Thursday, January 30, 2014

Winter Education Vol 7 - Edging Infields

Edging an infield is a basic task that can accomplish many goals. Edging is simply broken into two categories: pre/post-season and in-season.

Edging New Sod

Pre/post-season edging can remove large amounts of turf. In northern climates, Kentucky bluegrass produces rhizomes, which causes the plant to spread. In southern climates, bermudagrass produces both rhizomes and stolons and is very aggressive/invasive on infields and warning tracks. Re-establishing edges before a season can be tricky if proper planning is not taken. ALWAYS measure your edges after your last edging of the season. 

How do you do this? For baselines, stretch a string that your typically lay out for the foul line. Measure each edge off the line and make a simple drawing. (varies) For the infield, place all three bases in the anchors and measure from the back corner of the base to the front edge of the infield. (typically 3 ft) For the base cutouts, use a 100 ft tape and measure for the anchor to the turf edge. (typically 15 ft) For the back arc, take the same 100 ft tape and measure from the front of the pitcher’s rubber to the back arc. (typically 95 ft) Now, all the guessing of the first edging of the spring is a thing of the past! For the warning track, measure off the wall/chain link fence. Then, edge the surface and bring the field back to in-season dimensions.

In-season edging will keep the field not only looking good, but also reduces lips. ALWAYS string up the edges before edging the infield or warning track. In-season, edging should take place every two weeks. If you are edging every two weeks, only grass clippings will be removed.

Now you have the basic info, let’s look at the tools! Pre/post-season edging will require a bed edger and a typical blade edger. Also, to remove the turf, a loop hoe is handy. When edging in-season, the blade edger is the best choice.

Play on!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Winter Education Vol 6 - Adding New Infield Mix to an Existing Infield

Every infield will need additional material added to the existing infield on a frequent basis. The question I usually hear is: “How often will I need to add material?” That question is not easy to answer for a few reasons. First, what type of mix are you using on your existing infield? Often, local and less expensive mixes are used. A mix that is not balanced will not hold a grade as well as a balanced infield mix. What is your sand/silt/clay and SCR in your mix? Secondly, how close do you want the transition for turf to dirt to be? At the highest levels, mix is added at least once a year to ensure good ball roll and to ensure correct surface drainage. If your infield mix is low, the back edge will create a dam for water after rain events.

So, with all that said, how do you add new mix? The first task is to test your infield mix. A test will cost about $100 per test, but when a good, balanced mix can cost $1,500+ per load the $100 test is well worth the expense! You need to know what you have before you decide what to add. (Consult Infield Mixes, Vol 3 for more info) If you have questions, please let me know. I will work with you to ensure that a correct mix is added to your existing mix. After the mix that will be added is determined, it’s time to go to work. 

The first step is to remove all the topdressing from the infield. This topdressing may be able to be re-used if the material is clean and free of the existing mix. Next, if the infield grade is in poor condition a rough laser grade should be performed to move the existing mix into the correct location. The new infield mix should then be added to the existing infield using a topdresser to ensure consistent application of the new material. Blecavating the infield is the next step. Blending the new material into the existing material at a 4 inch depth is CRITICAL! Furthermore make sure all the edges are tilled by hand. After the blending takes place, the infield is rolled with a 3 ton duel drum roller to ensure proper compaction. Then, the process of laser grading and rolling is performed until the infield reaches the proper grade. Finally, infield topdressings are added and the infield is finished with a mat drag.

Adding new mixes to existing mixes is a very labor intensive operation. With skilled labor and the correct equipment, this process will take between 8-12 hours to complete. To be honest, this is a job that is best to leave to professionals. 

Play on!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winter Education Vol. 5 - Topdressings for Infields

Infield topdressings are always a great point of discussion. Topdressing is the top 1/4 - 1/2 inch of the infield surface for baseball and softball infields.  Topdressing acts as the “mulch” of the infield. Infield topdressings fall into major three categories:

1. Calcined Clay
2. Vitrified Clay
3. Crushed Aggregates

Calcined clay is a clay baked between 1200 to 1400 degrees in rotary kilns. The common trade names for calcined clays include: Diamond Pro Professional Calcined ClaySoilmaster Red, and Turface MVP. Calcined clays are extremely absorbent and slowly release moisture back to the soil. Typically, calcined clays are reddish-tan in color. 

