling in front of floodlights” and again “Halftime in Hurricane”. Following that MLS match, Toronto FC II played host to the Wilmington Hammerheads with the rain continuing. By 10pm, 1.5” of rain had fallen and 180 mins of soccer had been played with no more than a scratch on the field.

BMO Field in the rain Saturday (Photo courtesy of Mr. Robert Heggie, Head Sports Field Manager)

BMO Field in the rain Saturday (Photo courtesy of Mr. Robert Heggie, Head Sports Field Manager)

The Saturday weather scene was nearly identical down the eastern USA coast. In Philadelphia at PPL Park, the rain started before and continued through the Philadelphia Union match. 1.3” total from 2pm to 10pm Saturday. 1” of that came just before or during the match. At Maryland SoccerPlex the heavy rain subsided just before match time. 1.75” in volume dumped in less than one hour as the Washington Spirit took the field. Toyota Stadium in Dallas experienced similar just 3 nights prior when 1.5” of rain drenched just before the FC Dallas match. 1/2” more pelted the players, fans, and field during the match. And each time, each field responded with strength and resilience.

1.75" in 45 mins soaks through field in 20 mins on SoccerPlex Stadium (Photo courtesy of Mr. Ryan Bjorn, Head Sports Field Manager)

1.75″ in 45 mins soaks through field in 20 mins on SoccerPlex Stadium (Photo courtesy of Mr. Ryan Bjorn, Head Sports Field Manager)

And the examples list goes on. Heavy rain across the central and eastern United States this past week played havoc on soccer matches.

Each of these are dramatic yet wonderful examples of how the perception “Grass fields always get rained out” is an absolute MYTH. The fact about rain and grass fields is simple: A natural grass field, when built or renovated correctly for drainage, can be 100% rain-out proof.

Yes, nearly any and all rain-out prone grass fields can be renovated easily to reduce or eliminate rainouts. And at 1/5 to 1/15 of the cost of replacing the field with artificial.

THANK YOU and KUDOS to every hard working Sports Field Manager, in ALL sports, who have fought through the recent rains. There are numerous more examples of natural grass fields sustaining play through the long, wet spring and early summer in the south and midwest to east. Your work provides more and more shining examples of how #GrassCanTakeMore™!!!

Stay tuned to GrowingGreenGrass.net in the next week for ideas and examples of renovation and maintenance tricks to help reduce/ eliminate rain-outs.

1.5" of rain in 2 hours prior to match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX

1.5″ of rain in 2 hours prior to match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX

15 mins later: 1.5" drained through prior to match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX (Photos courtesy of Mr. Allen Reed, Head Sports Field Manager)

15 mins later: 1.5″ drained through prior to match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX (Photos courtesy of Mr. Allen Reed, Head Sports Field Manager)

Always Improving! University of Portland’s Merlo Field Universe Fraze Mow #2 Results

This week University of Portland’s Merlo Field became the first cool season turfgrass field in the United States to employ Universe Fraze Mowing for a second time.  In April, 2014, Field Manager Jordon Montgomery also was the first, as the first ever USA Field Manager to turn to the process for cool season turfgrass to remove:

70% poa annua population
– 1″ layer of thatch
– Reduce a thick layer of organic matter accumulated on the top of the sand based soil

The 2015 results of the Universe Fraze Mowing process were superb.

Universe Fraze Mowing of Merlo Field, U of Portland

Universe Fraze Mowing of Merlo Field, U of Portland

Poa Annua Plants Removed From Strong Stand of #RPP Ryegrass and #HGT Kentucky bluegrass

Poa Annua Plants Removed From Strong Stand of #RPP Ryegrass and #HGT Kentucky bluegrass

Poa Annua Patch Removed

Poa Annua Patch Removed

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Poa Annua plants and seed have been removed, along with 2014’s thatch and organic build up to keep the field surface from becoming slick.  Now new ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass seed will be sewed.  But even more importantly for durability and increased field use, the improved turfgrass varieties of RPR Ryegrass and HGT Kentucky bluegrass seeded last year following the Universe Fraze Mow can re-generate.  This will encourage the grasses to spread, ultimately increasing the tensile strength of the base surface to reduce divoting and wear.

