Rain, Rain Rain: Follow Up From Nats Park

 

“Grass Fields Are Always Rained Out”.  It is one of the most common attacks on and regular misconceptions about natural grass fields.

In this age of creative thinking and technology supporting hard working Sports Field Managers, these perceptions just are NOT true any longer.  Last year, as rain was pummeling much much of the country, we shared “Rain, Rain, Rain: Play Through on Natural Grass” with a few of the many success stories from natural grass fields sustaining play during rainfall.   “Weathering the storms” is another favorite that introduces some thoughts around natural grass fields sustaining play during rain as well.

BUT BASEBALL FIELDS are perceived to be even more challenging than rectangular fields.  Infield skins without a tarp take days and even weeks to dry following heavy or sustained rainfall.  Parks and high schools without the money to purchase a tarp feel that they have no chance to ever play during wet time periods.  Their reference many times is that they don’t have money like the professional teams to have a tarp or staff to cover the field.

Nationals Park in Washington, DC provides us with a shining example of what is possible for a baseball field in the 21st century.

At 11:30pm last night during a deluge that dropped 2″ of rain in less than 1 hour…

IMG_1340

And at 11:3oam this morning as the hard working Nationals Grounds Crew, lead by Mr. John Turnour, finish preparing for tonight’s game:

IMG_1342

IMG_1347

BUT HOW?!?

Simply because of proper natural grass field construction and via innovation and technology in infield skin maintenance products.  The perception that a full tarp is required to keep a baseball field playable, especially at the Parks and High School level is just that.. PERCEPTION.  Baseball fields around the country, from Parks to Pros, are working with these innovations and technologies and no longer utilizing full infield tarps full time.  The only tarps required always are 1 small tarp on the mound and a tarp on home plate to protect these areas built with higher clay content. Ironically, these improved products create infields that play BETTER when they get a lot of water or rain on them!

Natural grass fields are NOT always rained out.  And baseball (and softball fields) do NOT always require full field tarps to stay playable.  Creative thinking and technology supporting hard working Sports Field Managers are redefining what is possible for natural grass fields.  Because “if we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always gotten”.  


Special THANK YOU to Mr. John Turnour or the Washington Nationals for allowing the use of this baseball field example.  And THANK YOU to each and every hard working Sports Field Manager and your support teams for all of the amazing examples of high quality, high use natural grass fields!!!  You are #GrassCanTakeMore™

Advertisements

Share With Us. Natural Grass IS the Answer!

NBC News ran a story last Wednesday evening and Thursday morning that exposed fears on artificial turf to the general public. Here is the original story:    NBC Investigation

NBC News Artificial Turf Investigation w/ Gorgeous Grass Field at U of Portland's In The Background

NBC News Artificial Turf Investigation w/ Gorgeous Grass Field at U of Portland In Background

With this story and many of the follow up stories, the call is for better research on rubber crumb and organic infills for artificial turf fields.

But instead of waiting for more research for artificial, instead we can all lead the call for better quality NATURAL GRASS fields!!

Artificial turf came into being because of a problem: Grass fields weren’t being maintained or were not taking the heavy use. The general public now thinks that is just always the case: Grass fields just can’t take it heavy play or can’t be used in the rain.

Well now we know that is just not true!! This is the era of better maintenance tools and techniques.  Innovation and creativity is expanding.  YES, NATURAL GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE USE!! Always!! 

This weekend Turf Republic published a piece by Growing Green Grass founder Jerad Minnick wrote with that theme:  A recommitment to natural grass can meet the field needs!  Grass IS The Answer!  (Also find it below)

Growing Green Grass encourages YOU to take this opportunity to help re-establish positive public thinking towards natural grass fields. Right now around you there are parents, coaches, administrators and lawmakers talking about the concerns of artificial with no idea that natural grass IS the answer. Can you help let those people know the possibilities of grass?

How you ask? Just simply share the positive possibilities of natural grass with people not in the turfgrass/ sports field industry!  NATURAL GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE!

Some things to consider to get the word out to people:

– Share the NBC news story on your social media platforms and through email w/ neighbors, family, friends, school board members and AD’s. These people are not in the turfgrass industry and do not get regular information like you.  However, we recommend not to give commentary.   Just share the story.  Remember that there are people suffering. And there are good people on the other side of this that sell, distribute and market artificial.  Additionally, many of your are currently maintaining some artificial turf.  Let NBC tell the story, not you.

– Follow up the story from NBC to all of the same people and share the POSITIVE MESSAGE about the possibilities of grass!!!  NATURAL GRASS CAN TAKE MORE!

– In your sharing, pass your personal passion and support for the possibilities of grass!! Your passion makes it real for others.  They can connect with you and will appreciate your unique skills and experience as part of the natural grass industry.

So SPREAD THE WORD!  Remember…  STAY POSITIVE

Always feel free to use anything coming from Growing Green Grass (www.growinggreengrass.net) to support your passion.  Employ the hashtag #GrassCanTakeMore via social media. TPI and the Lawn Institute have excellent resources on the good of grass as well  Lawn Institute Website

THANK YOU for using this opportunity to share the possibilities of grass and shape the bright future of the natural grass sports field industry.

