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STEPS TO SELECTION | SPECIES | WHEN TO PLANT | WHAT VARIETY
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PREPARATIONS TO PLANT
YOUR SPORTS FIELD

(1) SOIL TESTS FIRST!
First step you should take is to obtain a soil test and pH test on your site.  If possible a soil analysis should also be obtained.  Your Cooperative Extension agent is a good source for help with these tests.  Before you can improve your soil or correct any problems, you HAVE to know what you have to work with.

(2) SITE PREPARATION
Next you need to start preparing your site with a grade and slope.  Amendments such as organic matter, lime and/or sulfur based on your soil tests can be added at this time. If drainage tiles are required, this should be installed also.  Any irrigation system piping should also be installed.    Fertilizers can also be added at this stage. The soil in the planting area should be tilled, harrowed or other-wise loosened to a depth of 6-8 inches. This is the primary growth area for your new grass.  Deeper aeration (core aeration) should also occur especially in compacted soils or heavy clay soils.  Do not compact your soils on site by driving on with equipment when it is wet or damp.  Rollers are NOT a good idea as they compact the soil too much.  Tractor or bulldozer treads usually provide sufficient site packing.

(3) SEEDING METHODS
Once your site has the final grading and smoothing done (complete before you plant as this is your ONE best chance for a smooth surface), the next step is seeding.  Generally rotary / broadcast seeders are the primary tool used to seed evenly.  Drop spreaders are also excellent tools.  For best results apply 1/2 of the seeds in one direction and another 1/2 in a different direction (90 degrees to first).  The seeds should be raked (leaf rake) or dragged so that the soil covers the seed slightly (1/8 inch).  Then if desired a light rolling will ensure good seed / soil  contact.  Use of a precision seeder such as a Brillion or other type of turf seeder is the best method for planting.  Ryegrass seeds are the only seeds that will germinate with less than perfect seed / soil contact.  Hydroseeding or mulching will allow faster seed germination, especially with cool season grasses.  Irrigation is generally a requirement for best establishment.  You want the soil to stay MOIST, not wet.  (wet is if you squeeze a ball of soil / water runs out - you don't want it that wet.)

More "How-to info" at Grassing.com

SportsGrass.com 

More tips on planting Grass Seeds:

Tips on overseeding Warms Season
Grasses with Ryegrass

SportsGrass.com - SEED TIPS

PRE-GERMINATION
Some experts recommend that you "Pre-Germ" (prehydration) your seeds in order to increase germination time.  This is somewhat similar to what happens when seeds are placed in the water tank of a hydroseeder.  Usually the seeds are placed in a cloth bag and the bag is then submerged in warm water for a period of 12 hours. During the time you will NEED to either remove the bag  every 10-15 minutes or pump air (fish tank pump) into the water to keep the seed aerated.  Some experts recommend gibberellic acid also be used (consult with Extension on this and follow label directions as a risk of damaging the seeds exists.) 

If you intend to broadcast the seeds (and not hydroseed), then the seeds must be dried out before they can be planted.  Place seeds on a concrete floor or other surface and spread out to allow drying to occur.  Stirring the seeds speeds up the process.  Plant pre-germinated seeds within 24 hours of completing the process or sooner when possible.  This is NOT a required procedure but it is often used on Sports Field applications to ensure fast germination for repair purposes. 

FREEZE CONDITIONING
Placing your seeds in a freezer or refrigerator prior to planting is another method to help improve germination.  The object behind this is to mimic mother natures cycle and break any dormancy in your seeds by making the seeds think that they have gone through a cold winter and spring has arrived.

DORMANT WINTER SEEDING
In Northern areas dormant seeding
is often practiced.  This method is where the seeds are applied during late fall (after any chance of germination has passed) or in the winter months.  At this time temperatures are cold enough that germination will NOT occur.  This method is usually better suited for existing fields and NOT for trying to establish a new field on bare earth areas.  This method does have it's risks as the key is having an IDEAL winter where the soil is not too wet and temperatures warm up gradually and stay in a climbing range.  There is much more risk with this method, so most turf managers seed at 50% or more of the average seed rates.