Calcined clay drying agents are the smallest sized calcined clay products. Since the products are smaller, they cover more surface area, thus this products dries wet areas quicker than a calcined clay topdressing. 

Vitrified clay is a clay that is baked at over 2000 degrees in rotary kilns. The common trade name for this product is Diamond Pro Infield Conditioner. Vitrified clays have low moisture absorption capabilities and dry quickly after wetting.

Crushed aggregates are typically a decomposed granite, or in other areas of the Midwest, brick dust. Crushed aggregates will break down quicker than calcined or vitrified clays. The most common issue I see is raising elevation too much with crushed aggregates. Furthermore, brick dust is very abrasive and will stain uniforms. 

The bottom line is: any topdressing used at a depth in excess of 1/2 in will produce a surface that will be too loose when dry. If your infield is more than 1/2 inch low, additional infield mix will need to be brought in and blended with the existing material. (There will be a post on that topic shortly) 

Which topdressing is best for your field? Do you have topdressing questions? Feel free to leave a comment, or give me a call/email. I will be happy to assist you in any topdressing question.

Play on! 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow Cover - How Does it Effect Soil Temps?

Another installment as soil temps are recorded in central IN.  Click HERE to see the first post in regards to this matter.

Below is the soil temps at 4 inches taken early this week.

As you will see, the soil temps have actually risen a couple degrees from early Jan.  What will this mean for turfgrass in the spring?  Time will tell, but I would anticipate more pink snow mold on cool season turf and hopefully less winter damage on bermudagrass.

Go to to learn more about J&D Turf.

Play on!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Winter Education Vol 4 - Laser Grading

We have covered the basics of infield mixes, what makes up a mix, SCR and EST, and drainage, so let’s move on to grading.

Simply stated, laser grading is the use of laser technology to grade an infield. The laser is set up on a fixed point, depending on which type of laser is used, and sends a laser beam to a receiver mounted to a pole on the box blade. As the blade is pulled or pushed across the infield the receiver will direct the hydraulics to automatically move the blade up or down to provide an accurate and consistent grade. How accurate? I like to see +/- 1/8 in. 

Typically two different types of lasers are used. A dual slope laser grades in a slope or crown. These lasers are typically used to grade football and soccer fields, but can be used on baseball and softball fields, especially older fields. A conical laser grades in a cone. When a conical laser is used all three bases are at the same elevation. Conical lasers are the industry standard for new infield construction. 

As was stated in the drainage post, infields should always be laser graded. After laser grading, especially in new construction, a survey referred to as an existing topographical survey should be taken and reviewed with the owner and contractor. This will assure the owner of the property that the surface was graded properly. 

Why is all of this important? As the drainage post explains, surface drainage is the best and only way to effectively drain an infield. If there are irregularities in the grade, i.e. – “bird baths” water will hold in the areas and make the infield unplayable after rain events. Remember – water does not run uphill!

Always ask your grading contractor if they implement laser technology, and ask them to explain their grading plan to you before materials are moved on your playing surface.

Play on!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Winter Education Vol 3 - Infield Mix Drainage

There are two types of drainage for infield mixes that I typically see during my travels.  1. subsurface drainage 2. surface drainage
Subsurface Drainage Installation

First up, let’s talk subsurface drainage, that is drainage tile installed under the surface. Typically the trenches are backfilled with stone and then capped with infield mix. Simple enough, though there are two primary concerns.

One, basic soil science tells us that finer textured soil should not be placed over courser soil. Why? The finer textured soil must become fully hydrated before water moves to a larger textured soil.

Two, if the infield is compacted correctly during construction/renovation and it contains the correct sand/silt/clay ratio, the infield is too firm to percolate any moisture. I have seen numerous examples of infield projects gone wrong when the local earthwork contractor attempts to install subsurface drainage on an infield. 