And THANK YOU for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

The Team at Growing Green Grass


Grass IS the Answer!

by Jerad Minnick • 3 days ago
A commitment to the existing grass fields around us can meet the immediate needs for safe, quality playing fields.

TR_Grass

TURF REPUBLIC:  http://www.turfrepublic.com/2014/10/11/grass-answer/

The unknowns of synthetic turf safety have burst into the limelight this week. The call is for additional research on synthetic turf rubber crumb infills or a change to organic infills for new fields being installed.

But instead of waiting years for research, the answer already exists! A commitment to the existing grass fields around us can meet the immediate needs for safe, quality playing fields. Here is how that can work:

Less Cost:
With an existing field, as little as 1/10th of the amount of money needed for 1- synthetic field is needed to improve and maintain that grass field over 10 years. In a world of tight budgets, spending to improve and maintain 10 existing grass fields correctly instead of building 1 synthetic will make a significant difference.

Additionally, to build and maintain a quality grass field that is rainout proof, 1/3 to 1/2 of the monetary investment of a synthetic field is required over 10 years. See more basic expense figures here: Grass v synthetic, The numbers

Playability:
Natural grass fields can be built and maintained to meet playability needs based on level, demand, and budget. Grass can be maintained to fit the level of surface that is needed. Slow, fast, soft, firm, wet, dry. All factors can be controlled.

On maintained grass the ball always “rolls”, allowing players to predict ball movement. Skin burns and abrasions aren’t common with grass. That fact allows players to attack aggressively and naturally without fear of injury. And that same grass surface has a temperature below the outdoor temperature, naturally cooling the area for players. See more thoughts on playability: Artificial turf makes no sense for soccer

Environmental/ Health impact:
Natural grass is just that… natural. The environmental benefits of grass are many. And all-natural, natural grass that needs no EPA approved pesticides is near because of improved grass genetics, evolving maintenance practices, and new technology for pest control.

More positives from natural grass are:
– Filters pollutants from storm water as it soaks back into the soil
– Reduces noise pollution by up to 40%
– Cools the ambient air temperature
– Produces oxygen (1 field/ yr produces enough to supply up to 128 people)
– Reduces CO2 (1 field/ yr removes the equivalent emitted by a car driving 6,000 miles)
With acres of park and stadium fields around the world, the good of grass has a huge positive impact on players and society. See more details: Healthy lawn, healthy environment

Innovation for durability and player safety:
The tools used for grass fields improve daily. Creative thinking and technology offer a wide range of innovation for grass fields.

Grass breeding and genetics: Grasses, both warm & cool season, are now available that grow twice as fast and are double as durability as standard, accepted grasses.

Technology for plant feeding and health: Environmentally friendly fertilizers have been developed for healthy grass growth. These products are created in cooperation with government regulations to protect the environment. The friendly fertilizers help produce thick, strong grass that the EPA has endorsed as important for ground-water filtration.

Development of safety and durability tools: A wide range of safety and durability tools are available to be used on grass fields. Systems to absorb energy and reduce surface hardness and injury potential are available. Products that provide surface stability to eliminate slipping and divoting have been developed. No longer is it just grass and dirt. Innovation is advancing possibilities of grass fields.

Human Element:
Natural grass is economical, player friendly, good for the environment, and continues to improve with innovation. But ultimately the biggest advantage grass fields have is the human care they receive from dedicated turfgrass managers. Existing turfgrass managers, provided with a few tools, can produce a low-cost, environmentally friendly field. In an age of needed job creation, committing money to maintain grass fields instead of building synthetic will create numerous new environmentally friendly jobs in the sports & park industry.

There is an immediate need for safe, quality playing fields. The fields needed ALREADY EXIST! But “if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten”. It’s no longer acceptable to spend little to no money to maintain an existing grass field but then turn to a million dollar synthetic field. Yes, a simple commitment to improvement and maintenance of natural grass fields can provide the answer!

Empiezo hoy!: #GFFF Grass Field Foto Friday

La popularida de “Hashtag Holiday” por los medios socials sigue creciendo. ¿Has participado en alguno de estos?

#MM: Motivational Monday (Lunes Motivacional)

#TT: Tip Tuesday (Martes Propina)

#WW: Wednesday Wisdom (Miércoles Sabiduría)

#TBT: Throw Back Thursday (Recordar Jueves)

#FF: Follow Friday (Siga Viernes)

IMG_1234

Hashtags son un gran instrumento para llevar la emoción y la conciencia de muchas cosas diferentes. Entonces ¿Por qué no usamos el Hashtag para compartir el fantástico trabajo que usted y otros gerentes de céspedes de deportivo hace cada día en los campos de césped natural de todo el mundo?

