Sports turf managers are not well defined. Quite often, managing ball fields defaults to those who have a passion for the work or feel a calling to help neighborhood kids who love the game or may even aspire to play in the Big Leagues someday.
Many are maintained by volunteers, parents, seasonal laborers, and custodial staff. Others are meticulously maintained by trained professionals and Certified Sports Field Managers. They all share a common goal – to provide the best looking, safest, and highest performing baseball field, softball field, soccer field, football field, or lacrosse field, their resources will allow. Many are hindered by limited funds and the lack of help to get all the work done. They inspire me.
I work with sports turf managers responsible for keeping floors shiny or driving a school bus. I also work with those who use grow lights, tissue tests weekly and are responsible for the safety of million-dollar athletes.
Whatever scale we’re using, I feel great joy watching a manager’s eyes light up when sharing a new idea or innovative product that can make their job easier by providing a better, faster, or even cheaper way of getting the results they need.
Growing grass is not rocket science. Most times, it’s about standing back, applying a little common sense, and looking at it from a slightly different perspective. That’s where my 10 Favorite Sports Turf Products come in. They’re all pretty simple, and they don’t discriminate between playground fields and those daunting meccas surrounded by 60,000 stadium seats. Let’s take a look!
Note: As you click on the hyperlinks throughout this blog, pay no attention to the retail pricing you see. By creating a webstore account, your wholesale pricing will appear. Your Reinders sale rep can help, too. If you don’t have one, get one!
This is, without a doubt, my favorite fertilizer of all-time. Here’s why:
The Andersons 22-0-4 contains NO filler in the bag. Maybe you didn’t realize it, but virtually all granular fertilizers, regardless of the analysis or where you buy it, contain 50% or more filler in the form of limestone or other inert carriers.
Think about it. If, for example, your ‘go-to’ fertilizer is 32-0-10 w/ 2% Fe, that means 44% of what’s in the bag is nutrient. This is what you’re paying for. Do you ever wonder what occupies the other 56%? Yep, that’s right. Half the material in the bag is pretty much crushed-up rocks.
Not so with the 22-0-4! Instead of using limestone as the ‘filler,’ The Andersons uses Black Gypsum DG. The DG stands for Dispersible Granule. That means when it rains or is watered in, it “melts” into the soil, where you want it to end up.
Black Gypsum is a combination of humic acid and gypsum. Both are extremely valuable soil amendments that enhance the uptake of nutrients (both the nutrients your applying and those locked up in the soil), add calcium to improve stress tolerance and soil structure over time, and, maybe most importantly, feed beneficial organisms in the soil that are so important to drive soil health. Healthy soil. Healthy grass.
Another bonus, the slow-release nitrogen source is humic-coated urea. Like stabilized N and sulfur-coated ureas, HCU will provide up to 8 weeks of nitrogen release.
Tag-teamed with The Andersons 9-12-6, these two fertilizers deliver the most granular goodness that can be stuffed in 50-lb. bags. When you pay for 50 pounds of fertilizer, wouldn’t it be nice to get 50 pounds of active, useable ingredients in the bag?
Well, maybe THIS one is my favorite fertilizer! It’s hard to choose between the 9-12-6 and those mentioned above 22-0-4. That’s why I suggest a fertility program combining the two.
Like its 22-0-4 sister product, the 9-12-6 has NO filler in the bag. It’s all nutrient and amendment. 9-12-6 has the added benefit of having two premium sources of phosphorus. Smartphos is a slow-release form derived from struvite, a sustainable, recycled phosphorus source extracted from waster water treatment plants. Coupled with monoammonium phosphate, a highly available P source, the 9-12-6 provides the best of two worlds- a readily available and slowly-available source of phosphorus.
The other benefits of 9-12-6 track perfectly with those of the 22-0-6, so no need to rehash. Both products work well in all soil types, but they really shine when used in native sandy soils and newly constructed sand-based fields.
Herbicides and Control Products
Podium contains trinexapac-ethyl, like Primo Maxx and other premium PGRs. It does a great job slowing top growth and reducing clipping production. There are times of the year where this is very helpful. A small amount can be added to your marking paint. This slows down the top growth of the grass under the paint. Your lines and logos stay intact longer because you’re not mowing off the grass, and the paint, as quickly. It’s on the label. Look it up.
But did you know that many sports turf managers use Podium for other reasons? It’s a great way to manage Poa, it redirects energy from growing leaf tissue to growing more roots, it can darken leaf color and help manage environmental stresses during the dog days of summer. It’s kind of the Leatherman® tool of growing grass.
Best of all, application rates are very low, and a one-gallon bottle goes a long way.
