When attempting to maintain a field, be it a cricket field, rugby, or other, you need to know what you’re facing. There are many issues that can appear in these fields and if you wish to keep them in perfect shape, you have to use the right tools.
In this article, we’ll cover what some of the more common problems are and how you can resolve them. Let’s look at some of the things every groundskeeper should be aware of.
How to Prevent Water Pooling
It’s never a good sign when you look out at the field after a rain or a good irrigation and see puddles that won’t easily go away. This may indicate soil compaction, but it is more often a sign that the ground is not level.
Poorly graded turf will result in puddles and erosion. It also may be a reason your grass isn’t growing well. A laser grade is the best option and this needs to be done every two or three years, to ensure you have the field properly graded.
Your field should actually not be perfectly flat. It should allow water to move across the surface slowly and smoothly. This way, the water will sink in over the entire field, with maximum absorption and no pooling.
Resolving Dry Spots on the Field
Noticing dry patches on the fields? You’ll have to figure out whether they’re just areas that are not getting enough water or if there is another cause for them.
There are a number of causes for dried and dying turf. The main one is that there is simply not enough water for the turf. The plants can be dying due to drought. If this is the case, you likely already know it’s a problem and if you cannot provide more irrigation, you’re likely to lose the grass. However, there are other factors, too.
If you know that your soil is getting plenty of water, you should check that the dry patches are allowing the water to soak through. If you see the water pooling and beading on top of the soil, this indicates a dry patch issue. Dry patch is caused by fungi, which blocks water from getting through. You’ll need to find a way to get the water under the fungi, often by aerating the soil while watering.
These fungi may be treated, but it needs to be done during the dry season when the grass is naturally browned.
You can also help prevent dry patch by ensuring your pitches are as level as possible. Use fertilisers for the grass and you may need to use wetting agents that can help the water break through to the roots of the plants.
The earlier you catch potential problem spots, the faster you can treat them and the more likely you can ease the problem before it’s necessary to resort to chemical methods. Careful monitoring is necessary and if possible, you should use a drone camera to inspect the field from above from time to time. This will let you know what areas are becoming more stressed or worn down. It can be difficult to see this from the ground.
Regular irrigation will help ensure the grass stays strong and healthy. You may need to overseed in some areas where people are walking such as along the side-lines. It’s also important to maintain the field by raking it frequently and aerating once in a while. This will help the roots stay strong so the grass can remain healthy even with the stress of heat and heavy use.
If animals have urinated repeatedly on the grass, it can also die off. The best way to see if this is the problem is to keep cameras on the field overnight. You’ll likely see what is happening. You’ll need to deeply water the area to help rinse away the urine and use a specific treatment that will neutralise the salts and nitrogen resulting from the urine.
In very bad cases, you may wish to reseed the area with a more resistant grass that can hold up to urine a little better.
These are some of the more common reasons you will see dry or dead spots on the field. If it gets too bad, you may need to reseed or even bring in cut turf to replace the dead grass.
Before you do anything to eliminate weeds, you need to know what type of weed you are dealing with and how widespread it is. A handful of daisies can easily be removed by hand. However, something bigger with deep roots or that spreads rapidly may require more drastic measures.
Your options for weed control include:
Prising by hand: This requires using a prising tool to lift the root of the weed out of the ground. It’s best for a few shallow rooted weeds.
Selective fertilisers: Using fertilisers that are designed to help your grass grow faster and stronger may help your grass overcome the weeds. This tends not to be as useful as other methods, but it can be used in combination with others.
Selective herbicide: A herbicide designed to eliminate weeds, but not the grass, can be used. This will help keep the grass healthy, while it kills off the weeds. However, you will find that your treatments will work best if the plants are actively growing. This also ensures the grass can fill in areas where the weeds have died out.
Widespread chemical treatment: This is a more drastic method of wiping out large amounts of weeds, but it can be quite heavily damaging to the grass as well. It should be used as a last resort. It’s also important that the application be made by a professional, with a professional spreader.
Weeds can be frustrating to deal with, but they are a part of the job. Keeping your grass as healthy as possible will help reduce the chances of weeds getting through. If weeds do grow, they’ll have stiff competition in the turf.
Preventing and Addressing Soil Compaction
Soil compaction is one of the more common problems you’ll face with sports fields, since they are used so often. Over time, the soil is pressed together so tightly that it forms a hard surface. Not only does this make it difficult to move a ball over, it also has an effect on drainage. In fact, water will often run off a hard surface, rather than soak into it.
Of course, this can drastically affect the growth of the grass and it may tend to die off if not treated. You’ll want to catch this issue early and reverse it before the damage is done.
Treating soil compaction requires solid tines to aerate throughout the season. When the field is left to rest, it should be aerated aggressively to ensure the soil can loosen up and the grass will be able to grow well.
There’s a good reason it’s a full job to look after sports fields. They are difficult to maintain perfectly and the smallest changes can make the field difficult to play. You’ll need to stay on top of the issues that may occur, but it’s also important to treat them properly. You may need to invest int the right equipment, in order to ensure there are no problems with getting what you need when you need it.
It’s nearly impossible to maintain professional level fields without the proper equipment. From spreaders and rakes to levellers and aerators, it will all help your grass stay healthy. You need to use the equipment frequently, as well, so make sure you learn how to use it.