Presentando #GFFF Grass Field Foto Friday. Durante todo el mes de Septiembre, utilice el hasta #GFFF: Grass Field Foto Friday y compartir sus fotos mas favoritos de campos de céspedes naturales. Publicar fotos que muestran el arte y la maestría de su trabajo…haciendo campos de céspedes natural fantástico! Campos de juego, campos de entrenamiento, campos en su propio césped…mostrar su trabajo! Comparte en Facebook, Twitter, Instagram y cualquier otro medio social que podría utilizar. Compartir y estar orgulloso de su trabajo y reforzar la profesionalidad de ti mismo y de los gerentes de céspedes deportes de todo el mundo!

Juntos podemos construir un día internacional promoviendo la participación de todo el mundo!

¿Por qué ahora? Los meses de agosto y septiembre es el tiempo ideal para campos de césped natural de todo el mundo. Con el comienzo del futbol americano y futbol, la Liga Mayor y Menor de beisbol en la recta final, y futbol en America y J-League con pocos meses que queda, estamos en un punto que muchos deportes están en temporada. Utilice esa ventaja para mostrar su gran trabajo y crear conciencia de las posibilidades de los campos de céspedes naturales producidas por ti y todos los Gerentes de Céspedes Deportes.


#GFFF Grass Field Foto Friday – Empiezo hoy!

THANKS John Torres, Head Grounds Manager of PPL Park in Philadelphia, for the transcription and involvement!  Follow John’s magical work at @jjtorres9 on twitter!

philadelphia-union-ppl-park1-680uw

IDEAS! OSTMA Newsletter Case Study : Pro-Active Solutions for Fall Field Overseeding

IMG_0685 - Version 2

Case Study #1: In-season, high traffic football and soccer field on native soil with Kentucky bluegrass and fescue

This field manager has the ultimate challenge in order to get new seed established during the busy season of the year. This field will experience high traffic through the fall even through the time it goes dormant. If you were that manager, what would you do?

Compaction from high traffic is the biggest challenge with this native soil field. Especially through the center and on the sidelines of the American football surface. Overseeding during such heavy play seems nearly impossible. But an open mind and creativity can create possibility!

Cultivation: Aeration should be the #1 cultivation focus for this field. Aeration should take place as often as manpower allows. If multiple games are being played each week, some sort of aeration can take place weekly through the high traffic field center. Yes… weekly! There can be fear of aeration of a grass field under high traffic. However we know the damage that compaction and surface hardness can cause. Especially on native soil.  Avoiding the fear to be aggressive while using good judgment on how and when can counteract those compaction issues and increase use on a grass field.

De-compaction:   Deep tine or soil wave aeration is non-disruptive for de-compaction every other week during the playing season through the high traffic field center and sidelines. The entire field should be de-compacted every other time. Frequent de-compaction will keep the root zone open for deep rooting and will allow rainwater to move vertically through the soil profile to reduce the impact of rain events. De-compaction in combination with fall weather will allow the existing stand of grass to recover from summer stress and withstand heavy use as well.

Surface aeration: Solid tine, rapid tine aeration or slicing is non-disruptive and can take place every other week, alternating de-compaction weeks, during the playing season through the high traffic field center and sidelines. The entire field should be done every other time. Surface aeration will soften the surface and create a seedbed for overseeding. Surface aeration will also open voids for topdressing sand to blend into the surface.

Seeding: Overseeding a field under constant using takes more creativity.

Seed Selection: Using quick germinating seed with good traffic tolerance is important. In the past, perennial ryegrass has been an overseeding grass to avoid because of summer stress issues. But with genetic improvement for disease and traffic tolerance, overseeding with perennial ryegrass in season is possible. Aggressive new Kentucky bluegrass varieties are also available that germinate fast and sustain traffic. Combine perennial ryegrass with Kentucky bluegrass and seed the center of the high traffic field lightly (Up to 2 lb perennial ryegrass, 1 lb Kentucky bluegrass) each week of September prior to play. Seeding into October isn’t recommended unless in south Ohio as frost and cool temperatures limit seedling growth. Springtime seeding should utilize fescue with Kentucky bluegrass and limit the ryegrass use in the spring.

Seed to Soil Contact: Seeding prior to the events of the week with allow the seed to get worked into the soil by cleats through the high traffic area of the field. In addition, the bi-weekly surface aeration will work in the seed. Aeration can be used as a seeding tool by seeding right behind surface aeration. The seed can fall down into the aeration holes allowing the crown of the seedling plant to be protected from traffic so it can re-generate after leaf damage. Light topdressing following the surface aeration and seeding will cover the seed to hold moisture for germination as well.

Summary:

  • De-compaction aeration 2x a month during season (1x center, 1x entire field)
  • Surface aeration 2x a month during season (1x center, 1x entire field)
  • Seed center of field lightly w/ up to 2 lbs perennial ryegrass & 1 lb Kentucky bluegrass each week of September
  • Combine surface aeration with seeding or use cleats/ traffic to work in seed
  • Light topdressing can protect seed as well

DSC00208


 

Case Study #2: End-of-season, high traffic in early spring through late summer baseball field on a sand soil with Kentucky bluegrass and ryegrass

This field manager may feel relief for the end of the season, but fall overseeding will be the catalyst for the field’s survival through a busy spring and summer. This field will be exposed to high traffic even before the grass breaks dormancy in the spring. If you were that manager, what would you do? 

