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prepping a softball field

softball-1Did you know that adding more seed in midseason can help lessen wear and tear on Bermuda grass turf? This is exactly what Paul Patterson of the University of Alabama Huntsville does to help keep their softball field in pristine condition throughout the season. Paul also shares a few other tips to help get your field looking good all season long.

It is always a challenge keeping an athletic field in top condition, here are some of the practices we use at UAH on our softball field to accomplish that. We overseed each fall with 16lbs of rye per 1000 square feet. During the season we add 2 lbs per 1000 more in mid March. Adding more seed in midseason helps fill in worn high traffic areas and lessens wear and tear on the Bermuda grass turf.

Our outfield soil is approximately 25% sand/clay and 75% native bottomland topsoil that holds moisture extremely well. To help with drainage issue we apply a soil penetrant at 9 oz per 1000 square feet in February and again in April. We’ve found that using the soil penetrant gently increase the drainage rates. We apply slow fertilizer twice during the season in late February and again in April. Additional nitrogen and liquid iron applications are done one week out from opening day and again if we host a regional tournament.

Our infield soil is an approximately 70/30 sand/clay mix with calcined clay added. Our coach likes to have 2 to 2.5 inches of loose material on top. We water and drag 3 times a day during the season and build our own oversized extra heavy nail drags to keep the material loose enough.

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Our mound and batters boxes are constructed with a polymer coated soil material that sheds water very quickly and packs extremely hard. Working with this material during the cold and wet portion of our season can be difficult. The polymer coated soil clumps easily in cold temperatures, so we store it in our greenhouse in order to keep it pliable and easier to use for repairs and tamping. We have found that using this material cuts downs on the number of times we have to do major repairs and repacking of mound and plates areas during the season as compared to regular mound clay.

The softball team is involved in every portion of field maintenance, this helps out tremendously as we do not have a crew within our grounds maintenance department dedicated to athletic fields. The help is great but it comes at the price of having to train a new group of players every year. It is well worth the effort though when you see the results.
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