Dormant seeding can also be done in early / early spring in Northern areas.  This method relies on the seeds falling into ground cracks that occur  from the freeze / thaw  cycle of nature in the spring.  Seeding over snow basically uses the same idea, with the snow melt taking the seeds in the thawed cracks.  This method really should ONLY be used with cool season grasses.  It rarely works with warm season grass seeds due to wide temperature ranges as spring arrives.

SportsGrass.com:  Over-seeding Bermuda

OVERSEEDING - WARM SEASON FIELDS
WINTER OVERSEEDING

Millions of acres of Bermudagrass sports fields and lawns are overseeded each year with both Annual and Perennial Ryegrasses.  This is generally done in early to mid fall.  There are both advantages and disadvantages to using the two types.

In general there is always a competition risk in overseeding Bermuda grasses.  Newly seeded fields should NOT be overseeded the first year as they are not matured enough to handle the Ryegrass competition in the spring.  Competition in the spring from the profusely growing Ryegrass as Bermuda tries to start growing can create problems.  Overall Perennial Ryegrass is the best choice for overseeding Warm Season grass Sports fields

Proper Over-Seeding - PLANTING METHOD
The key to a successful establishment of a Ryegrasses in a warm season turf are ensuring their is adequate seed/ soil contact for the Ryegrass seeds.  Ideally either planting with a slit seeder; or verticuting (vertical mower) of the turf prior to seeding is the preferred method.  This should be done in advance of fall planting so as to allow the warm season grass some time to recover from the damage.  --- 

Just prior to planting the turf should be mowed LOW... generally 1/4 to 1/2 inch on Bermudas.  Then broadcast the seeds (split application into two ways)  and top-dress with a light covering of soil (1/8 to 1/4 inch) for best germination.  Keep seed moist / but NOT wet with frequent / multiple watering throughout the day until germination occurs.  After germination start gradual transition to normal watering schedule.  Mow but do NOT try and collect / bag the clippings as you could cause un-germinated seeds to be collected reducing your stand.

WHEN TO OVERSEED
Overseeding RYEGRASS  - BEST TIMES IN FALL

Location Planting Date
Upper South: Sept 1 to Sept 25
Mid-South: Sept 15 to Oct 10
Deep South: October 1 to October 25

DIFFERENCE IN ANNUAL & PERENNIAL RYEGRASS

RYEGRASS SIMILARITIES & DIFFERENCES:

Annual & Perennial Both have :

  • QUICK GERMINATION PERIODS
  • GOOD SEEDLING VIGOR
ANNUAL PERENNIAL
Cheap Cost
Rapid Spring Transition
Dies out in spring faster than desired
Poor Wear Tolerance
Poor temperature change tolerance
Vulnerable to Diseases
Tends to stain uniforms more
Grows faster requiring more mowing
Higher Cost
Slow Spring Transition
Excellent Wear Tolerance
Good temperature change tolerance
Good transition time
But may compete with Bermuda
More resistant to disease, insects

SPRING TRANSITION

In late mid to late spring as higher temperatures return to Southern areas, Ryegrasses will begin "dying" -  This is the "transition" process.  It is a desirable process that the turf manger wants to happen gradually so that most people never even notice it happening.  --- Slowly the ryegrass dies and the Bermudagrass starts greening up and growing.  A balance of mowing, fertilization and irrigation is needed to balance and manage this process correctly.  The goal is a smooth transition, keeping the ryegrass alive until the Bermuda starts growing... but also keeping the ryegrass in a dying / slow growing state so that it does NOT provide too much competition to the just awakening (and weakened) Bermuda. 

OVERSEEDING PLANTING RATES:
For overseeding Bermuda or Bahia sports fields
NOTE: for zoysia grasses you should overseed with Tall Fescue, NOT Ryegrasses

RYEGRASS PLANTING RATE:
10-20 lbs / per 1000 sq. ft.
Overseeded on warm season grass

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