2014 reduced the poa annua population from 70% to 20%.

2014 Merlo Field Before Universe Fraze Mowing w/ 70% Poa Annua

2014 Merlo Field Before Universe Fraze Mowing w/ 70% Poa Annua

2015 Poa Reduction and Surface Improvement

2015 Poa Reduction and Surface Improvement

The 1″ thatch layer was also removed along with the top of a thick organic layer.  The removal yielded a dramatically better playing surface.  The clean and re-generated surface is tight and strong, leading to nearly no divoting even when being used in the rain.  After 3 months of camps in Summer of 2014, a full men’s and women’s college schedule in the fall, and 13 spring matches, the field was nearly perfect when the 2015 Universe Fraze Mowing took place.

Thick, Dense Stand Even Through Goal Areas After 13 Spring Matches,  Full Men's and Women's Season in the Fall, and Summer Camps in June, July, and August

Thick, Dense Stand Monday, Even Through Goal Areas After 13 Spring Matches, Full Men’s and Women’s Season in the Fall, and Summer Camps in June, July, and August

When Merlo Field is/ was in such excellent condition and the poa annua had been dramatically reduced, why Universe Fraze Mowing in 2015?

Simple.  Improvement.

From Field Manager Jordon Montgomery… “We want to continue to improve the playing surface while increasing use. The introduction Portland Timbers 2, the USL pro team calling Merlo Field home is an example of that.  All our home teams and events need the best playing surface we can provide while being environmentally and budget conscious.  That all leads to Universe Fraze Mowing”.  

#GrassCanTakeMore.

AMAZING EVOLUTION & Quick History!  Universe fraze mowing cool season turfgrass was first performed at Paris St-Germain’s Parc des Princes Stadium in July of 2013.  New Head Groundsman Jonathan Calderwood chose the bold method, previously only used in the United States on bermudagrass, to remove the poa annua plants in his pitch and leave behind the existing desirable Kentucky bluegrass and Ryegrass.

PSG Renovation July 2013 (32)

So yes… Universe Fraze Mowing is DIFFERENT than basic fraise mowing.  Fraise mowing was introduced in 1996 by Mr. Ko Rodenburg, Superintendent of Parks Maintenance in Rotterdam, Holland when he invited the KORO Field Topmaker.  Rodenburg invented the machine to clean the poa annua seed off the top of his playing fields and to encourage some basic regeneration.  Fraise mowing was born!

With the introduction of the KORO Universe® Rotor for the Field Topmaker in winter of 2012-2013; allowing stolons and rhizomes on spreading grasses to remain while removing organic, thatch, and weed seed; lead to Universe Fraze Mowing directly from this blog to Mr. Allen Reed and Mr. Miles Studhalter’s bermuda fields at FC Dallas.  See for details: Summary of a new concept; Fraze Mowing & Concept to Active Practice; Fraze Mowing Debuts at FC Dallas.   The use on bermudagrass had started, then Mr. Calderwood working with Mr. Simon Gumbrill from Campey Turf Care, took the lessons from bermudagrass and implemented them to cool season. Now Jordon Montgomery in Portland as taken it even further with repeated use.  AMAZING how it continues to evolve with creative minded Field Managers ready and willing to try to new things!  #GrassCanTakeMore!

#GrassCanTakeMore Comes Alive!

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#GrassCanTakeMore Comes Alive!

#GrassCanTakeMore successfully came alive this week in the first ever #GrassCanTakeMore seminar from Growing Innovations and Turf Republic in Rockville, MD on Tuesday.