Fall recovery and spring preparation are the goals for this high traffic field. Early season play likely aids the Poa Annua population in the field, so Poa control in the fall is important as well.

Cultivation: Aggressive cultivation is important to promote recovery for the existing grass and create a good seedbed to encourage seed growth and establishment.

Verticutting or Universe fraze mowing: Immediately following the season in preparation for overseeding, verticutting or Universe fraze mowing should take place. Verticutting is the standard practice for thatch and organic build up, removing 11%-15% of material. Universe fraze mowing can remove up to 100% of the thatch and organic build up, along with removing the Poa Annua plants and the Poa Annua seed. Re-generation from both practices makes the field more durable, with Universe fraze mowing producing a dramatic improvement in density and durability. Use either practice followed with the remaining cultivation practices.

De-Compaction: De-compaction aeration should take place 1x immediately after verticutting or Universe fraze mowing in conjunction with overseeding. De-compaction will allow the existing grass to recover and open the sand profile to keep water moving through from regular irrigation for seed growth.   De-compaction aeration can also take place as the grass goes dormant in late October to encourage natural aeration from freezing and thawing.

Surface aeration: Surface aeration should take place following de-compaction in the fall overseeding process. Surface aeration with surface removal is important to encourage existing grass recovery. Core aeration or recycle dressing will open the surface and allow sand to be blended in. Seed immediately after surface aeration and use the open surface as a seedbed to establish seed. Topdress following seeding to cover and protect seed if possible.

Seeding: Establishing seed during the fall with no traffic is a grass manager’s dream. But don’t be overly relaxed because establishment is essential for spring.

Seed selection: Kentucky bluegrass can be the primary seed of choice in fall seeding with limited traffic. New varieties of Kentucky bluegrass are quick to germinate and establish. Depending on how early in the spring that play begins, keep in mind that perennial ryegrass is early to green up and grow in the spring. Fields with play in February and March can blend in perennial ryegrass with Kentucky bluegrass to provide an early season surface. 3-4 lbs of Kentucky bluegrass is an excellent overseeding rate. Do not use too much, as Kentucky bluegrass should be pushed to spread and fill-in. Add 2 lbs of perennial ryegrass to the early season fields as well. That rate of ryegrass will likely be taken over by the more aggressive Kentucky bluegrass in the summer.

Seed to Soil Contact: Verticutting or Universe fraze mowing followed with core aeration or recycle dressing will create a seedbed for overseeding. A light topdressing can be combined to cover seed if desired.

Summary:

  • Verticut or Universe fraze mow to remove organic material
  • De-compact following to soften sand then de-compact again as field goes dormant
  • Surface aerate with core aeration or recycle dressing to open surface for recovery
  • Overseed with 3-4 lbs Kentucky bluegrass, 2 lbs of perennial ryegrass for early spring play
  • Light topdressing to cover seed

IMG_4293

Did you approach these the same way?  Share your experiences, both positive and negative, with your colleagues in the industry!  THANK YOU for the feedback and participation.  GREAT, GREAT feedback!


 

IMG_3989

OSTMA Fall Newsletter Article

Pro-Active Solutions for Fall Field Overseeding
Creative techniques for seeding in the fall to insure a durable field all year round.

The fall season is the most ideal time for cool season field cultivation and overseeding. Consistent rainfall and cool night temperatures help existing cool season grasses recover quickly, while higher soil temperatures created from the summer heat make an ideal time to get quick germination and growth on seed.

However, fall is also one of the most high traffic times of the year on many cool season fields. To avoid having to close fields completely, grass field managers are challenged to be creative and pro-active on fall field maintenance practices to meet the demands. Let’s re-examine some cultivation and overseeding approaches.

Cultivation
Fall is a wonderful time for cool season turfgrass to recover from summer stress and grow roots for fall and winter play. But black layer from consistent watering, thatch from clipping and stressed or dying turfgrass, and compacted soils from limited cultivation during summer stress limit what existing grass and new seed can do. Before overseeding and fertilization are considered in a fall maintenance program, cultivation should be Step #1.

De-compaction aeration: Soften the soil deep

Examples of Solutions:

Deep tine aerator
Soil wave aerator (ex. Imants Shockwave, Redexium VertiQuake)
Soil air refresher (ex. Koro Recycling Dresser)
De-compaction aeration is softening the soil down below a 6” depth. De-compaction allows for deeper rooting of existing turfgrass, allows better irrigation and rainfall infiltration, and softens the entire field surface for safety and playability.

Timing: De-compaction aeration should take place a minimum of 3x during the fall season (or as much as budget allows). A deep tine or soil wave machine can be run the same day as a field event, so even if the field is under high traffic de-compaction aeration can take place. Soil air refreshing deep for de-compaction requires a 7- 10 day break and also can take place at the end of the fall season.