No one makes broadleaf herbicides better than PBI Gordon. They make it an art form. They do it better. They know how to create synergies by carefully concocting multiple active ingredients and maximizing efficacy.
Speedzone EW is a perfect example. There’s more to it than putting three parts this, 1 part that, and two parts of something else into a jug and shaking it. Speedzone, like other PBI Gordon premium herbicides, is homogenous.
That means every droplet contains each of the four actives: 2,4-D, dicamba, MCPP, and carfentrazone. The new EW formulation jacks up performance even more because it produces a smaller droplet size. This means you get better coverage when spraying to control weeds like creeping Charlie, clover, plantain, and knotweed.
If you’re not convinced yet, consider that you can seed into Speedzone-treated turf only seven days after application. Most herbicides will make you wait up to 4 weeks.
How many times in the spring have you been forced to delay or postpone a baseball or softball game due to standing water on the infield? If you said ‘never,’ I know you’re lying.
In-Flow is a granular surfactant specifically designed to help facilitate the rapid movement of standing water off the playing surface and into the ground. It is easily applied using a broadcast spreader and will provide surface water management for up to 30 days. It takes one bag to treat a baseball field and two bags to treat a typical softball field. Keep your skinned surfaces free from standing water and playable regardless of what Mother Nature throws at you.
In-Flow is also an excellent treatment when overseeding heavily damaged turf areas, like soccer goal mouths or the middle 1/3 of a football field. It will help hold just enough moisture in the rootzone when seeding, preventing the ground from drying out too quickly.
This is a perfect overseeding blend for hard-to-manage hotspots such as soccer and lacrosse goals, between football hash marks and other trouble spots where you always fight the battle to keep some sort of green underfoot.
I call it the paper plate theory: why use expensive bluegrass (think fine china) that germinates and established slowly? Use a less costly and faster-establishing grass, like perennial ryegrass (the paper plate) that allows you to broadcast seed more often, allowing players to “cleat in” the seed.
Perennial ryegrasses also germinate in cooler soil temperatures, so they’re an excellent choice for those early spring repair projects. Reinders Premium Ryegrass Blend also contains a 25% Replicator. Replicator is a tetraploid perennial ryegrass variety. It has double the number of chromosomes vs. conventional (diploid) perennial ryegrasses. They have a deeper set crown (think better traffic tolerance) and a deeper penetrating, more massive root system (better heat and drought resistance). Think of Replicator as perennial ryegrass on steroids.
Not all 50/50 bluegrass/ryegrass seed mixtures are equal. You can go cheap and buy an “athletic seed mix” that will work great in your backyard. If you want to give your fields the best chance to resist heavy traffic and, more importantly, recover quickly from it, you’ll want to pay attention to the seed genetics in the bag.
The four varieties in our Reinders 50/50 are carefully chosen. All were developed for use on athletic fields, taking advantage of bluegrasses with greater seedling vigor, aggressiveness, and turf density, and the superior performance of Replicator tetraploid perennial ryegrass. You may pay a little more, but it will be the best value and best performing athletic overseeding mix that money can buy. I’ll put it up against anything out there.
DuraEdge mound clays are the gold standard of clays for building or repairing pitcher’s mounds and batter/catcher boxes. Some clays are too dry and clumpy out of the bag, not so with DuraPitch. It comes ready-to-use with just enough moisture content to make them pliable and easy to manage. It’s the perfect high school and collegiate clay requiring only moderate moisture management once installed. The pleasing red color will match most existing clay surfaces. Topdressing Premium Mound Clay with Fair Ball or Turface MVP Field Conditioner provides the finishing touch.
DuraEdge ProLoc Mound Blocks are a great companion clay product to Premium Mound Clay. These highly compressed blocks are made from the same Premium Mound Clay and are easy to install due to DuraEdge’s patented 10° wedge that minimizes seams and gaps. They come in pouches of 8 blocks, sealed to keep them from drying out.
A soil probe will cost you around $60, but it’ll be the most valuable tool in your turf management toolbox. Use it to check compaction levels, thatch thickness, and soil moisture. You can also monitor root depth and use it to pull soil samples, which brings me to my final bonus offering.
Okay, I said I’d share 10 of my favorite Reinders products. I’m giving you a couple of bonus tips to complete the list.
How do you know what a ball field needs unless you test it? You’ll invest around $20 for each soil test, and the benefits are many. Like the ones we work with, a good soil lab will provide all sorts of useful data, like soil pH, nutrient levels (macro & micro), cation exchange capacity, and soluble salt levels. Soil testing can also determine organic matter content and particle sizing to determine sand, silt, and clay percentages.
Once you have a baseline soil test, testing every 1 to 3 years will help you monitor the progress you make when managing nutrient deficiencies and other potential issues.