THANK YOU to the 81 participants that took part in the event. The exchange of ideas was fantastic! Your search for solutions and willingness to ask questions absolutely made the event a success! And THANK YOU to Mr. Dave Nehila and Mr. John Turnour for sharing with group and feeding the idea exchange. Wow, great!

Additionally, Thank You to Genesis Turfgrass, Finch Inc, and Oakwood Sod for supporting #GrassCanTakeMore as the event sponsors. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Look to @GrowingInnovations on twitter, www.growinginnovations.net and @TurfRepublic on Twitter, Facebook, and www.TurfRepublic.com for more information from the event.

Also look for announcements for the next upcoming #GrassCanTakeMore events. New, creative, budget responsible solutions are marking it possible to improve grass field quality and meet that demand to increase use. #GrassCanTakeMore Grass Field Workshops bring you these solutions in real-life, usable steps to take home to improve grass fields.

THANK YOU again to all of the participants. Grass Fields Can Take More!

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Grass IS Taking More! On Pro Soccer Field of the Year

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This piece is written in reference to:  Turning Green Into Gold; How Maureen Hendricks Field at the Maryland SoccerPlex Became the First Women’s Soccer Venue to Win Professional Field of the Year


The perception that natural grass fields can’t sustain heavy use is starting to go away. There are a growing number of examples around the world of heavy use grass fields that are maintained in excellent shape. Even with smaller budgets.

But still the “how much can grass take” debate still is ongoing. How much CAN a grass field take!? Truly so many factors are involved. Ultimately the examples of amazing fields around the world simply go back to using new and better tools for maintenance and also focusing on the skills of professional, creative, hard working Sports Field Managers.

What an exciting time!

Maryland Soccer Foundation shared a wonderful example of how grass can take more this week in an article highlighting their Sports Field Maintenance crew on the STMA Professional Soccer Field of the Year, Hendricks Field. With that award, Hendricks recently became the first ever professional women’s field in any sport to win a Field of the Year award. But even more unique, the field hosted over 750 hours of non-professional sporting events in additional to the professional use. Hendricks won 2011 Parks Soccer Field of the Year as well during a year hiatus of women’s soccer when the field hosted nearly 1000 hours of events. The field again made news in the fall of 2012 when it was renovated, re-seeded with Kentucky bluegrass, and re-opened 35 days after seeding. Wow!

Certainly all of these amazing feats by 1 field seem like complete outliers because just a few years ago such high use at any level was thought to be impossible for grass. But now these things give as examples of the extremely bright and exciting future for natural grass fields and professional, creative, hard work Sports Field Managers. Using new and better tools for maintenance and by adopting new philosophies around the “3 Keys to High Traffic Maintenance” is changing what was once considered impossible and making it possible!

Walt Disney said it best, and field managers around the world are proving it: “It is Kind of Fun to Do the Impossible” ; ) Well done Sports Field Managers. Well done. #GrassCanTakeMore


Turning Green Into Gold; How Maureen Hendricks Field at the Maryland SoccerPlex Became the First Women’s Soccer Venue to Win Professional Field of the Year

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Spreading How #GrassCanTakeMore: Take Part in the Upcoming Events!

#GrassCanTakeMore is spreading around the world.  With it, the possibilities of natural grass fields are multiplying!

During the next few weeks, Growing Green Grass’s Jerad Minnick will be sharing those possibilities and exploring more ideas to help you learn more!

Follow along with these events and to take part in the ideas and learning here at Growing Green Grass, or at @GrassRevolution on twitter.  Hopefully you can take part in one of the upcoming events to ask questions, provide feedback and become a living part of the #GrassCanTakeMore movement!