Often, drain tiles are installed when what the infield needed was more infield mix to bring the infield to the correct grade.  Another issue with drain tile installation on an existing infield is that the infield mix will most likely become contaminated with gravel from the drain installation.

The second drainage option is surface drainage. For me, this is the way to drain an infield. From the front edge to the back arc, .5% grade is all that is needed for an infield surface. 1% is too much as the topdressing on the infield tends to run off into the outfield grass during heavy rain events.

 Laser Grading

For softball, from the pitching rubber in all directions, .4% grade is all that is needed. Why the difference? Any grade more than .4% will provide a surface that appears to have a mound. As we all know, softball players do not like mounds on their fields. Another note on softball fields, .4% has to be consistent across the infield. I have fielded numerous calls on infield mixes and topdressing running off of infields an into dugouts/seating areas. One field in particular had a .4% around the mound, which is correct, but a 1% from the foul lines to the dugouts. It is the 1% that is causing the runoff during heavy rains.

As you can tell, a little variation in surface drainage can cause big problems. So, how do you ensure the correct surface drainage? Laser grading is the answer. Under ALL circumstances lasers should be used. The technology is the industry standard, do not accept anything less. Depending on your site, a conical or dual plane laser will be the tool of choice. 

My advice? Forget all the subsurface drainage and make sure that your infield is laser graded frequently to .5% for baseball and .4% for softball.

Play on!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Winter Education Vol. 2 - Engineered Soil Technology - Silt to Clay Ratio

Engineered Soil Technology - Originally posted in January 2010.

As the Head Groundskeeper at Victory Field, I can’t tell you how many times I heard this saying. “Well we don’t have the budget that you do at Victory Field!” Of course, most facilities do not have the budget of a professional facility. So, my goal was, how do we bring the materials that are used at the highest levels and apply them to all fields. Engineered Soil Technology  (EST) is the answer.

A properly balanced infield mix after play - cleat in-cleat out

EST is the process that computer blends materials. So, with the advent of EST, engineered soil manufacturers can computer blend amendments and mixes based on your field needs. In the past, what was used at Victory Field would not work at a city park. The lower sand content and higher clay content of the professional mixes become too difficult to manage for a parks system that has 1 person working on 5 fields. That’s a long way from the 8 I had working on the playing surface at Victory Field after games. 

Now, with EST the same manufacturer can blend a mix that has 60% sand, typical in a professional setting, and also blend a mix that has 72% sand, typical with a recreational setting. Both mixes contain the same raw material/mineral - silt and clay, with the overall sand content adjusted for the level of play. Thus, the technology  and materials that are used at the highest levels is now brought to all levels, adjusted to ratios that are manageable to the grounds crew and coaching staffs. How cool is that!

Another acronym that will become commonplace in the sports turf industry is SCR. SCR stands for silt to clay ratio. How do you figure out your SCR? Simply divide your silt by your clay. 

For example: A mix contains 70% sand, 22% silt, and 8% clay.

The SCR is 22 divided by 8 = 2.75 SCR

As a rule of thumb, your SCR should be .5 – 1.0. What happens if your SCR is above 1.0? Your infield will be sloppy in the spring (i.e. the material pushes out of each side of your shoes as the step on a wet infield).

How about, low areas around your bases and a dusty infield when dry? Without even looking at the infield, I would bet that the SCR is greater than 2.5. 

Most mixes native to Indiana do have an SCR of 2.5 or higher. What does that mean for your infield? If your SCR is 2.5+ it will play well in some but not all conditions. In other words, you will be re-scheduling games while those with an SCR of 1.0 will be playing.

Do you test your infield soil? What is your SCR? Why head into the 2014 season not knowing?

Play on!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Education Vol 1 - What Makes Up an Infield Mix?

Over the next few weeks, we will be looking in depth at various aspects of baseball and softball fields from a more comprehensive education aspect.  The first topic - "What Makes Up an Infield Mix."

Originally published in January 2010: What makes a good infield mix? You hear it all the time. “Our infield mix is a 70/30.” That is a statement that is echoed frequently in the industry. 
One of the reasons why the Smart Turf blog was created was to shed light on many issues in sports turf. What makes a good infield mix typically is at the top of the list of questions. So, let’s get to the bottom of the matter.

