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How to best maintain football fields during and after the season

Jeffrey T. Fowler District Director, PSU Cooperative Extension Sports Turf Managers Association, Academic Rep
How to best maintain football fields during and after the season

Fall in America means football season. Without careful planning and execution, fields can become unsafe for play. Below is a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” that will aid in keeping your football fields safe and playable throughout the season.


Do

Do mow

Continue to mow into the fall season to stimulate plant grow. It encourages recovery from the use and abuse fields take during football season. Mowing will also remind the roots to grow, which makes for healthy grass plants.

Do overseed

Spread seed after games and practices to build the seed bank. By spreading after games in the heavy wear areas (typically between the hashmarks on a field between the 20 yard lines), there will be new plants growing constantly to fill in the void areas left by constant abuse.

Do continue to provide water

Grass plants need water to grow. Many times people try to let football fields dry out so games aren’t played in mud. It’s important to be strategic with irrigation to allow those plants to continue to receive the moisture they need to actively grow throughout the season.

Do control traffic and wear

To make fields safer for play, constantly think about managing the amount of traffic and wear we place on them during a short period of time. The team, band and cheerleaders all want to use the game field for practices. Work with coaches, directors and leaders to move the wear around to different locations on the field so they don’t form unwanted wear on the playing surface.

Do topdress

Light topdressing of sand or topsoil, depending on the root zone make-up, will add protection to the crown of the plant, which will allow that plant to grow through the toughest traffic during the fall football season. Do not add more than an a quarter inch of topdressing on a healthy stand of grass.


Don't

Do not forget about your fertilization plan

Continue to provide your turf plants with the food they need to stay healthy. Research has shown the most important fertilization of the year is in the late fall. This application provides essential nutrients to help the plant endure during the winter.

Do not stop aerification

While pulling cores isn’t always possible during the football season, there are many other types of aerification that will not disrupt play. Aerification relieves compaction in the soil and allows roots to grow more abundantly, making the turf plants healthier.

Do not worry about weed control in the fall

Fall is a fantastic time to establish new plants. Chemically controlling weeds may limit the growing window for new seedlings. Use the spring timeframe to control those hard-to-get broadleaf weeds.

Do not forget to plan your renovations

Be sure to plan now for in-season and spring renovations. If you are going to be fixing grade or resodding areas, take advantage of the window after the season and before winter.

Do not forget to winterize your irrigation system

Frozen pipes in the winter make for a messy spring. When the time is right in your area to drain and winterize, do it. Don’t create more work for yourself in the spring by not winterizing your irrigation pump and lines.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

These ideas will assist you in managing your natural grass football fields this fall and for future season. Natural grass fields can be maintained at a high level throughout the playing season.


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Photo Credits: Provided by Jeffrey Fowler; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Jeffrey T. FowlerDistrict Director, PSU Cooperative Extension

Jeffrey Fowler is the District Director for Venango, Clarion, Warren and Forest Counties in Northwest Pennsylvania. Since 1988, he has been working for Penn State University in Cooperative Extension. In addition to being District Director, Fowle...

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