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SELECTING ATHLETIC FIELD
TURF GRASSES


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STEPS TO SELECTION | SPECIES | WHEN TO PLANT | WHAT VARIETY
SITE PREPARATION | MAINTENANCE

Grass Selection - Athletic Fields:
Sports Grasses are selected based on several characteristics:

  • First and foremost is their adaptability to the particular area of the country they will be planted in.  Some grasses will die due to low or high temperatures and thus can only be grown within an area the has the correct temperature range.
     

  • Secondly grasses for sports need to repair fast - Being able to repair from the traffic damage caused by use by Athletes is important. Some grasses repair easier than others.  Some grasses spread, some do not and must be reseeded to maintain density due to losses.
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  • Third is cost of establishment and how fast a playing field is needed.  Cool season grasses take about 2 years to fully establish to MATURE adult stage where they can resist the most abuse.  That is why often professional fields have the sod grown outside the playing field areas and brought in and installed.  Most sports fields can't wait the two years, however with seeded fields used  before that period of time (warm season grasses excluded), expect to do more repair work to maintain.  Most good sports organizations understand the need to rotate and rest fields between usage periods so that grass areas can be repaired and recover.
     

  • Fourth is suitable of a particular species to the sport or activity.  Some grasses grow well only at higher mowing heights.  Others will handle low mowing or even thrive at low mowed heights.  Height of grass is also important to the sport - For example Tennis is playable at 1/2 but NOT very well at 2 inch height.
     

  • MORE ABOUT CHOOSING A SPECIES AT LAWNGRASSES.COM

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SPORTS FIELDS
What to use?

Selection of Grasses
FOR GOLF INFORMATION - Visit Golfways.com

transitionzone.jpg (17037 bytes)

GRASS ZONES / TYPES OF GRASSES
MIXTURES:  Most cool season and transition zone areas use mixtures. 

(1) Consider primarily your location / sports in choosing a grass type. 

Grass Species Type of
Sport

USA ZONE AREA

Warm Season Transition Cool Season
Creeping Bentgrass T-LB NOT Limited Use USED
Kentucky Bluegrass B-F-S NOT Limited Use USED
Perennial Ryegrass B-F-S-OS Limited Use Limited Use USED
Tall Fescue B-F-S NOT USED Limited Use
Bermudagrass All Sports USED USED USED
Zoysia S USED Limited USED
Bahiagrass Practice Fields USED USED USED

KEY:
B=Baseball, F=Football, S=Soccer, T=Tennis, LB=Lawn Bowling
All Sports is all of above.
OS= Overseeding with Ryegrass or
Limited Use = Special Factors may apply to usage.

(2) Now review additional factors below.

SportsGrass.com

TRANSITION ZONE
In the transition zone Tall Fescues are dominate species used.  Some Bluegrass is usually included in a mix to provide a repair ability.  Tall Fescue mixtures and Single species are also used extensively.   Cold tolerant Bermuda grasses (Yukon, Mohawk, USALawns) are also used in this area with overseeding of these grasses once established with Perennial Ryegrass.  Tall Fescues while drought hardy, must be overseeded with additional Tall Fescue seed on an annual or bi-annual basis to maintain density.  High use (field wear) may also require frequent overseeding during the season (weekly / bi-weekly).  Disease issues can require use of fungicides.  Tall Fescues mowed / maintained at heights below 1" are more difficult to manage.  Ideal heights are 2-3".

COOL SEASON ZONE:
In the cool season zone Kentucky Bluegrass is the dominate species used.  Perennial Ryegrass is also used both as a stand alone turf and in mixtures with Kentucky Bluegrass.  Most Sports mixtures are a mix of these such as the premium Mid America Classic Blend, the Seedland Elite Mixture or the more economical Bluemix.  Pure Bluegrass and Ryegrass varieties are also used in single "mono" stands - Midnight is one of the top varieties.  Newer varieties such as Blue Ridge, Monte Carlo, or the Best of Blues or Galaxy Bluegrass Blends are also popular.  

Bluegrass is best choice BECAUSE of its dense, dark green turf, the rhizomes / root repair ability it has, good cushioning effect of sod, and the fact that it is a beautiful grass.  It's only drawback are disease issues (less with newer varieties) and the fact it is not considered high on drought tolerance.  Both Perennial Ryegrass and Bluegrasses should be mowed from 1.5 to 3 inches, though it may be maintained lower for short periods of time (1/2 inch).  Perennial Ryegrass establishes faster than most all other grasses, thus is a great tool for sports turf managers - it also can be mowed lower more easily than Bluegrass.  Poa Supina L. is also being used on Northern sports fields as it is more shade tolerant of trees than Bluegrass.

Creeping Bentgrasses are used for tennis courts, lawn bowling, golf greens, and croquet.  It provides a FAST surface where ball travel over the grass is important.  Mowing can be as low as 1/4 inch or lower.  Penncross is the best variety for general purpose use.  Other improved varieties are also available but are considered high-maintenance grasses.

WARM SEASON ZONE
Bermudagrass is the dominate species used in warm season areas.  It's low or high mowing height, fast establishment, fast repair and disease / insect resistance make it the grass of choice for sports / athletic fields.  It's ability to stand both HOT temperatures and DROUGHT issues make it the best choice.  In the winter when Bermuda goes dormant and off color (brown), it can be overseeded with Ryegrass for a green winter use. 

Both seeded and sprigged / sodded vegetative varieties are available for sports use.  The highest quality Bermudas are the hybrid "vegetative varieties" such as Tifsports, or Tiffine and even Tifway 419 (mid -range).  New seeded varieties are starting to approach the quality of the hybrids and the improved are extensively used for high-school and recreational sports fields.  Seedland only handles seed varieties - WE DO NOT SELL SOD - Look in yellow pages under sodding or landscaping.

Seeded Varieties: Princess 77 and Yukon are two of the newest "high-quality" seeded Bermudas.  -- One of the most popular of the seeded Bermuda Blends is the Triangle Blend.  Pennington's Triangle Blend is a blend of three improved fairway quality turf types and is probably planted on more acreage than any other sports fields in the south (other than common and Sahara).  For more economical plantings, where cost is the primary factor... Sahara improved common bermuda is the leading choice.  Sahara is often available at close to the same price as common bermuda, thus is a good choice in a low-imput seeded Bermuda.  Other excellent choices for seeded Bermudas for use in recreation / high school athletic fields are La Prima, Royal Blend, SR-9554 and Yuma.

Over-Seeding: Overseeding with Perennial Ryegrass is a standard management technique with Bermudagrass fields in both the warm season and transistion zone areas.  This allows the Bermuda to support heavier use in late fall and early spring. 

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