order of renovation procedures for sports field

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DJB, Oct 25, 2011.

  1. DJB

    DJB LawnSite Member
    Messages: 43

    I posted this in the Sports fields management forum but am reposting here because it looks like the other forum doesn't get as much traffic.

    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.
  2. 32vld

    32vld LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,983

    Kind of late for kbg to germinate. Air temp at night can't go below 50 f and soil temp has to be 60 f if I remember correct.

    Over aerating only truncates more grass roots. One pass so do well unless some spots are compacted down for play as in front of a soccer goal.

    If your going to top dress then there is no need for slit seeding. A light top dress over the seeds will ensure that there will be good soil to seed contact for germination.

    You have compaction problems and you want to roll?

    High spots are due to poor sod installation. Rolling at this point is not going to do anything. Horse left the barn and now they want the doors put on and closed.

    Top dressing a 1/2 inch is not going to have to be raked out with a fence, rake or anything. Do you rake out fertilizer, or lime? No because the spreader spreads it even. Same with a top dress machine. It spreads it out evenly.

    Customer wants top soil, seed will grow better in top soil then in sand. Why are you pushing sand?

    Putting an extra 1/2 down in the low spots won't hurt, but won't raise them that much. The high spots need to be lowered. Harley rake would work nice to lower the high spots, then re seed.

    Uneven fields, best to tell the customer unless they are willing to truck in a lot of top soil, and or lower the high spots with a harley rake or grader, and spend lots of money, and see a lot of the sod they paid for be turned into large brown areas are better off at initial harley rake on the high spots and top dressing the low spots, then following up with yearly top dressing to bring up the low spots to grade. Athletic fields always develop low spots due to compacting, erosion from weather, and athletic traffic.

  3. DJB

    DJB LawnSite Member
    Messages: 43

    Thanks 32vid. Those were some helpful insights. A couple clarifications.

    I should have made clear that the plan was to wait a couple weeks until ground temps were under 50 degrees and the seeding would be a dormant seeding.

    Another detail (I was attempting - somewhat unsuccessfully to be brief - in my first message) I need to add is that drainage is somewhat of an issue and I was hoping the sand would help. Also my understanding was that more sand was advisable in the soil structure of an athletic field and would help with the small bumps. That is why I was wondering about sand.

    The client recognizes that removing larger swales is a multi-year process and the hope was to continue topdressing over the next few years to raise up those swales.

    I had the same concern about rolling but they requested it. I had wondered about rolling first to try to level some of the smaller bumps and letting the aeration afterwards mediate any resulting compaction.

    Does that hold true for the slit seeding even given the thick matted composition of a field put down as sod?

    If I don't run the slit seeder or rake afterwards do I need to pick up the aeration cores?

    How does the order look?

    Thanks to anyone with imput
  4. DJB

    DJB LawnSite Member
    Messages: 43

    One more thing. I had heard that aerating up to 10% of the surface was beneficial (or one 3/4" core per 2 square inch area). I have gone over areas three times with my tractor pulled aerator and not gotten anywhere near that coverage. That's why I was thinking some many passes (especially if I was changing soil structure with sand).
  5. 32vld

    32vld LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,983

    Aeration cores will break down and disappear on their own. Never a need to touch them.

    Adding 1/2 sand on the top of the grass is not going to chance the soil structure enough to improve drainage. Waste.

    Are they saying there is a drainage problem because the low spots do what low spots do, collect water?

    Many sports fields have a slight crown not easily noticed graded down the center lenth of the field so that the water runs off to the sidelines of the field.

    If not gaded with such a crown, they must be made aware that the field was not properly graded from the beginning.

    They must be made to understand that 1/2 of top dressing is not going to magically correct a job that was engineered wrong from the beginning.

    Also if in that region it's known that soil has poor drainage such as high clay content the field needed to have a drainage system put in place before sod was put down.

    The whole remove a foot or so of soil, put down suitable rock sub bases, layer of sand, top soil, along with drainage pipes to carry water away that drains down through the base.

    Sounds like you have a bunch of people that want a perfect lawn but were not willing to spend the money needed to give them the quality they wanted.

  6. johnyredd99

    johnyredd99 LawnSite Member
    from gap,pa
    Messages: 163

    Putting earings on a pig.
    No matter how much you dress it up it will always be just a pig
  7. DJB

    DJB LawnSite Member
    Messages: 43

    Thanks 32vid. Some helpful perspectives. Any other opinions out there? Will topdressing over time correct the swales? The client is not open to a total overhaul at this point. Yes there is an intentional crown but the swales I refer to are unintentional dips on both sides of the center crown which run parallel to it. The whole thing drains slowly but the worst areas are nearer to the sidelines. What about the order I've laid out? Anyone else with opinions there?
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    If the ground is soft and you can roll by hand, I guess it is worth a shot... What people fail to realize is that if the ground is that easily shaped with a roller, the tractor tires are going to have an even larger impact...

    I would add the sandy topsoil first and run around with a chainlink fence or other drag to level... once I was happy with those results I would aerate, drag, overseed and drag again...

    The main thing is to analyse the purpose of each step... if that purpose will not be accomplished adequately, then it needs to be re-evaluated...
  9. DJB

    DJB LawnSite Member
    Messages: 43

    Thanks Smallaxe
  10. dhardin53

    dhardin53 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 710

    One thing you could do is aerate. Plenty this fall and again some in the early spring and once again when the weather warns up good and the grass is growing good.

    A good core aerate will punch a deep hole in the high spots and punk a shorter hole in lower spots. Hench in time the ground will seek a level balance. aerate will help get the water from standing in puddles and get the water to the roots faster.

    Nothing wrong with top dressing but it takes time and equipment. Unless you have been around someone that has experience in top dressing I would not jump into this expense just yet. Top dressing will make a lot of difference fast but it could look hacked/choppy if not applied correctly. It all takes time but spend you time aerating is probly your safest first step.

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