Surface aeration: Open up the surface

Examples of Solutions

Rapid tine aeration (Coring tines/ solid tines/ needle tines/ knife tines)
Linear slicing (blades or solid slicing rollers)
Soil refreshing aeration (KORO Recycling dresser)
Surface aeration has multiple positives in the fall. Surface aeration is any type of aeration that vents the surface (top 3-4”) for air, water infiltration, and to soften the field for player safety. Using hollow tines to core aerate removes organic matter build up and/or sod layer and creates channels for air and topdressing (if it fits into the budget). Core aeration is labor intensive with the clean up of plugs, but the benefit outweighs challenge. Core aeration and solid tine aeration equally create holes for seed to fall into for seed to soil contact when overseeding. Slicing can open more surface area than most tine aeration methods to open the surface of the field as well and promote healthy plant growth

Timing: The type of surface aeration used is to be dictated by the schedule of use. Core aeration could require a break of up to 7-10 days. On native soil, solid tine aeration and/or slicing can take place with play on the field immediately after. Sand could need a 3-5 day break in order for the surface to become stable again before play. Soil air refreshing down to a 4” depth requires a 5-7 break to grow in the slices.

Verticutting

Examples of Solutions:

Wide range of sizes and types of verticutting machines available
Verticutting is extremely effective in the fall, especially in conjunction with overseeding. Verticutting removes some thatch build up, opens up the black layer that can build during summer with heavy watering, and will promoted Kentucky bluegrass density and durability. Like core aeration, the clean up from verticutting can labor intensive. But just as core aeration, the benefit outweighs the challenge.

Timing: Verticutting can take place w/ a 3-5 day break and in no effects stability or playability of a field. For practice, a field could be verticut the same day as play.

Universe fraze mowing

Examples of Solutions:

Universe Fraze Mowing (KORO Field Topmaker w/ Universe® rotor
The new cultivation technique of Universe fraze mowing has now proven to be a valuable practice. This is especially in the fall on Kentucky bluegrass in combination with overseeding. Similar to verticutting, Universe fraze mowing promotes Kentucky bluegrass density and durability while removing thatch and organic buildups. But instead of removing 11-15% of material like verticutting, Universe fraze mowing removes up to 100% of the material to the desired depth. That depth is set above the growing point of the Kentucky bluegrass to allow re-generation. Universe fraze mowing also removes poa annua plants that are short rooted from summer stress, the poa annua seed bank on top of the field, and other weed seed that has accumulated. Universe fraze mowing also helps smooth the field surface.

Timing: The depth or aggressiveness of Universe fraze mowing varies depending on the window of time the field as off. A light Universe fraze mow cleans the very top of a field and can take place in a window of 10-14 days. Going more aggressive to remove more organic and poa annua can require up to 21-35 days, depending on the age of the field and the amount of prior maintenance.

Overseeding

Once fall cultivation is addressed/ planned, overseeding should be addressed. Overseeding in conjunction with the cultivation can added effectiveness to both practices. When preparing to overseed, consider a few different things:

Seed selection

New genetics in fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and ryegrass are changing what is possible for fields and overseeding. Fast germination, increased aggressiveness for spreading and filling in, and stronger roots for establishment and quicker playability all exist. Also lowering demands for dark green color is being replaced with an appreciation for aggressiveness and durability unlike ever before. All lead to a new world for seeding. For an example, consult SportsTurf.com online and read the July article by Ms. Julie Adamski about a Kentucky bluegrass field that went from seed to play in 35 days. From Seeding to Play in 35 Days. That feat has provided an example and confidence for grass field managers exploring using new seed varieties.

Additionally, the genetic improvements now make fescue and ryegrass capable of existing on high traffic fields together, in with Kentucky bluegrass, or even on their own. No longer do grass field managers have to hold their breath during disease stress times with these varieties. Do your homework on what is available from the seed companies you have existing relationships with, but consider possibly branching outside those relationships as well to find what is working for others. Keep in mind with seed; the old proverb “you get what you pay for” is 100% true.

Seed to Soil Contact

When seeding, no matter the variety you select, seed to soil contact is important. Soil contact ensures the seed is not sitting in the thatch layer or laying on top of the ground where is could dry out quickly or struggle to push roots down into the soil. There are a few different options for overseeding to will help promote seed to soil contact.

