My Top Three Field Management Practices for Clipper Magazine Stadium
by, Anthony DeFeo, Brickman Sports Turf Services
1. Working Infield Edges
In the world of professional baseball, groundskeepers spend a lot of time working infield edges to promote a clean transition from the grass to the infield skin. I frequently get called out to a high school or recreation field and the first thing we address is this area. Often a lip, which is a buildup of material, is a big concern for coaches and parents. Usually when I get a call it requires cutting the lip out, which is labor intensive. However, with 10 to 15 minutes after a game and 45 minutes between home stands, you can have perfect edges.
After each game, I like to take a fan rake or shop broom and push back any material that has made it on to the grass areas. For amateur leagues, I recommend coming up with a schedule and alternate team members to complete the task. While the fan rake or shop broom is a quick maintenance tip, some additional time should be spent while the field is not in use. Sometimes groundskeepers will use a water hose to remove any material in the edge of the grass. I like this method as well but last summer was extremely rainy where we did not see the sun for days. The water hose method is not ideal in this situation. Last summer I frequently used a steel rake with fine teeth or a dethather rake. This helped remove any debris from the grass edges without using water.
2. Verticutting as Aeration
My second best turf management tip is verticutting my turf areas. Verticutting is great because it has three positive benefits for both cool and warm-season turf. First, you are dethatching your thatch layer. This will help clean out the top layer of your field, help with nutrient uptake and speed up vertical drainage.
Second, verticutting is another form of aeration. While you are vericutting you are slicing through your turf, creating a void in your turf just like conventional aeration. Depending on the size of the blade, you can customize the cultivation.
The third benefit is that it makes your field thicker. Unlike conventional aerating, a verticutter slices through your turf, so not only are you removing thatch, you are slicing through your rhizomes, which will help promote new growth. However, verticutting is very aggressive and should be scheduled properly. I recommend giving yourself three full growing weeks before a major event. Using a thinner blade more often will help reduce recovery compared to using a larger size.
3. Think Outside the Box
Sometimes you need to get creative. Last year was a really rainy one for a lot of groundskeepers. Here in Lancaster, Pa., we put the tarp on the field more than 60 times compared to only 27 times in 2010. Many times we had to tarp the infield over night, which is something I do not like to do. Depriving your infield grass of natural rain water and smothering your turf with a large tarp is not a best practice. My outside the box solution to this turf dilemma was to the use the fan from our inflatable slide. After securing the tarp, I would position the fan at the middle edge of the tarp, blowing fresh air under the tarp. Not only did this keep the air circulating under the tarp, but the air bubble in the middle helped push the water toward the end of the tarp.