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

The fall Ohio STMA newsletter is out!  As part of the article “Pro-Active Solutions for Fall Field Overseeding”, the following 2 case studies were posed.  The case studies allow readers an opportunity to interact and apply their own pro-active solutions to real world challenges.  Author Jerad Minnick will follow up on Monday Sept. 15th at 6pm EST with his own feedback on possible solutions.  

Share along with your own pro-active solutions here on GrowingGreenGrass or @OSTMA on twitter or fb… Use hashtag #fallseeding  

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? Take 5 minutes to create a solution and share it with your colleagues on twitter to @OSTMA and @JeradRMinnick, hash tag #fallseeding. I will share some solutions via GrowingGreenGrass.Net to @OSTMA and @JeradRMinnick on Monday September 15th.

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? Take 5 minutes to create a solution and share it with your colleagues on twitter to @OSTMA and @JeradRMinnick, hashtag #fallseeding. I will share some solutions via GrowingGreenGrass.Net to @OSTMA and @JeradRMinnick on Monday September 15th.


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Consider the ideas above and how they can be implemented in these two challenging situations:

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? Take 5 minutes to create a solution and share it with your colleagues on twitter to @OSTMA and @JeradRMinnick, hash tag #fallseeding. I will share some solutions via GrowingGreenGrass.Net to @OSTMA and @JeradRMinnick on Monday September 15th.

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? Take 5 minutes to create a solution and share it with your colleagues on twitter to @OSTMA and @JeradRMinnick, hashtag #fallseeding. I will share some solutions via GrowingGreenGrass.Net to @OSTMA and @JeradRMinnick on Monday September 15th.

Jerad Minnick is an international natural grass advisor and educator. Follow him on Twitter at @JeradRMinnick and find more ideas at GrowingGreenGrass.Net. Come interact in person with Jerad when he is a speaker at the Ohio Turfgrass Conference in December.

Greetings from Japan!

Happy Thursday morning from Tokyo, Japan.  Its only Wednesday night in the USA… hurry and catch up with us across the ocean!  Looking forward to the 1st ever Japanese Sports Field Manager workshop this afternoon.  No doubt some fantastic ideas will be exchanged!  

This trip to Japan has been extremely exciting and thought provoking already.  The highlights from Tuesday’s visit include: 

Tuesday:  A trip via bullet train south to Kobe, Japan.  Train travel at 200mph is certainly efficient.  The need for such travel in the USA is unfortunately a political discussion we will avoid…  But wow!  

In Kobe, we visited Noevir Stadium.  Noevir is home of Vissel Kobe of the J-League (Japanese top soccer league),  INAC Kobe Leonessa of the Japanese women’s soccer league, and the Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers of the Japanese Rugby Union top league.  Head Grounds Manager Kanji Yamanaka was very gracious with his time to show me around and share about his challenges and solutions.  Thank you to him for being so open and kind!  Noevir is extremely unique by American standards, as it is a 30,000 seat stadium with a retractable roof.  It was originally built for the World Cup in 2002.  

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Back aboard the bullet train, our next stop was Toyota Stadium in Toyota City, Japan.  It doesn’t take much to figure out that the Toyota Motor Company world headquarters is also in Toyota City.  Head Grounds Manager Mr. Osamu Tainaka ironically drives a shiny Dodge Challenger! haha.  Thank you to him for staying late to see us and for being so open as well.  Toyota Stadium is another stadium with a retractable roof, reaching a capacity of about 45,000 people.  Toyota Stadium is home to a J-League team as well, along with rugby, concerts, the FIFA Club World Cup (Toyota Cup), and multiple community events.  What an amazing structure!  

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Off to the Japanese Sports Field Managers workshop… but more updates to come on additional stadium visit!  Good night USA! 

Growing the Revolution!

IMG_3445From Growing Green Grass Founder Jerad Minnick:

2014 is off to an amazing start!  The STMA Conference in San Antonio was one of the most exhilarating events I have ever had the privilege to attend.  New ideas are everywhere.  People are excited about new possibilities.

The Grass Field Revolution is Alive!

With the Revolution growing, I am making a professional change to dedicate more to the possibilities of natural grass fields.  Starting March 10, I am moving into the role of President at Growing Innovations full-time.  Growing Innovations (www.GrowingInnovations.Net) is an education and support firm founded for one mission:  Establishing that Grass Fields CAN Take More!

Additionally, I am heading the Grass Stain Preservation Initiative to soon be introduced.  This initiative is designed to educate about the possibilities of grass fields at the grass-roots level: coaches, players, parents, and administrators.  This blog, Growing Green Grass, will also be expanding to provoke more thought. Growing Green Grass will provide additional free information about the possibilities of natural grass fields to those in need, in particular at the grass-roots level.

Leading the Grounds Management team at Maryland SoccerPlex has been an amazing experience.  Over and over again, our SoccerPlex team has achieved the “impossible”.  I am proud of how the SoccerPlex organization has been able to re-defined what is possible for high traffic natural grass fields.  There is no doubt the team and the facility will continue to improve and grow, and I am excited to be able to continue working with them in an agronomic support capacity.

Next week I am off to Japan to collect and share ideas, followed with a trip to Germany and France the following week as well.  Stay tuned for updates sharing the successes with high traffic fields in those countries and join the discussion on creating new possibilities for natural grass fields.

Happy Friday!