Seeding in conjunction with cultivation: Seeding following core aeration, solid tine aeration, verticutting, or Universe fraze mowing can promote seed to soil contact. Aeration holes give the seed cavities to fall down into the soil. This is effective especially for fields still in play during seeding as the crown of the plant grows below the surface where it is protected from cleats. Do not aerate too deep though if doing so to promote seed. Verticutting cleans some thatch out and creates linear channels for seed. Universe fraze mowing cleans the thatch completely from the top, but it still needs an additional cultivation to work the seed into the soil. Keep in mind that when seeding in conjunction with cultivation, the more surface area that is opened up, the better success seeding will have.
Using a penetrating seeder: Several different seed application machines are available on the market. With a seeder, just as when cultivating for seed, the more surface area that is penetrated the better off the seed application will be.
Seeding before heavy traffic: Our forefathers in grass field management have handed down this method through years of use. Applying seed to the high traffic areas of a field 1-2 days before a heavy use will allow play to create the seed to soil contact. An example would be seeding the center of a football field prior to play. Keep in mind that if using any clean up techniques following the heavy traffic, it could also pick up the seed. Follow the high traffic event with a deep irrigation cycle to settle in the seed to ensure success with this technique.
Topdressing to cover seed: Topdressing with sand, compost, or even lightly with the field’s native soil will create seed to soil contact. Keep in mind that too much topdressing burying the seed can be a bad thing .
Be Creative!

These are just a few ideas to help solve the complex challenge of fall cultivation and overseeding. Yes, there are many, many other ideas for meeting the challenge. Make sure to ask questions of your fellow grass field managers to create more possibilities to meet the challenge. Follow colleagues, STMA Chapters, and sports field managers around the world on social media to witness the creativity that others are using. Share your experiences equally for others to learn from your lessons to help build creativity and idea generation.

HGT Kentucky bluegrass under aggressive cultivation following 167 events in less than 6 months.

Key #1: Aggressive Cultivation

3 Keys to High Quality, High Traffic Grass Fields 


(Note:  3 Keys To High Quality, High Traffic Natural Grass fields is copyright of the Natural Grass Advisory Group and Growing Innovations).  

Key #1:  Aggressive Cultivation 

Concentrated foot traffic can quickly compact soil on grass fields. Compaction eliminates air space and leads to suffocating roots. The gasping roots weaken and the sword of grass to begins to thin out. Thinning, along with a sod or organic layer compound compaction leading to divots and blowouts.   Weak roots require additional hydration, yet water from irrigation and rainfall is not able to penetrate the compacted soils easily. A compacted field surface is a Sports Field Managers nightmare!

Cultivation solves the problems caused by compaction and yields increased turfgrass density and decreased water usage. Because water is better able to move through the soil profile, it also decreases the number of events cancelled due to rainfall.

However, on a high traffic field, the traditional “basic” approach to cultivation of a few times a year is NOT enough. A field under continual foot traffic requires continual aggressiveness with cultivation.

Yes, historically it has been taught that cultivation only needs to take place these few times a year.  And many times cultivation is avoided in a fear of actually causing more damage to a field. Especially during times that the field in experiencing heavy use. However we know the damage that compaction and surface hardness can cause.  Now GMax, compaction testing, and infiltration rate data all paints the picture for us even more clearly.

Limited, conservative cultivation has lead to the current public perception that natural grass surfaces can NOT sustain heavy use, need long periods of rest, and are rained out easily.  AvoidIng the fear to be aggressive while using good judgement on how and when now has evidence on counteracting those compaction issues and actually increase use on a grass field.

“Inaction may be safe, but it builds nothing.” Dave Freudenthal.  And if “you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.” Albert Einstein

Compacted soil on sideline of field showing last cultivation practice

Dictionary.com defines the word “aggressive” as “vigorously energetic, especially in the use of initiative and forcefulness”. This definition is an excellent outline to use in your decision making towards cultivation. A cultivation program should be “vigorously energetic”: implemented a minimum of 2-4 times per month. It should show “initiative and forcefulness”: taking place in short windows of opportunity between events and in conditions that may not typically be seen as ideal. This could mean cultivating cool season in the heat or working all night right after an event in order to utilize a short break completely. Finding time when it seems that there is no time.

 Examples:
FC Dallas Stadium, a high traffic soccer and football field (2011 STMA Professional Soccer FOY) sets the standard for what it means to be “aggressive”. Sports Field Manager Allen Reed aerates his field every Monday.  See More Here In a Feature He Shared With Us:  How Our Grass Field Takes More!

Elsewhere, Ryan Bjorn at Maryland SoccerPlex has a minimum of 1 operator continually  cultivating the 19 natural grass fields he oversees.  The non-stop process equates to a 7-10 day cycle between cultivation on fields that host over 350 events apiece each year from soccer, lacrosse, and sports camps. SoccerPlex Stadium was 2014 STMA Professional Soccer Field of the Year, making it one of the most high traffic fields to ever win the professional award.  Read More Here:  Turning Green Into Gold, Maryland SoccerPlex 

At Sporting Kansas City’s Swope Park Training Center fields, placed under high demands as well, Justin Bland never allows the fields to pass a cultivation window of 14 days.  With this approach, Sporting (then the Wizards) won STMA Professional Soccer Field of the Year in 2010 on the stadium field hosting both professional baseball AND professional soccer.  Read More Here:  Wizards Grounds Crew Earns FOY

Nationals Park in Washington, DC hosts Major League Baseball, concerts, and a variety of cooperate and community events.  John Turnour utilizes a form of cultivation between every single home stand.  He even sometimes doubles up on his cultivation practices and averages nearly 3x per month.

