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  #1  
Old 10-25-2011, 02:10 PM
DJB DJB is offline
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Location: West Chicago IL
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order of procedures in sports field renovation

Hi, I've been in the mowing business for several years but am new to sports fields. I do lawn maintenance for a local K-8 school including 1 competition field and two practice fields. The competition field (Kentucky Blue Grass) was installed from sod 18 months ago and is irrigated. I've been asked to aerate, slit seed, top dress (they requested top soil - I'm wondering if sand would be better) and try to level out small bumps and begin filling in some of the major swales (when the grading was done long swales running parallel to the crown were left). I'd appreciate advise on the various steps and their order. My initial plan is

1. water a couple days before so that the aeration is more effective
2. Mow as low as I can without scalping (probably 2.5 inches)
3. Once the soil moisture is right, aerate very heavily (maybe 6 times)
4. slit seed with 4#/1000sf of Kentucky Blue mixture
5. topdress with 1/4 of topsoil (I'm renting a tractor pulled topdresser)
6. As I am topdressing, stop at some of the low swales and unload extra topsoil (maybe another half inch)
7. Rake the topsoil in with a piece of chain link fence

They also want the field rolled. At what point should this be done. They are hoping that rolling will smooth the minor bumps but also lower some of the higher ridges adjacent to the swales. Can rolling accomplish this? What about compaction? Thanks for any advice.

Last edited by DJB; 10-25-2011 at 02:14 PM. Reason: Confusion over which forum I was in
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  #2  
Old 10-25-2011, 02:15 PM
DJB DJB is offline
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Sorry I posted the same question twice. I was confused.
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  #3  
Old 10-26-2011, 06:07 AM
tcjim tcjim is offline
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Renovation process

Hi DJB, looks like you have a good plan, but. I wouldn't do anything without a soil test first. A minimum of N-P-K and pH requirements is important. Along with a chemical analysis, I typically get a sand, silt, clay analysis so I know what kind of soil I am dealing with. I use a soil lab called Spectrum Analytic. they can be reached at spectrumanalytic.com Selection of a good quality topsoil is critical. If you can get a soil blended with either mushroom compost or at the least leaf compost you will be adding some organic matter along with the soil. I had a guy once tell me. If you are using topsoil to fill holes and low spots on a field, use a soil very similar to the existing soil. If you fill holes with a topsoil that is too sandy you will end up with soft wet areas in the field when it rains because those sandy areas will hold water like a sponge. On the other hand, if you are using the soil to smooth the field you should be using either soil with a sandy loam classification or loamy sand unless the existing soil is more sandy than that. These classifications are determined by the amount of sand, silt and clay in the soil. Topdressing with straight sand is a double edged sword. In theory, topdressing with sand will soften a tight soil and increase drainage. The flip side is that topdressing with too fine a sand will turn soil to concrete. I stay away from straight sand unless the objective is to change the qualities of the existing soil. Depending on the condition and quality of the field I might choose a mixture of bluegrass and tall fescue rather than a straight bluegrass blend. Not sure if tall fescue does well in your neck of the woods. It might be tough to get straight bluegrass established this time of year since my understanding is that bluegrass can take up to 30 days to germinate and that puts us in December. Banking on the seed overwintering and germinating in the spring is a crap shoot. If the field is a really worn and abused field I might opt to use straight perennial rye. It germinates quickly and has the best early traffic tolerence. It would probably give the best germination rate for this time of year. Perennial rye color will not typically match a straight bluegrass field so it is important to consider all the options when making a decision on what seed to use. With all that being said, your list and order of procedures seems pretty good.
Rolling to take the frost out of the ground and rolling to smooth existing bumps are two different things. Personally I would depend on the topdressing to smooth the field. Rolling with a one ton roller "without" the vibration probably wouldn't't hurt and would help to set the seed if it is done at the end of the process. I wouldn't't go out of my way to do it unless they request it specifically. I once had a volunteer roll a soccer field I was maintaining with a Komatsu roller with the turf tires in the rear and about a seven foot wide X five foot high roller in the front. I thought he would destroy the field. Actually, all it did was smooth the grass clumps. the kids footprints actually went deeper that the roller. that was an important lesson for me.
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Old 10-26-2011, 11:32 AM
DJB DJB is offline
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Hi DJB, looks like you have a good plan, but. I wouldn't do anything without a soil test first. A minimum of N-P-K and pH requirements is important. Along with a chemical analysis, I typically get a sand, silt, clay analysis so I know what kind of soil I am dealing with. I use a soil lab called Spectrum Analytic. they can be reached at spectrumanalytic.com

Hi tcjim. Thank you very much for your thoughts. I neglected to say that I did get a basic soil fertility test taken earlier this year and the lab told me that we had no problems which stood out. I must say I am not experienced in reading the analysis myself. I did not have a sand, silt, clay analysis done but I do have the specs from what was supposedly installed 18 months ago.

Selection of a good quality topsoil is critical. If you can get a soil blended with either mushroom compost or at the least leaf compost you will be adding some organic matter along with the soil.

Do you think a blend is better than a rotation? We had discussed doing a yearly rotation of one time soil, one time compost, one time sand.