Upcoming Events In The USA and Europe to Be Part of #GrassCanTakeMore:

Friday, November 7:  Texas Recreation & Parks Society North Conference
Location: Grand Prairie, TX
http://www.trapsnorth.org/docs/trapsmatrix2014.pdf

Tuesday, November 11: 36th Annual Congress of Greenkeepers
Location:  Valencia, Spain
http://huelva.congresoseci.com/greenkeepers

Tuesday, November 18:  North Carolina/ South Carolina STMA Conference
Location: Mrytle Beach, SC
http://www.scstma.org/upkeep/events/files/2014%20STMA%20Conference%20Brochure.pdf

Thursday, December 4: Institute of Groundsmanship Awards
Location: stadiummk: Milton Keynes, UK
http://www.iogawards.com

Wednesday, December 10:  Missouri Green Industry Conference 
Location: St. Charles, MO
http://mogic.org

Thursday, December 11: Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference
Location: Sandusky, OH
http://www.ohioturfgrass.org/page/14OTFOSU/?

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XtraGrass at Lakewood Memorial

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XTRAGRASS

In search of new ideas for natural grass surfaces, Growing Green Grass visited JeffCo Schools Lakewood Memorial Stadium last week in Denver, CO. The Lakewood Memorial field features a new version of synthetic reinforcement for natural grass called XtraGrass. The field is a RPR/ HGT seeded field, and has had 60 soccer matches played in 60 days.  The condition of the field was fantastic. Great work by Sports Field Manager Chris Gray and team at JeffCo Schools!  Thanks Chris for having us!

What is XtraGrass:
XtraGrass is essentially synthetic turf that is infilled with sand and grass instead of rubber, sand, cork, etc. Once XtraGrass is installed, the carpet “backing” begins to biodegrade and the natural grass roots through into the soil below.

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 How Does It Work?
The synthetic fibers coming up through the sand protect the crown of the grass plants. When a player stops, plants, turns, or pushes off, the synthetic fibers assist in footing and provide reinforcement to reduce shear and divots. Many of the 60 matches at Lakewood Memorial have been played in the rain, and absolutely no divots or tears were evident. Especially telling as the field was seeded only in late June and opened in late August. When the field begins to wear, the synthetic fibers provide continued stability and supply a green cast to the field. XtraGrass on its own without sand and grass infill achieves a FIFA 1-star rating.

Graff Turf on XtraGrass Installation 

Roots pushing through a piece we ripped up

Roots pushing through a piece we ripped up

How Is It Different?
The initial question that comes to mind is “how is XtraGrass different”? Different than SportGrass in the 90’s, different than the product distributed by Motz currently, different than even Desso’s GrassMaster. Those are all questions that have to be answered by the producers of each of those products. But certainly it seems that XtraGrass could be just as its advertised.. Different. The biodegradable backing on the field at Lakewood is showing signs of break down, and roots are starting to push through into the native soil below. And as mentioned, absolutely no divoting was present on the surface of the field

 Graff Turf on Grow-In 

Maintenance
Maintenance of an XtraGrass field is relatively similar to any other high traffic grass field. Lakewood Memorial is not a big budget field; rather Mr. Gray is on a small budget with challenges that most all field managers can relate to.

In regards to specific XtraGrass maintenance, regular aeration with solid tines/ deep tines to keep the field de-compacted is important. Core aeration is not possible because the backing will not go through the tines, but the top layer is sand and the grass is grown in from seed so there is no organic layer need to be opened up w/ core aeration. Dry-Ject, Air2G2, and such seem possible. As is slicing or spiking to promote rooting through the backing.

The main maintenance key in the long term will be thatch management. Thatch/ organic build up will have to be limited to keep the synthetic fibers in play. If the build up gets above the fibers, they will be useless. Regular, light verticutting and yearly to bi-yearly Universe® fraze mowing will be required. The Universe® rotor for the KORO Field Topmaker was originally invented to clean organic from Desso Grassmaster to avoid this very thing, so it is ideal for XtraGrass. Ultimately though, XtraGrass requires little special treatment than any other grass field

Synthetic fibers: smooth; RPR ryegrass: veins

Synthetic fibers: smooth; RPR ryegrass: veins

Conclusion
At initial introduction, XtraGrass seems to be exactly what it is advertised to be. A natural grass/ synthetic hybrid system is scary to many because of the failures of products in the past. But because those failures in the past are understood, it is possible for such a product to work in the present and future. The Lakewood Memorial field is a high traffic, low maintenance example of how XtraGrass could help high traffic fields, especially in cool season climates where stability is an issue. Sports field managers and users are in need of a bridge product between full synthetic and standard natural grass… XtraGrass very much could be that bridge.

