Our sports fields are made up of Bermuda grasses. These grasses may be hybrids, improved seeded selections or just common Bermuda grass. But they all need to begin serious growth in June, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
"Don't walk away now and expect to accomplish miracles the first of August," the horticulturist advises.
Basics for growing turf include proper fertilizing, watering and mowing. Sustainable athletic turf needs to be thick, healthy and deeply rooted. Roots are what the sod comes back from when play tears up the grass.
"There may be compacted soil issues that limit root depth, but don't let starvation, poor watering or bad mowing limit your root growth," Koske says.
Athletic turf needs to be fertilized four to six times per season. The exact mix depends on a soil test to define your specific soil’s needs.
"Without the test, we assume a soil pH of 6 to 7 and moderate levels of other nutrients – but that’s just a guess," Koske points out.
Based on the assumption, though, most fields require from 200 to 250 pounds of nitrogen (N), 60 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5) and 80 to 100 pounds of potassium oxide (K2O) per acre each season. Apply this in four to six split applications from spring to September.
Watering depends on the season. Grass usually needs irrigation if there no rain for a week. For aggressive grass growth, don't wait until you see the grass turn off-color or you leave persistent footprints in the dry turf.
On the other hand, don't water a little bit every day or two. This "spoon feeding" approach to watering develops shallow roots, because it doesn’t maintain soil moisture very far down. Water more deeply, less often.
Once the grass grows well, it needs to be mowed properly for good turf density. Mow common Bermuda to about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches. Whenever you get 50 percent regrowth, mow again.
Cut hybrid Bermuda to about 1 inch and mow again whenever it reaches 1 ½ inches tall. You may end up mowing two or three times per week.
It's important for safe athletic play to have a field that has a sustainable sod cushion.
"Grow and thicken your sod now for that lasting cushion this fall," Koske says, adding, "Your local AgCenter county agent can help with these decisions."
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
Source: Tom Koske (225) 578-2222, or firstname.lastname@example.org
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture