Sports field perfection is a noble pursuit for all sports field managers, and the aesthetics of a sports field are just as important as the field’s play. Since spring is almost here there’s no time like the present to get your sports field ready for the upcoming games, matches and clashes. Utilizing quality tools is one of the best ways to achieve success with both the look and playability of a field.
These key areas of the field benefit from focused time and attention. Here are a few tips and tools to help you maintain a first-class quality field.
Infield Skin Management
To manage your current infield skin, which is the non-turf area around home plate and the bases, the first step is moisture control. To help maintain moisture in the skin, it’s best to use an infield conditioner. The latest advances in infield mix technology aid in moisture management, playability and dust control. Like turf soils, the performance of an infield soil analysis followed up by a mix amendment allows you to engineer and optimize your infield mix.
A Ewing green wheelbarrow with its 6 cubic foot capacity is a simple way to transport the conditioner. When it’s paired with heavy-duty scoop shovels and sifting scoops, you can efficiently and uniformly apply the conditioner.
For daily maintenance of your infield, utilize a steel drag mat, a steel lawn roller and a quality rake to smooth uneven surfaces and eliminate the regular wear and tear of cleats and traffic. If you have a really hard infield, try a welded steel nail drag made especially for difficult areas.
In the spring, the first step in turf irrigation is to audit the entire irrigation system. Evenly spaced sprinkler heads with consistent flow are vital to healthy turf growth.
Start troubleshooting by reviewing the general turf area for leaks or puddling. Utilize a round point shovel to reach underground areas that need repair, and a closed back drain spade for digging straight down. Any broken risers can be removed from threaded PVC fittings by using a riser extractor. To remove water from valve boxes or other areas, take advantage of a hand pump made of high impact PVC.
To diagnose cable and equipment faults in 2-wire systems without opening splices, try a milliamp clamp meter that simply clamps over wires in a control cable. And just in case you need to track where underground cables are located, use a digital cable locator with an easy to follow signal.
Also remember to check all the valves for proper operation, both diaphragms and solenoids. Ideally, valves and valve boxes are located outside the field of play both for player safety and for ease of maintenance. To detect short, open wires and check solenoid condition, use an irrigation station test kit, which includes a bright white LED headlight for dim conditions.
As you’re maneuvering around the field, keep parts and components at the ready with a small satchel-style storage case.
Skin and Clay Area Maintenance
Both the skin and clay areas need to be watered sufficiently during the day to keep moisture deep in the infield profile. A well-watered area makes for much safer and predictable play for the athletes while also keeping the dust down.
Additional watering can be done by adding a hose with a hose-end nozzle into a quick coupler to touch up skin or mound and plate clay areas.
To have improved footing and performance in the high-wear areas, we recommend using packing clay. Then use a Sweet Spot tamp to press down the clay into a uniform surface. The tamp is sold in two pieces as a head and a handle. In order to preserve these clay areas, cover them with a spot cover when the fields are not in use.
Fertilizer and Turf Edge Care
The basis for any fertilizer program is soil analysis through a soil test. To sample various soil types, try a steel soil probe with a screw-on tip. While there are many different options for spreaders, we recommend the durability of a professional spreader with a solid stainless steel axle instead of a spreader with plastic parts.
Don’t forget a pre-emergent for weed control. Apply a pre-emergent twice annually, once in spring and again in the fall. If fields are going to be overseeded, apply a pre-emergent 8 weeks prior to overseeding.
Turf edges should be measured, cut and defined. Also, once a week, a hose with a hose-end nozzle should be used to power wash migrated infield materials out of the turf profile along the edges. This prevents build up and eventual lips from forming. Consider using a non-slip grip aluminum rake when you’re grading your sports field as well as a 2-way hoe for any pesky weeds that may appear.
Sports Field Additions
To give your field an added crisp and professional look, consider adding paint and updated accessories. The best way to start is to stripe the turf for aesthetics using a walk-behind, airless paint sprayer. The Graco FieldLazer is useful for spraying bulk paint on multiple turf foul lines and for logos as well.
A durable mesh windscreen provides privacy and creates a professional look. They’re available in a variety of colors and can be customized for each team.
And keep an eye on youth bases, youth pitching rubber and home plates, which all need to be replaced every few years.