This aggressive cultivation keeps grass fields from experiencing turfgrass decline due to compaction. It also keeps water moving vertically through the field’s soil profile, increasing irrigation efficiency and reducing rainouts.


There are many forms and options for cultivation practices.  Here is an introduction to a few of those:

De-compaction Aeration
De-compaction aeration is one of the basic and accepted forms of cultivation. De-compaction aeration breaks up compaction deep in the soil, 8 to 10” deep. De-compaction aeration promotes water movement through the soil profile and allows roots to grow deep and strong. Two examples of de-compaction aeration are:

Soil Wave

Soil wave de-compaction following Universe fraze mow on bermudgrass

Soil wave de-compaction following Universe fraze mow on bermudagrass

Deep tine

Deep tine aeration

Deep tine aeration

Deep tine and core aeration in conjunction w/ one another on heavy compacted clay

Deep tine and core aeration in conjunction w/ one another on heavy compacted clay

Surface Aeration
Surface aeration another basic and accepted form of cultivation. Rapid tine aeration machines can make shallow tightly spaced holes to open the surface and allow air into the soil. Needle tines, knife tines, cross tines, etc all offer different options. Coring tines not only open the surface, they remove organic build up and reduce layering from sod. Slicing and spiking also open the surface as well.

Surface aeration via core aeration w/ rapid tine aerators

Rapid tine aeration w solid tines to vent surface following heavy play

Rapid tine aeration w solid tines to vent surface following heavy play

Aerway Surface Slicer

Aerway Surface Slicer

Recycle Dressing
Recycle dressing comes from a machine invented my Mr. Ko Rodenberg, former Superintendent of Park Maintenance in Rotterdam, Holland. All in one pass, the machine is able to accomplish both de-compaction and surface aeration. The recycler de-compacts the sub soil by removing soil with cutting blades. The surface soil is then opened up with slicing blades. Finally the machine “recycles” the removed material over the top of the surface as topdressing to be dragged back in.

Recycler dressing to de-compact and open the surface

Recycle dressing lines following dragging in sand

Recycle dressing lines from small blades on ryegrass following dragging in sand

Recycling dresser lines from big blades on Latitude bermudagrass following dragging

Recycling dresser lines from big blades on Latitude bermudagrass following dragging in sand

 Air Injection Aeration
Another unique and new form of aeration comes from air injection. Air injection machines force high-pressure air into the soil profile much like the former Toro hydroject force high- pressure water into the soil. The force of the air fractures even the hardest of soils to promote de-compaction and to re-introduce air into the profile.

Air Injection Machine

Brushing
Brushing is a very simple practice, but the results can pay dividends. Brushing stands up the grass and fluffs a good amount of thatch to the top of the canopy. Blowing, sweeping, and/ or catching clippings will help when there is a large amount of material brought up.

Brushing to bring up thatch

Verticutting
Verticutting is another basic and accepted from of cultivation for the attempted control of thatch and organic build up. Verticutting also promotes density and durability. Standard verticutting removes around 11% of the material, so use this practice as much as possible. Especially on actively growing bermudagrass.

Verticutting Kentucky bluegrass

Universe Fraze Mowing
With the statistic of standard verticutting removing approximately 11% of the surface material, Universe fraze mowing has been introduced in order to remove 100% of the desired depth of thatch and organic build up. Universe mowing also removes weak poa annua plants, poa annua seed, and other weed seed as well. The regeneration from Universe mowing promotes density and durability, eliminates surface slickness, and creates a smooth playing surface as well.

Universe fraze mowing bermudagrass

Universe fraze mowing Poa Annua out of Kentucky bluegrass


These practices, along with others, provide grass field managers with a wide range of cultivation techniques to implement as often as possible. Start small and expand.  1x every 2 months to 1x every 1 month is a 100% increase.  This is great!  If your salary was increased 100% today, think how happy you would be.  Same goes for the grass plants.

Yes, many times cultivation is avoided in a fear of causing more damage to a field.   Especially during times that the field in experiencing heavy use. However we know the damage that compaction and surface hardness can cause too.  AvoidIng the fear to be aggressive while using good judgement on how and when can counteract those compaction issues and increase use on a grass field.

Inaction may be safe, but it builds nothing.Dave Freudenthal.

Think different and take action. Grass fields can take more!

HGT Kentucky bluegrass under aggressive cultivation following 167 events in less than 6 months.

#ThinkDifferent: 3 Keys to High Traffic Fields

Grass Fields CAN Take More! Positive thinking and “thinking different” have established that.  The possibilities of grass fields are endless.

BUT HOW??? When it comes to current maintenance and real practicality, what changes to move forward and have your grass fields take more? 

Think Different.   Yes.  We are back to that! 

Each field’s current condition is created and maintained with an established approach.  How much has that approach changed from last year to this year? What about in the last 3 years?  5 years? 

