Tag Archives: lawn

IPM for Turf on School Grounds

The EPA has another great webinar coming up on Tuesday, March 15th.

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You must have Adobe Connect to watch and listen to this free online webinar. A “Quick Start” link is included on the EPA website.

Whether school turf management has been part of your job for years or you’re just starting out, this webinar will describe how you can implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices into your turf management program. This webinar will provide insight for improving the quality and playability of your athletic and recreational fields. You will leave with an increased understanding of the importance of IPM in turf maintenance, cultural and physical control options, record keeping and key turf issues that can be addressed and applied to your program.

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Join in to learn how you can incorporate IPM into your school district’s turf management program.

Featured presenters will be:

  • Kim Pope Brown, Pesticide Safety Education Coordinator, Louisiana State University
  • Alec Kowalewski, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Turf Specialist, Oregon State University

Register now and you’ll receive an email confirmation with information on how to join in the webinar. Tuesday March 15 — 2  to 3:30pm

What now? Autumn sports field management

“Of all the seasons, autumn offers the most to man and requires the least of him.” – Hal Borland

No disrespect to Mr. Borland, but he obviously was not in charge of keeping school athletic fields in good shape. While autumn can bring some of the best grass growing weather, when our cool season turf really thrives, it also brings students on the fields for recess, practice, physical education, and games. That can lead to a great amount of compaction and wear and tear. Combine heavy traffic with this year’s drought, and Autumn 2015 promises to be challenging.

Broadleaf weeds such as plantain are tripping hazards.

Broadleaf weeds such as plantain are tripping hazards.

The Child Safe Playing Fields Act was implemented in 2011 to reduce the impact of pesticides on students. While we are confident that we can reduce the impact of insects and weeds on athletic fields with good cultural practices, the Act failed to bolster school budgets, which often do not reflect the need for providing more training for staff, equipment, irrigation, and materials such as fertilizer and seed needed to produce safe fields. Without these resources, weeds, which cannot handle the same traffic as grass, can overtake a field. As the season progresses, these weedy areas become bare, leaving much more slippery and harder patches behind.

 So what is the minimum that should be done now to minimize the likelihood of injury?
  • Mowing -If the grass is growing, mowing should be conducted at least twice a week. Mowing increases shoot density by increasing tillering (stems that develop from the crown of the parent plant). More tillers means more traction and cushioning.
  • Fertilizing -Apply 1 pound of 50% water soluble nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. in September and ½ pound of 100% water soluble nitrogen in mid-October. Note – if you do not have irrigation, it is worth waiting until the day before rain is predicted to ensure the fertilizer is watered in.
  • Overseeding -Seed perennial rye at 2 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. weekly in high-use areas. The athletes’ cleats will make the necessary seed to soil contact. Again, this year’s drought makes this practice tricky. If you can borrow irrigation equipment, do so.
What if I can do more than the minimum?
This school soccer field is mostly crabgrass, which starts to decline just as the season begins.

This school soccer field is mostly crabgrass, which starts to decline just as the season begins.

  • Watering -Maintain adequate soil moisture but keep surfaces dry to maximize traffic tolerance. Irrigate if you can see your foot prints after walking on the turf.
  • Fertilizing -Conduct a soil test to see if other nutrients are needed in addition to the nitrogen.
  • Cultivating -Concentrating on high-use areas, solid tine cultivate in multiple directions to maintain infiltration of air and water.
  • Overseeding -Have a mixture of one part seed to ten parts soil available so coaches and players can repair divots left after heavy use.

For more information on maintaining safe, functional athletic fields, visit http://safesportsfields.cals.cornell.edu. You will find different maintenance schedules based on number of seasons used and resources available, detailed information on different management practices, and information on “Duty of Care”, a legal obligation to a standard of reasonable care.

What now? Using the Sports Field Management website for planning

“In winter, I plot and plan. In spring, I move.” – Henry Rollins

And for those responsible for maintaining athletic fields, we move a lot! And, of course, we want that movement to be effective, efficient, and within budget. The Sports Field Management website has field management schedules to help determine which turf management practices are most important now.

The first step in using these schedules is to determine what resources are available. This handy chart can help determine whether you have high, medium, or minimal management fields.

Field Management Type ChartOnce you have determined what type of field you are managing, and what seasons sports are being played on it, you can download a Seasonal Field Management  Schedule. For example:Sports Field Management Schedule-Spring Medium

Schedules are available for Spring only, Fall only, Spring and Fall, and Year-Round sports. Use them to help in communicating needs, establishing budgets, and planning activities.

