Organic Ball Field ?'s

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Left Field, Jan 3, 2008.

  1. Left Field

    Left Field LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    Hello Group ,

    A short intro ... I live on the Oregon Coast and have recently completed a Baseball field at my house and I am hoping to go ' organic ' in its care . I am hoping for some guidance !! :>)

    An overview ... The field was constructed by removing a stand of alders and pulling the ' duff ' aside ... when I reached native topsoil , it was stored onsite and I removed clay until I was 18" below finish grade and then the topsoil was the brought back . I tilled and leveled for EVER ( laser leveling for finish grade ) and finally planted a 3 way Perennial Ryegrass mix on May 1 st '07 . My grass seems very healthy and the local golf course supers all feel like I'm on the right track ... however ....I'm not convinced .

    I have been using a 25-7-12 slow release fert that sure seems to keep things nice and green .... if I water ALOT . I have a 3,000 gallon tank and in the late summer and early fall I was watering every day ( and mowing at least every other day .. often daily ). If I did't water , the field would get almost crispy to the touch and the ' green-ness ' would suffer within a day or so .

    I aerated the field Oct. 10 th.( and then applied a 6-15-15 and a ton of granulated gypsum ) and the plugs that I removed showed a very shallow root base . My hope is to create a field that won't need to be watered so much ... my reading tells me that deep roots are the answer .

    My goal is to feed my field good quality nutrients to create a genuinely healthy and resilient stand of grass .... rather that a ' caffeinated ' field that will ' tire ' easily .

    Any and all info will be appreciated !!!

    Thank You !! J.D. Morris
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Watering daily = shallow roots. Not to mention pushing out air and inducing compaction. You want a drying time for air. Otherwise they stay on top for air.

    I also believe when grass wakes up in the spring it is an opportunity for it to grow deeper into the ground where nutrients have been stored and worked by microbes, frost and worms. Topdressing in the spring means the roots stay on top instead.

    If you have 18" of topsoil you certainly don't need fertilizer for a couple of years. Yes , you make get greener - but you have no root with fertilizer. Worry about color once you have a strong healthy root system. IMHO.

    I realize this all goes against conventional wisdom. My experience however is in hayfields that did not really get much fertilizer at all. Certainly no irrigation. After 3 - 7 years it was very difficult to plow because the roots were all the way down to the subsoil.
    The fields that were left for 7 years were often overrun by a KBG variety that had naturalized in Wisconsin. It is a poa that we call Junegrass. That is what I would use here for a ball field. If you have something growing naturally in your area that may be the way to go.
    Good luck.
  3. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Welcome, I will premise with, it is hard to give accurate information without being on site. Your biggest issue right now for an organic program is no biomass in the soil.
    A couple of questions: do you know the percentage of organic matter in the soil, it is referred to as SOM (soil organic matter), if it is 5 to 7% we are in good to great shape.
    Are you trying to go with an all organic land stewardship approach or a hybrid of organic and synthetic.
    How often is the ball field used? Is it a public park, meaning will you have K-12 kids on there often?

    You have changed an existing, and I will assume many years old, landscape into a ball field and have moved a lot of soil around. There is a term called succession which is the point that soils start out at after a big disturbance like this.
    The organisms in the soil around the alders had been established for some time. You have scooped them up and moved them around and added a lot of light and a completely different environment, this effects the fungi especially hard.

    In order to get the roots in the soil to penetrate you must start a good soil fertility program. Back off on the fertilizers and find a good source of fungal compost, ask for the testing data. If you call the recyclers in your area, they will know what you are asking, if they don't take them off your list and call the next guy.
    You are in an area that has been doing organic lawn care for 20 years, they have figured out the kinks and produce excellent results.

    There are a couple ways to go about it but here are some suggestions
    If you can handle it, plan to aerate again in the spring
    Ask around and see if you can find a local native grass that does well in you area
    Find a hydroseeder company and ask them if they could apply a mix of compost tea and a slurry of one yard of fungal compost per 275 gallons, this will have to be a quarter inch minus compost to get through the hydroseeder hose so it will have to be screened. I know it sounds like a pain but on large areas this is the most effecient way to apply compost.

    Learn about compost teas, there are only about 200,000 people in Washington and Oregon that do this. In other words it is mainstream lawn care in your area.