Remember:  “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got”

Meeting the demands of increased traffic is stressful.  It can even be overwhelming to know where to start on changing a maintenance plan.  What a challenging task!  Walt Disney might have been right when he said “It is kind of do the impossible”.  But he left out the part about it being such hard work right?!  

In order to meet the demands of high traffic with grass fields and to evolve the maintenance approach, lets take a step back and simplify the challenge.  By breaking a maintenance approach into 3 keys to focus and “think different” about separately, the challenge becomes more manageable 

1)  Aggressive Cultivation

2) Nutrient Management

3) Traffic Management 

Jerad Minnick and Sarah Hardy wrote an article for SportsTurf magazine in October of 2012 that lays the foundation for these 3 keys.  Have a read of that article:  THREE KEYS to managing high traffic, high quality athletic fields

Did the concepts in the article create any new ideas for you?  Yes… it is still overwhelming to think about all of those things isn’t it?  Each key has so many actionable parts to think differently about.  With the challenge still looming and the ideas of that article being nearly 2 years old, let’s break down the 3 keys again.

Over the next week, together let’s break down each topic and share ideas, possibilities, and examples of implementation where it has been proven:  Grass fields CAN take more! 

IMG_4584

#ThinkDifferent. Grass Fields CAN Take More!

Growing Green Grass is dedicated to the possibilities of natural grass fields.  Grass fields CAN take more use!  The foundation for these possibilities of positive thinking.  Positive thinking encourages creativity and fuels the mind to Think Different about what is possible….

As children, we are encouraged to set goals for our lives and to “dream big”.  Walt Disney fills our lives with positive influence and encouraging quotes….

“If you can dream it, you can do it”

“All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”

And the ultimate…  “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”

Impossible.  As children, we are taught that nothing is impossible.  Then as we grew into teens, somewhere that spirit was lost.  The push of encouragement and confidence was replaced with “life lessons” and a “dose of reality”.  We can’t be little kid dreamers forever right?  And reality says so many things really are impossible.

Have you ever asked yourself when that change in life happened?  Who is it that got to decide what IS and is NOT possible?  

Why?  How?

Christopher Columbus didn’t get the impossible memo.  Nether did Alexander Graham Bell.  Or NASA.  Or Steve Jobs.  Impossible only fueled their work!

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself the same question about natural grass fields?  Why was it decide that it is impossible for natural grass fields to take high traffic?  Why are there limits on the use natural grass fields can take?  Where in time was it decide for us what IS and is NOT possible.

WHY?  HOW?  

In the childhood of grass field maintenance, the fore fathers of grass field management weren’t putting limits on how much a grass field could take.  They simply were trying to create a safe smooth surface for the players.  No large equipment. No advanced technology in fertilizer and plant genetics. No professional organizations to support them.  Now, the industry is greatly advanced in professionalism and technology.  It really is amazing!

Stop and ask yourself…  why is it IMPOSSIBLE for natural grass fields to meet the demands of high use?   What if instead of focusing on WHY its impossible for grass fields to take high traffic, you asked HOW can grass fields take high traffic?  Shed the boundaries created by someone else.  Use technologies and your own creativity to use and evolve new maintenance methods to meet the demands.  Can you bring back that positive thinking Disney spirit of “If you can dream it, you can do it“? Can you THINK DIFFERENT!?

YES YOU CAN!  Exciting isn’t it!?!?

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before becoming President of South Africa in 1994.  Mr. Mandela certainly knew that word IMPOSSIBLE.  Yet one of his famous quotes is “It always seems impossible until its done”.  Wow!  SO TRUE!  Our phones are computers in our pocket and men have walked on the moon.  Creating natural grass fields that can take high traffic IS achievable.  Grass fields CAN TAKE MORE!

Dynamic speaker and writer Harvey Mackay gives us the perfect closing story in this posting on impossible  

“A college student arrived a few minutes late for his final exam in mathematics. The room was quiet, with everyone working hard, and the professor silently handed him the test. It consisted of five math problems on the first page and two on the second. The student sat down and began to work. He solved the first five problems in half the time, but the two on the second page were tougher. Everyone else finished the exam and left, so the student was alone by the end of the time period. He finished the final problem at the last second.
The next day he got a phone call in his dorm room from the professor. “I don’t believe it! You solved the final two problems?”
“Uh, yeah,” the student said. “What’s the big deal?”
“Those were brain teasers,” the prof explained. “I announced before the exam that they wouldn’t count toward your final grade, but you missed that because you were late. But hardly anyone solves those problems in so short a time! You must be a genius!””

The student was able to answer them simply because he had not be told they were impossible.  He himself decided what is or is not impossible.

“Genius” is sometimes just not realizing that something is impossible.

Are you ready to be a GENIUS of natural grass fields?  Walt Disney was right… it is “FUN to do the impossible

THINK DIFFERENT.  GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE! 

Impossible-isnt-something-that-cant-be-done.-Its-just-something-that-hasnt-been-done-before