First of all, for years building and maintaining baseball/softball infields was considered an art. What one groundskeeper thought was a great infield, another thought it was a horrible infield. The process was subjective and creative. How many times have you heard, “I’m looking for some black dirt.” Or, “I’m looking for some red clay.” Times are changing and the tide is turning to science. Why? Simply stated, when the process is a science, soils are tested, results can be predictable, and replicable.

The infield mix profile consists of three components. The deepest part of the profile is a compacted sub base that is typically native soil that is 3-6 inches below the finish grade of the surface. Next, the base soil exists. The base soil is the “meat” of the infield. The material is usually imported, compacted firmly, and has surface drainage. (more on drainage in another upcoming blog) Finally, 1/8-1/4 in of topdressing rests on the surface much like mulch in a landscaping. (more on topdressing in another upcoming blog) 

So, what makes a good mix? A good mix has many characteristics, but the most important ones include: traction, playability, and consistency. A mix should provide consistent traction, the ability for athletes to play the game without sliding/slipping around the infield. The infield should play consistently in a variety of weather conditions. How many time have you heard, “I hope it doesn’t rain, we will be shut down for 3 days!” When all the characteristics are achieved, the infield is considered a “balanced soil.”

Infield mixes have three components, sand, silt, and clay. Sand, the largest soil particle, provides the structural integrity of the infield. The targeted range is 58-75% and over 50% of the sand should be retained on the medium sieve. Silt, the second largest soil particle, acts as a bridge between the sand and the clay. 10-35% is the acceptable range. Clay, the smallest soil particle, provides the color of the mix and retains moisture. 15-35% is the acceptable range. The take home message on silt/clay is that the ratio of silt/clay (SCR – more on that later) should NEVER be higher than 1:1.

Does your infield become very tacky after a rain? Does your infield blow around during periods of dry weather? Is your infield too beachy? What are your sand/silt/clay percentages of your infield? Testing is the only way to know! 

Play on!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Did the Recent Cold Weather Cause Winter Kill on My Bermudagrass Surface?

This was a question I received a number of times at this week's Indiana Green Expo.  The short answer is, I don't know.  I suspect the snow cover greatly improved chances of bermudagrass survival.  If you did not have snow cover, it may be a different story.

Do you want to determine what you have as of today?  HERE is a link of an article from Grady Miller from 2010.  Pay careful attention to the end of the article where Grady explains pulling plugs to determine bermudagrass health to date.  Thanks to James Bergdoll, Turf Manager/Maintenance Superintendent at the Elizabethtown Sports Park for providing the initial link to this great information.

Let's hope for a warmer rest of the winter.

Go to to learn more about J&D Turf.

Play on!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Snow Cover - How Does it Effect Soil Temps.

Many turf professionals recognize that snow cover is Mother Nature's soil blanket.  Snow cover will insulate the soil.  So, I decided to illustrate this fact this afternoon.

The location is Indianapolis, IN.  To better understand the insulation properties of snow cover, let me set the scene of the weather conditions:

Air temp: -12 degrees
Wind chill: -40 degrees
Snow cover: 11 inches (see photo below)

To better understand the previous weather conditions, click HERE for January to date weather and HERE for Dec 2013 weather history.

So, with the air temp at -12 degrees, what do you think the soil temp is at 4 inches?

Existing conditions:

Snow depth:

Hole dug to expose existing turf cover - this is a native soil application:

Soil temp at a 4 inch depth:

There is nothing in life that is certain, except death and taxes, but I believe that this snow cover may very well protect the bermudagrass in this area from extensive winter damage.  After all, the weather we are experiencing is some of the coldest weather in the over 52,000 days of weather data recording in Indianapolis.  In fact, today was the second coldest high temp EVER recorded in Indianapolis, but the soil temp at 4 inches is well above freezing.

Go to to learn more about J&D Turf.

--Play on!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Year in Review Video

Happy New Year!

Before we head into 2014, let's take one last look at 2013 with the J&D Turf 2013 Year End Review Video.

Click HERE for the link via Animoto

Play on!