 

Ground Bees Come in Peace

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A female ground bee in her burrow

One of the first springtime insects that observed in school yards are ground bees. These insects create ant-hill like mounds in areas of bare soil with a ¼” opening in the center (about the thickness of a pencil). On warm, sunny days there may be dozens to hundreds of bees flying low to the ground among the mounds. Despite a general and perhaps debilitating fear of bees – the truth is that this species is relatively harmless and may not require any management. Here’s why:

 

  1. Ephemeral: ground-nesting bees are pollinators of early blooming flowers. Because their lifecycle is tied to the cycle of these plants, ground bees are only active for a short period of time in early spring.
  2. Solitary: fear of bees arises from the idea
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    Two female ground bees hunker down in their burrows in response to movement.

    that disturbing a nest will provoke an entire colony of stinging insects. However, as it true of carpenter bees, cicada killer wasps, and mud dauber wasps, ground bees are solitary with only a single female bee per mound.

  3. Shy Gals: female bees make nests for the purpose of reproduction. After gathering nectar and pollen as food for their offspring, females will mate and lay eggs in the nest. While in the nest, females appear shy, and will retreat into the burrow if they see an approaching object.
  4. Males Hover, but Can’t Sting: All those bees you see flying low to the ground en masse – are males! And male bees do not possess a stinger. Their low, hovering flight is part of their effort to pair up with a female. Indeed, male ground bees are quite docile. See how one school responds to this insect with curiosity and affection in this video.

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    Male ground bees cannot sting and are quite docile.

If you wish to discourage ground bees from taking up residence on your school grounds, an effective, safe and long-term solution is over-seeding with grass. By creating a dense lawn, bees will not be able to dig in the soil and will nest elsewhere. For information on creating a healthy lawn, see the Cornell Turfgrass Program.

 

Additional information about ground bees is available from the Cornell Department of Entomology.

Snow, Frost a Big Help for Head Start on Quality Turf

Want a two or three week head start on getting your athletic fields ready for spring? Consider a proven IPM practice: dormant overseeding.

Yes, right now those artic blasts might still be leaving us chilled. But winter weather has its advantages: snowmelt and freeze-thaw cycles can aid in both pushing and pulling seeds into the ground, maximizing seed-to-soil contact.

Freeze-thaw cycles can affect soil dramatically, opening crevices and ridges that seed can slip into and will later collapse, maximizing seed-to-soil contact. Photo Credit: Joellen Lampman

Freeze-thaw cycles can affect soil dramatically, opening crevices and ridges that seed can slip into and will later collapse, maximizing seed-to-soil contact. Photo Credit: Joellen Lampman

Meanwhile, spring is just around the corner — meaning it’s time to be on the lookout for weather conditions that allow you to apply grass seed.  So secure your seed and calibrate your spreaders.

What conditions are you looking for? Choose a time when:

  • there’s no snow cover
  • nighttime temperatures are predicted to dip below freezing and …
  • days warm to above freezing.

Ideally the forecast will also call for snow — snow that will push the seed into the ground while also protecting the seed from marauding birds. When that snow melts and is absorbed into the soil, it also helps pull your seed down through the crowns of existing plants, further increasing seed-to-soil contact.

Frost heaving is more extreme on bare soil. Note that the effect of frost heaving is reduced on the area covered by grass. Photo Credit: Michal Maňas

Frost heaving is more extreme on bare soil. Note that the effect of frost heaving is reduced on the area covered by grass. Photo Credit: Michal Maňas

Choose which seed to apply by your expectations for each field. Will your athletes be on the field in early spring? Then apply the quickly germinating perennial rye at a rate of 6 lbs./1000 ft2. If you have fields that won’t be used until June or July, apply Kentucky bluegrass at a rate of 3 to 4 lbs./1000 ft2. There will be some loss due to seed mortality, so these rates are 50% above conventional rates. If your budget is low, you can reduce costs by only overseeding on bare soil.

Your IPM benefits? Dormant seeding allows you to avoid cultivating the turf when the soil is too soft and wet to work. It saves fuel and equipment costs, too. And getting this turf management practice out of the way early means you’re better set up for the busy field season. Best of all, the seeds you apply in winter can germinate two to three week earlier than those applied during a conventional spring seeding — and your grass will be better able to face the onslaught of spring weeds and athletic cleats.

Want more info on maintaining athletic fields? Seek no further: Sports Field Management.