We will continue to observe and update you… more to come!

See the XtraGrass website: http://www.xtragrass.com/en/

Air Into the Soil: Air2G2 Demo at Toyota Stadium

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On Monday of last week, Mr. Glenn Black, inventor of Air2G2, and Jeff Kadlec (GLK Turf Solutions) performed a demonstration of the Air2G2 on Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX. Toyota Stadium, home of FC Dallas (MLS) is one of the most high traffic professional grass fields in the USA. The field plays host to 3 Frisco High School football games each week, 3 concerts a year, the NCAA Division 2 National Championships, and several other high profile events. Mr. Allen Reed, CSFM, is the Sports Field Manager for the stadium. Allen wrote a guest piece for Growing Green Grass in 2013. “How Our Grass Field Takes More”

Air2G2 has gained exciting attention over the last year. The concept of pushing high-pressure air into the soil to fracture it to allow plant roots to breath certainly makes sense.

Mr. Reed is currently aerating the high traffic areas on the field 1-3x/ week. (Yes.. you read that correctly. 1-3x/ week). Now that’s aggressive aeration! The results are evident too, nearly through high school football season the field is still magnificent.  With such aggressive aeration being administered to the field, the expectation could have been that the Air2G2 machine would not make a significant impact.  But not so!  Even on sidelines that had been knife tined on 2″x 2″ spacing only 30 minutes before the Air2G2, the high-pressure air forced up through the sand still made a visible impact.

More about the machine:
Mr. Black shared the background on the idea for the machine very passionately. If you get a chance to talk with him, do so. He is a positive, solutions based man that made the Air2G2 his life’s work. Here is a video that Turf Republic produced on the machine following the Tennessee Turfgrass Field Day last month:

Depth:
The Air2G2 has 2 options on probe depth: 5” and 9” probes. There are 3 probes that can cover an area up to 5’ wide. The machine inserts the probes into the soil until they meet their first level of resistance.  At that resistance, usually around 4”, the first blast of air is released. The probes, having softened the ground with the initial blast, then push down to the full depth where a 2nd blast of high pressure air is made.

Operation:
The Air2G2 machine is built with easy of operation in mind. Pressure is simply set for the pneumatic cylinders to push the probes into the soil. Pressure can be set equally as simple for the amount of air pressure to be pushed into the soil. An air tank on the base of the machine stores air to reduce the workload on the air compressor and the quiet 19-hp Koehler engine. The machine is very simple and comfortable to operate.

Results:
Using a pentrometer, we were able to register a percentage of additional de-compaction on the field from the machine. There is scientific quantitative data becoming available from University of Tennessee on the compaction and surface hardness reduction. The results were somewhat obviously though from being able to witness the visible rising of the entire sand profile when the air was released 9” down. Amazing!

Conclusion:
The Air2G2 is a well-built machine using a fascinating concept of using high pressure air to de-compact or “air-ate” soil. This machine is sometimes being compared to the old Toro Hydroject, but overall it is nothing like that. The Hydroject was forcing high-pressure water into the profile, but only at the top. The Air2G2 de-compacts from the bottom up. Air2G2 is simple to operate and to maintain, with probes lasting for up to 15 acres. Yes, using the machine is a slow process, taking 6-8 hours to do a field. But really any good aeration takes time. The benefit far outweighs the time. If you get a chance to see a machine, take that opportunity!

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