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Preparing Sports Turf for Spring During Winter

Make sure your infield and outfield performs in the spring by caring for your turf in winter.

February 1, 2024

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With so many sports starting practice in early spring, proper turf maintenance in the winter is essential.

A little extra care to protect your field in cold weather can make it that much easier to perform necessary maintenance, as spring approaches, so your play space is ready for everything from batting practice to hitting a home run.

Winter sports field maintenance

With so few sports happening outside, sports fields get minimal use during the winter. This can make general maintenance easier, although you do have to take the elements into consideration. If you’re in an area that gets regular snow or ice, you’ll need to make sure your turf is being looked after.

You don’t want to let snow or ice build up too thickly on your turf. While a thin layer is okay, regular snow and ice removal can keep turf at-the-ready for spring as long as you only remove snow when temperatures are below freezing in the early morning or later in the evening.

If you don’t live somewhere that gets a lot of snow or ice, keep an eye out for frost. It’s best to stay off the field entirely while there’s frost to avoid damage to the turf itself.

You may also have to mow into the winter months if temperatures stay high. Although grass grows slowly when it’s cold, it’s perfectly fine to keep mowing as needed if you experience a warm winter.

Now is also a great time to check out the tools you keep on site for regular maintenance. You always want to have a drag mat, leaf rakes, shovels, field marker and a few other essentials on hand in good working order. Do an inventory and replace anything before you need it next season.

Turf preparation for spring

As spring starts to approach, and temperatures begin to climb back up, you’ll probably need to do some additional maintenance on your field. This is also an ideal time to perform a complete review of the condition of your turf, ensuring proper sports field maintenance techniques. You’ll catch any issues in time to perform the necessary repairs to keep the field safe and ready to go.

Start by walking the entire field to do a full evaluation. As early as the weather allows, begin addressing any issues, even creating a timeline to get everything done before the spring sports season opens.

Specific issues you may find include:

  • Low areas that need filling.
  • Signs of vandalism or damage that need repair.
  • Off-field damage such as wear and tear on fences, dugouts, bleachers, etc.

You’ll also want to check overall soil nutrition, including PH and other macro and micro nutrients. Knowing this information will help you make informed decisions about any necessary treatments.

Once you’ve addressed any serious issues, you’ll want to handle regular turf maintenance tasks such as:

  • Aeration, to improve drainage and keep the turf healthy
  • Applying new topdressing for moisture control and to avoid muddy areas and slippery spots
  • Deep and infrequent watering, dictated by weather conditions, to produce strong turf
  • Fertilization once the grass beings to grow back and looks lush

If you decide it’s time to mow, it’s best to follow the 1/3 rule, leaving 2/3 of the leaf blade behind to promote healthy turf. Try to only mow when the turf is dry, and take care to check the height of your mower blade before you start. You may have to adjust it for the shorter spring grass that’s still newly growing.

Raking and dragging should also happen at this time to help reduce the formation of grass along the edges of the infield. Ideal tools for this activity are a screen drag, nail drag or even infield leveling rakes. To do this properly, rake with the grass edge rather than into it. Remember to stay at least six inches away from the grass edge when dragging the field to keep infield materials separate.

Pitcher’s mound maintenance

The pitcher’s mound takes quite a regular beating during the season, and the clay mound will require regular maintenance when in use. Preparing for spring is a great time to give this particular space on the field a little extra care.

If you notice any worn areas, make sure to loosen and then water them so it’s easier to add new clay to the spot. Tamp the new material down until firm and then shave the high spots to level everything off.

Remember to keep the pitcher’s mound under a tarp when it’s not in use to protect it further.

Safeguarding proper sports field maintenance

A lot of prep and planning goes into maintaining the perfect playing field, but you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. SiteOne associates are available at your local branch to answer any questions you may have, or you can check out a wealth of resources online. When it’s time to shop, visit one of our many locations, shop online or download the SiteOne mobile app.

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