Winterizing Playing Fields
As the end of fall sports seasons approach players, coaches and fans think of championships, field managers are obsessed with an entirely different topic: winterizing playing fields.
With the end of playing-field seasons in sight, turf management doesn’t take an off season – at least until snow starts piling up. Start repairing and preparing fields to look their best in the spring by starting winterization as close to the last game’s final buzzer.
Start by assessing your fields’ condition. Unless you have the luxury of a team large enough to tackle all upkeep before winter comes, you’ll need to triage your needs, and attend to the most hurting turf. Triage strategies to help cut corners include:
- Focus On High-Wear Areas: Goalmouths and midfield sections typically see the worst wear over the course of warm-weather playing seasons. Address that wear, while leaving healthy areas of the field untouched.
- Prioritize Fields: You know your facilities. Put the most work into the turf that sees the most use, or is your “crown jewel.” Fields used mostly by 6-and-under soccer teams may not need the same level of care as high-school football practice field.
- Know Your Deadlines: If you’re lucky enough to live in a climate where year-round maintenance is an option, enjoy it. Everyone else needs to work backward from the date that turf goes dormant for the season.
Once you triage your fields and schedule your manpower, it’s time to start attending to your turf. Most turf managers develop their own programs for winterizing playing fields, and your needs will depend upon your fields’ use, your climate and your budget. Many field managers use fall as a perfect time to address:
- Aeration: Seasons of play can leave soil compacted. Open soil up and help draining with autumn aeration.
- Over-seeding: Fall can be a great time to reseed turf. You may need to remove aeration plugs before seeding.
- Fertilization: Fertilize all fields to help turf return to top form in the spring.
- Re-Sodding: If your budget allows it, resodding a field may be your best option. Sodding in early fall can kick-start your spring season.
Turf management’s off season only sets in when your fields go dormant. Until then, seize upon the lack of play to winterize playing fields for a successful return to fall.