I had a guy once tell me. If you are using topsoil to fill holes and low spots on a field, use a soil very similar to the existing soil. If you fill holes with a topsoil that is too sandy you will end up with soft wet areas in the field when it rains because those sandy areas will hold water like a sponge.

That makes sense

On the other hand, if you are using the soil to smooth the field you should be using either soil with a sandy loam classification or loamy sand unless the existing soil is more sandy than that. These classifications are determined by the amount of sand, silt and clay in the soil.

Do you have any ideas off the top of your head what kind of ratios we're talking about? Or any resources to point me to? How thick would you apply it to smooth the field?

Topdressing with straight sand is a double edged sword. In theory, topdressing with sand will soften a tight soil and increase drainage. The flip side is that topdressing with too fine a sand will turn soil to concrete. I stay away from straight sand unless the objective is to change the qualities of the existing soil.

That makes sense. I'm not being asked to change the qualities of the soil at this point

Depending on the condition and quality of the field I might choose a mixture of bluegrass and tall fescue rather than a straight bluegrass blend. Not sure if tall fescue does well in your neck of the woods. It might be tough to get straight bluegrass established this time of year since my understanding is that bluegrass can take up to 30 days to germinate and that puts us in December. Banking on the seed overwintering and germinating in the spring is a crap shoot.

We had been planning to wait a few weeks and do it as a dormant seeding. This seems risky to you? Is the concern that the seed will "erode" away with melting snow? Does the slit seeding alleviate that concern? Yes tall fescue does grow here but my concern is that the turf was installed sod (straight Kentucky Blue) am reticent to introduce something else. Is this wise?

If the field is a really worn and abused field I might opt to use straight perennial rye. It germinates quickly and has the best early traffic tolerence. It would probably give the best germination rate for this time of year. Perennial rye color will not typically match a straight bluegrass field so it is important to consider all the options when making a decision on what seed to use.

The field is not terribly worn except the goal mouths. I think compaction is more of an issue. Because the two practice fields were done from seed and took too long to come in. This field has been used for everything including P.E. classes. It grows extremely slowly even in wet periods. Another company was contracted to do the fertilizing.

With all that being said, your list and order of procedures seems pretty good.
Rolling to take the frost out of the ground and rolling to smooth existing bumps are two different things. Personally I would depend on the topdressing to smooth the field. Rolling with a one ton roller "without" the vibration probably wouldn't't hurt and would help to set the seed if it is done at the end of the process. I wouldn't't go out of my way to do it unless they request it specifically. I once had a volunteer roll a soccer field I was maintaining with a Komatsu roller with the turf tires in the rear and about a seven foot wide X five foot high roller in the front. I thought he would destroy the field. Actually, all it did was smooth the grass clumps. the kids footprints actually went deeper that the roller. that was an important lesson for me.

Very Interesting. They have specifically requested rolling. You don't think rolling freshly topdressed turf would create a problem?

Thanks again for all the insight
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  #5  
Old 10-26-2011, 04:26 PM
tcjim tcjim is offline
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renovation process

Topdressing a rotation of materials on a yearly basis is extremely dangerous. Layering of different materials can cause problems with drainage and also rooting. I would try to find a material that represents a sample of what you would eventually like the rootzone to be and stick with that material.

I would not apply more than 1/4" of material at any given time. depending on the topsoil you have in your area, a 1-1-1 blend of topsoil-compost-"medium" or "coarse" sand is a potentially beneficial topdressing material. I prefer a topdressing between 65% and 85% sand when topdressing native soil fields.

Incidentally, never use a sand with more than 5% calcium. In my area, sands come from granite. A high calcium sand can again cause cementing of the soil.

If this is a high profile field with relatively little bare area, I would stick with a bluegrass blend. slice seeding does tend to stay where you put it. I would not be concerned with movement of the seed. In a perfect world, I would have done the renovation in the middle of August rather than now. With sports, you do it when you can do it.

I think you are putting the success of your renovation in someone elses hands if you are not in charge of the fertilizing of this field. I would try to take over the fertilization. If the fertility levels are in line and there are no problems with the rootzone, the only thing holding back the growth of this field is fertilizer. I would make sure this field gets at least 4 lbs. of nitrogen each year with approximately 1/3 of that nitrogen in the spring. As long as you have irrigation you could even go 5 lbs of nitrogen.

Effectively rolling the field doesn't mean compacting it like a parking lot. A 1 ton roller with the vibration off probably applies less lbs. per square inch than the tractor you are using for aeration, seeding, topdressing etc.
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  #6  
Old 10-26-2011, 04:36 PM
DJB DJB is offline
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Very Helpful. Thanks.
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  #7  
Old 10-26-2011, 04:40 PM
DJB DJB is offline
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I had thought of putting down around .3/4" of topdressing in the areas I am trying to raise (1/4" elsewhere). Will I endanger the sod with that amount. Do I need to cut back to 1/8" as a base level and 1/4" where I want to start bringing it up? It would be a slow process wouldn't it?
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Old 10-26-2011, 07:26 PM
tcjim tcjim is offline
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I like to stick with about 1/4" when I do renovations. that amounts to about 50 cubic yards on a soccer field. You can go a little more in the low spots. Too much more and you start to smother out the existing grass. Its kind of a judgement call as far as what makes the field safer and more playable.
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core aeration , order , slit seeding , sports fields , top dressing

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