Managing Athletic Turf: Renovation of a Closed Field
When a field is closed for renovation, soil compaction and turf density are considered the top issues to address. During the course of a season, sometimes soil becomes so compacted that it actually kills some of the roots. In addition, the areas where most foot traffic occurs become bare and, at times, a hole will begin to develop. Needless to say, compaction and turf density are the cause of most safety hazards on our turf and need to be addressed properly.
In order to restore a field, a series of processes need to be implemented. The order and frequency of these processes are determined by the type and degree of damage observed. On average, the following steps are taken:
- Aerate the turf to provide the roots with air and water. Aeration allows for better water infiltration, reduces compaction, and increases rooting into the underlying soil.
- Mow the field with vertical blades to remove thatch and break stolon. This process causes the plant to generate new growth from its corona and other parts without having to re-seed the area. This also creates grooves on the turf to allow new seed to have direct contact with dirt and receive protection from the elements.
- Repair overly damaged areas by planting sod.
- Over-seed turf with appropriate seed mix (i.e. perennial rye blend or Bermuda)
- Apply topper mulch. This type of mulch is made with organic materials and is applied at an average depth of 1/16th of an inch.
- At this point some type of inorganic fertilizer can be applied to assist the seed with germination and growth into maturity. Usually at the time of seeding, a fertilizer with low Nitrogen content but high on Potassium and Phosphorus is appropriate to assist with germination and root development. After germination, a high Nitrogen fertilizer can be used to assist in more rapid growth.
- During the growing season (spring and early summer), sod can root in 4 to 6 days, and seed can germinate in 7 to 10 days. Sod is usually play-ready in two weeks, whereas seed needs 6 to 8 weeks to reach maturity and sustain the foot traffic associated with soccer games and practices.
- During this time, irrigation checks need to be made throughout the week so that the correct amount of water is applied. Dry conditions, coupled with high winds and extreme heat, will kill the turf in a matter of days. Wet conditions create an anaerobic environment in the soil and this can also kill the plant due to lack of Oxygen.
- After germination and a growth period of 2 to 3 weeks, the turf is mowed at a predetermined height (1 1/2 to 2 inches) never cutting more than a third of the plant at a time. If all the necessary elements (weather, timing of applications, closures, etc.) are present, then the results can come quick and be amazing.
- After 4 to 6 weeks of growth the soccer fields are measured and lines are painted to meet the specifications of upcoming tournaments.
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