Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson

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Maintaining Sports Fields

If your job involves maintaining a field where athletes, no matter their age, are kicking a ball towards an opponent's goal, you know, the soccer season has arrived. Maybe your connection to the sport is from a different perspective, perhaps your son or daughter is on a soccer team. No matter the connection, everyone would like a nice field. Earlier this week, Dr. Pamela Sherratt with OSU's Department of Horticulture and Crop Sciences posted an article on the College's Sports Turf Management Website. We thought it was important to share this post for a couple reasons. The first is to share this excellent educational website and supporting materials with readers of the BYGL that also might have an interest in staying up to date or learning more about sport turf management. Additionally, we want to share the specific information that Pam has shared directly with the BYGL readers. 

Here is the information included in Pam's original post with photos. 

Soccer season is here! Practices are underway and games are scheduled for early April.

In an ideal world, soccer fields would have been renovated in the fall of 2021, so that there is 100% desirable grass cover, even in high-traffic areas like goal mouths, sidelines, and the classic triangular wear pattern created during games. In the real world, many school & Parks & Rec. fields need repairing now. So, what can you do?

Sod repair in a goal mouth. Sod can be bought from a supplier or grown on site

If no one is playing on the field yet and time allows (1 month +): Repair with sod.

Cut out the thin/bare goal mouth area, aerate and level the soil, & lay sod. Stagger the sod in a brick-like pattern to ensure a tight knit between seams. Lightly topdress with sand or high-quality topsoil, and brush in. This will stand the grass back up and seal seams. Use thick-cut sod if budget allows. Avoid sod with a plastic net backing as it may come to the surface and interfere with play later on. Carefully/judiciously feed and water the sod, periodically poking holes through it with a hand fork, to encourage rooting and growth. Keep people off until it has rooted.

Perennial ryegrass germinates in 3-5 days and can be playable in 3-4 weeks

If no one is playing on the field yet and time allows (1 month +): Repair with seed.

Prepare the goal mouth for seed (seed-bed preparation); fill in holes with good-quality topsoil or a soil material that matches the existing soil, relieve soil compaction, and rake level.

Seed perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), which will germinate in 3-5 days and provide ground cover in as little as three to four weeks. Seed at a rate of 8-10 lbs per 1,000 sq.ft. (40-50 g/M2). Choose varieties that show enhanced resistance to gray leaf spot, brown patch, and pythium diseases. Blend 3-5 varieties of ryegrass, or choose a seed mix of PRG + Kentucky bluegrass varieties that germinate fairly quickly. Broadcast or slit-seed.

Carefully/judiciously feed and water the seed. Keep people off until it has rooted.

Growth blankets/germination sheets are particularly useful at enhancing seed establishment and keeping people off the site.

If playing is happening NOW, or imminent: Regularly over-seed, lightly topdress, & roll.

If possible, rotate fields, move field boundaries etc. to spread wear among goal mouth areas.

Relieve soil surface compaction by poking holes with a hand fork or pencil tines. Do not overly disturb/damage the goal mouth by using aggressive soil cultivation equipment.

Seed perennial ryegrass at a rate of 8-10 lbs per 1,000 sq.ft. (40-50 g/M2). Choose varieties that show enhanced resistance to gray leaf spot, brown patch, and pythium diseases (blend 3-5 varieties). Broadcast seed weekly/biweekly. Don’t use a slit-seeder during the playing season unless the goal mouth has time to recover.

Carefully/judiciously feed and water the seed between games.

Growth blanket/germination sheet. Purchase a small one for goal mouths, or make your own. Geotextile can work great in a pinch.

Cover goal mouth with a growth blanket between games, to enhance seed germination and keep people off.

Remove goals posts between games to deter play. Also use signage, asking people to please stay off.

If grass cover is completely lost and the goals cannot be relocated or the field boundaries cannot be moved, the bare soil in that area should be lightly rolled prior to games to provide safety & stability. A light topdressing of sand can also help to keep quagmire conditions from developing.

Rec. field renovation. Before (L) and after (R), taken 4 weeks apart. It might not look pretty, but it’s safe and playable. An application of fertilizer + iron will help to mask color differences. A good mowing pattern helps too.

Take home messages:

  • Perennial ryegrass + fertilizer + judicious watering can make a big difference in a short period of time.
  • Don’t worry about weeds like crabgrass in high-traffic spots.
  • Rotate wear areas, if possible.
  • Use a blanket/cover if you have one.
  • Politely keep people off using signage and removing goal posts between games.

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