Poor grass growth, discoloration or shallow roots are all indicators of poor drainage. A test hole will indicate if it’s only the top few inches that are wet and the subsoil dry. If so, the problem may be compaction occurring around 4 to 5 inches deep. Grass roots that are unable to break through the compacted layer will live in the top few inches of the soil, which will get saturated quickly when it rains and dry out quickly when conditions improve. If the drainage is poor because water is unable to move through a clay subsoil, installing a drainage system is essential.

Gerry Korb
Chief Executive Officer/Port Industries


Field managers should examine the soil surface and profile to reveal poor drainage problems. Managers should look for algae growth on the soil surface or black layer in the soil profile. Surface algae is a sign the soil has a slow infiltration rate or that the water is slow in being absorbed into the soil. Water remaining on the soil surface provides ideal conditions for algae growth. When examining the soil profile, poorly draining soil creates a black layer, which is an anaerobic condition resulting from a lack of oxygen. Water occupies the available pore space and displaces the oxygen. If either of these two conditions is present, the next step is to identify the cause of the drainage problems.

Kevin Crowe
Agronomist-Senior Vice President/SubAir Systems LLC


Having installed drainage systems on more than 1,000 athletic fields worldwide, I see and hear of all kinds of poor drainage issues on natural turf athletic fields. The common theme I hear from field managers is:

  • We have had to cancel or reschedule several games when we get 1 inch of rain.
  • We can’t mow the field for days.
  • We have standing water on parts of the field.
  • We can’t get good growth on our grass because of compaction or the field is never dry enough.

The bottom line: Drainage is an out-of-sight and out-ofmind issue when you don’t need it. But when you do need it, you know it. Poor drainage is an easy fix. It’s one that we handle on a case-by-case scenario.

Jim Surrell
Director of Sales/Hydraway Drainage Systems