The action is intense. The schedule is grueling. And the stakes are high. The NFL scene is bustling with activity and there is simply no margin for error when it comes to managing the field. The challenges increase during the playing season when there are as many as two practice sessions in a day, apart from of course, the games. And with many teams moving away from artificial turf (after vehement protests from the Players Association concerned about the risks of injury that an artificial surface posed) and converting their stadium carpets to grass, the turf manager has his work cut out.
While it is true that grass fields require more maintenance than their synthetic counterparts, your life will surely become easy if you routinely follow the absolutely critical measures. These are the secret NFL field care hacks that will ensure a field that sports (the pun is intended) pristine conditions every day.
1.Keep the Grass Not Too Long, Not Too Short
Even with all the hassles of maintenance, natural grass continues to be favored by many teams over nylon fibers that tend to go limp or become buried with excessive topdressing. Football fields have to withstand prolonged periods of wear and tear and so it is important to choose the right variety of grass for the playing area. The choice also depends on the particular temperatures prevalent during a playing season.
Bermudagrass is the most ideal variety of grass for a NFL field during the hot season and in regions that have warm climates. It is recommended that the mowing height should be between 3/16 inches to an inch. Take care that no more than 1/3rd of the height of the leaf blade is removed when you mow.
Bermudagrass becomes dormant when temperature levels start to fall and so must be over-seeded with Ryegrass during the fall. But in the colder months, the best grass for a NFL field is the Kentucky Bluegrass. It is a fast-growing variety and is ideal for quick fixes when mixed with Perennial Ryegrass. It is recommended that the grass cover be maintained at two inches.
2.Plan the Right Pattern.
Mowing increases the density of the turf cover and thus should form an integral and regular feature of any NFL field maintenance routine. After you have planned the “artwork” for your outfield and infield—the ubiquitous checkerboard design, waves, or any other—you need to be very careful when you wield the lawn mower. Remember that you MUST NOT cut more than one-third of the length of a leaf blade; this is the rule of the thumb. And even less if you are working on a field that is not irrigated.
Select the right mower for the most precise results and a reel-type mower is the best in this regard. Before you actually start mowing, make sure that you have leveled all low spots on the field with extra soil. And since you have a lot of ground to cover, you can use a zero-turn mower to save on the mowing time.
3.Mulch Your Clippings.
This is one NFL field care hack that even many pros are not aware of. After a mowing season, make sure that you do not throw away the grass clippings. Instead, use these as mulch to prevent weeding and to improve the soil composition that in turn, aids vegetation health. Mulch on football fields serves another benefit—it protects the root surfaces of the grass near the soil from all the trampling, stamping, and running that the turf has to endure during a game.
4.Stay Away from Over-Fertilizing
When it comes to fertilizers, organic or synthetic, more is definitely NOT merrier. Over-fertilizing a football field with either has it specific disadvantages. Using too much of synthetic fertilizers can cause a build-up of toxic chemicals in the soil and thus damage the grass growing on it. Chemical fertilizers when used in excessive amounts, also strip the soil of nutrients thus making it difficult and sometimes, even impossible, to grow grass on it.
Organic fertilizers used in more-than-optimum levels, present other challenges. If you do not know the exact composition of the soil and that of the fertilizer, then you might not apply the most optimum amount to your grass. This in turn, would hamper their healthy growth.
5.Keep in Mind Lawn Edging and Safety Issues
When you consider an edging for a NFL field, remember that you must give functionality and safety the top priority. Steer clear of edging material that may hurt a player when he is playing at the edge of the field.
6.Will You Aerate or Not?
As all turf managers will agree whole-heatedly, soil compaction is the most common reason for the poor quality of football fields. This can only be prevented by artificially aerating the soil on the field. A minimal care routine is to aerate the field three to four times every year. The best time to aerate is during the active growing season of the grass. Follow an aerification routine with 7-10 days of rest and next aerate when the soil is lightly moist but not wet.
7.Know When is the Best Time to Water
A rule of the thumb that you just cannot go wrong with is to water a mature football field deeply but infrequently. In case of fields that you have just laid, water frequently but lightly.
8.Take Care of the Equipment
The most critical piece of equipment in your NFL field care arsenal is the lawn mower. Ensure that it is clean at all times and the blades are sharp. Also regularly inspect this piece of equipment for the integrity and strength of the blades so that no part comes off during mowing, becomes lodged in the grass, and increases the risks of a player hurting himself.
Now that the secret NFL field care hacks have been revealed, it will be easy to maintain the playing area and make it safe for the players of one of the most popular sports in the United States. A regular care and maintenance routine that incorporates all the above measures ensures that you keep the field in top-notch functional condition for longer periods of time and thus reduce the operational costs of your favorite team.