    As the biology comes back in the soil it will move in succession and start to get you to a place where the soil needs to be slightly bacterial but mostly a 1 to 1 ratio of bacteria to fungi.

    Alfalfa, corn and soy meals are commonly used to get protein in the soil and feed the beneficial microrganisms. The good guys in the soil like the same things we do to eat, proteins, sugars and carbohydrates. The plant roots will supply most of the carbs and sugars, you may have to supplement with meals. A little long winded but it should give you a good place to start
  4. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

  5. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504

    Really???? That's the only way I can manage watering???? How have I been managing my watering for the last 28 years???? How did I ever make it without some sensor equipment???? I guess just being observant isn't enough. LOL...give me a break!
  6. Left Field

    Left Field LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    Bill , Smallaxe , Kiril & Gerry ....

    Thanks for your responses !! If there ever was a guy that needed direction ... it's me !!!

    My field will see almost daily use from March thru July ( when dry enough ) . While the use will be often , it will be ' light use ' ... as only my Little League team will use it ... no city use at all . Mostly a practice field for my team .

    When I plugged it in October , it was quite disruptive to the field ... it really ' violated ' it ( it almost appeared to have ' released ' from the soil ... like a carpet that wasn't attached ). I am very hesitant to do that again , since ball season is quickly approaching . I would ' spike ' it this spring , but plugging it scares me . The holes that were created in Oct. are still clearly visible ... it still has that ' just plugged ' look .

    I mis-spoke in my original post ... I use 25-7-12 in Oct and then I used the 6-15-15 on Dec 10 th. I am hoping the get a plan together so that when I fertilize ( or whatever ) in Feb ??? I will be ready .

    I can use a liquid easily as my irrigation system works well .

    So really the questions are :

    What will promote deep roots ?
    When should I apply ?
    How much product will I use ? I have 30,000 ft of grass .
    I really want the field Green ... real Green . What is my best plan ?

    I mow at 1 1/2 " .... and don't mind mowing daily .

    Thanks for the help !! J.D.
  7. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504

    Left Field;

    Before you go nuts and use more synthetic chemical fertilizers, you better bring yourself up to speed on the soil foodweb. Synthetic chemical fertilizer are setting you back and hurting your ability to have a balanced soil organisms for healthy soil.

    Here are a couple of great article to read before you do anything else:

    Soil Biology Primer

    Soil FoodWeb
  8. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    You are less than 50 miles from corvallis which is where the soil food web office is, call 'em maybe they will have some suggestions for a good composter that will supply fungal compost to your site.

    Reach out to your local extention office for help with a program to increase SOIL FERTILITY, this in the long run is your answer. Your fertilizers are feeding the grass plant but doing nothing to help with drought resistance and your watering issue, in fact they are compounding it

    Quoting NPK from synthetics is not something that we are really familiar with (I'll speak for myself) and often try to discourage, this is the organic lawn care forum afterall.

    Your long term solution is getting organic matter in the ground and boosting the biology in the soil.

    Please do not go the way of the 4 step fertilizer program as you will have children on the field, young people are the most suseptable to pesticides.

    I am not familiar with the term PLUGGED (with perrennial rye grass) but will assume that we are both talking about core aeration. I am surprised with all of the water that the holes would not have filled in yet. Another sign that you need to top dress with compost.
  9. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

    Yes, and any irrigator worth his/her salt has one. Why not enlighten us with the specs and details of your irrigation system and how you manage it so we all can see how you do it and how it is better.

    Better yet, why not go over to the irrigation forum and post your ideas of effective/efficient irrigation management. I'm sure everyone here and there could learn something from your "extensive" experience.
  10. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

    Agreed. Also, if the "plugging" caused the turf to release "like a carpet that wasn't attached" you have bigger problems, especially if you seeded this area.

    I'm curious. What is the point of fertilizing in December and February?

    What will promote deep roots ?

    Proper water management and good soil structure.

    When should I apply ?

    Generally speaking, when the turf is actively growing.

    How much product will I use ? I have 30,000 ft of grass .

    As suggested, move the system away from chems and towards a more sustainable solution.

    I really want the field Green ... real Green . What is my best plan ?

    Don't be concerned so much with green, and be more concerned with healthy and economically sustainable.

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