Baseball: the great American pastime. This month marks the beginning of baseball season. While baseball fields don’t have the same wear and tear as other sports, like football, they still need regular care, and attention or they will not only look poorly, but they can also affect the flow of the game. Read these helpful steps to follow to practice good athletic field maintenance.
Athletic Field Maintenance Best Practices
Keep Turfgrass Fertilized
Invest in a soil test that will give you a detailed read-out of all the minerals and nutrients your field lacks. From there, you’ll know exactly which fertilizer to apply to keep the grass green.
Don’t Relocate Puddles
While it may be tempting to rake or sweep a puddle off the dirt track and into the grass, this is highly inadvisable. This will make the puddles larger on the infield and form “lips” to form. If you didn’t know, the “lip” of the field is where the dirt meets the grass. Brushing or sweeping away puddles causes the lip to grow, which causes an uneven surface between the grass and the dirt. If the distance is great enough, players can trip when running from the infield to the outfield. Attempting to remove puddles also kills the grass. It’s better to use sump pumps or soak up the excess water with rags or even a mop. If possible, cover the infield with a rain tarp to help guard against excess water build-up. Lastly, don’t use moisture-absorbing products like sawdust or kitty litter.
The more foot traffic an athletic field gets, the faster the soil will become compacted. Compacted soil is hard and dense and causes the grass to thin out or stop growing altogether. It also doesn’t allow for adequate drainage. By aerating twice a year, you can increase the oxygen, sunlight, water, and nutrient levels and decrease the chances of puddling water. This is achieved using a specialized machine that drills hundreds of tiny holes in the turf and removes tiny plugs of soil. If you’re worried about having holes in your athletic field, fear not. Aeration is a common lawn renovation practice utilized by residential and commercial customers alike. It’s truly one of the best things you can do for any lawn, and athletic fields are no exception.
Do Not Over-water
Over-watering weakens the grass. Grass needs to learn to put roots down deep in the soil to seek out moisture. This allows the turfgrass to be more drought-resistant, tolerate stress better, and decrease disease. When there’s abundant moisture on the surface, the grassroots don’t have to work as hard. Ideally, it would be best if you watered directly after a game. Make sure to keep an eye on the weather reports, though. Grass needs only about 1 to 1.5 inches of water a week, including any rainfall.
Avoid Playing On Wet Grass
Playing on damp grass erodes the grade of the field and allows holes to form. When players perform in soggy conditions, it can increase the rate of soil compaction. It almost goes without saying, but allowing players to play on slippery turf can increase the risk of injuries. It’s better for the health of the players, and the turf, if you postpone a game under wet conditions.
Never remove more than 1/3 of your turfgrass blades. When grass is cut too short, it can stress out the plant and invite diseases, insects, and weeds. Keep grass between 2 and 3 inches. During the summer, this means about one or two times a week. Make sure to have blades sharpened about every six weeks during game season. If possible, try to avoid riding lawn mowers, as their excess weight can create divets and ruts. Use an edger on the grass lines to prevent the lip from growing.
Keep The Field Graded
Keeping a slight incline, or “grade,” to the infield will let water runoff naturally and avoid creating puddles. At RZ Sports Turf, we actually use lasers to grade your field for maximum precision.
Rakes Are Your Friend
Be sure to drag a rake across the infield after each game, especially the home plate and pitcher’s mound. By gently raking along the lip, you will prevent the formation of a large lip, as we’ve already talked about. This is also a great time to inspect for any low-lying spots. If you discover any, fill them in with loose dirt and gently tamp it down to keep a level grade and prevent a future problem down the road.
Patch With Sod
If you find bare or thinning areas of the outfield, you can quickly patch these areas with a sod installation. Thinning areas will continue to get worn down by foot traffic and soil erosion unless you address them. Sod gives you instant results, unlike seeding, which can take weeks.
Find Professional Athletic Field Contractors Near Fort Wayne
RZ Sports Turf is pleased to offer athletic field installation and maintenance services to Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, South Bend, and Valparaiso. We service baseball and softball fields, as well as football and soccer fields. To find out what we can do for your field, speak to an expert today! Call 574-674-5296 or contact us online to learn more.
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