The reason for the timing of my trip to Europe was that the playing season was wrapping up and the renovation season for the pitches is beginning. I wanted (or better stated, NEEDED) to see the renovation process taking place to get a better understanding of how it works and all the positive pieces of the process. My perception from the pieces of the process I had heard and read about were that the UK groundsmen must just really like to make themselves extra work! haha. Why would you want to cut out your fields every year and wait for them to grow back in from seed? Madness! Well- I certainly got to see it 1st hand… and it was nothing like I imagined. Instead of madness, I say now that it is genius! Quite a change huh?!? Let me try to explain the process and the goals…..
Why renovate? To remove the poa annua plants and their seed bank (lack of chemical options for poa removal and control due to regulations). To remove the organic matter that has begun to build up during the growing season to completely avoid any layer that could cause a slick surface (core aeration and heavy topdressing can not be done frequently during the dead of winter during the season because the plant will not recover). And to create a more hardy and durable stand of grass plants (Plants that re-generate are stronger and resilient)
How to renovate? 1- Remove the top 1/8 to 1/2″ of the pitch (termed “Fraze mowing”). 2- Proceed with a deep aeration (deep tine or Shock Wave) 3- Apply a layer of topdressing and/or run a Recycling Dresser (http://www.imants.com/en/machinedetails/13/296-225/KORO-Recycling-dresser-1900) to freshen up the soil base and create some loose material. 4- A harrow is then drug across the surface to move around the loose material and fill in the low spots before the seeding takes place. 5- Seed, work in the seed and lightly topdress again. 6- Fertilize. 7- Grow. Four weeks later, the seed has germinated and is growing, and the hardy plants have regenerated and filled back in. ARTWORK.
Sounds like quite a process huh!? Well, it absolutely fascinating… and amazing.
So then the question becomes… does any of this process make sense in the United States. Your initial reaction is likely the same as mine- No! But then realize that no matter how good the poa controls supposedly are, the still don’t really work- and that we could be facing the same bans on pesticides in the future that they do in the UK . Think about renovating a football field in the spring (that needs spring time renovation anyway)/ to Fraze Mow Bermudagrass in the south that is overseeded heavily and needs transitioning/ Renovate soccer fields that are used for spring and fall play/ Fraze mow the lips around the edge of baseball infield skins after the season… And we could sit and talk and come up with more and more where pieces of this process could fit in.
The boldest part, without a doubt, is to re-seed and not to sod. Adding the layer of soil in sod is obviously a challenge. And with a tool like the Recycling Dresser, that layer can be reduced much more quickly. But if and when a field has 6-8 week open for a renovation, why not seed instead of sod? I am considering that very thing… we are renovating our stadium field (because of poa) the last week of August. I can seed by the end of that week and have 6 full weeks before our next event. When I stop and think, of course it can be done- but wow, that sure does take guts right!?! But to save $50k. HHHmmm… make you think right!?