RECENTLY INSTALLED SOD: when can I play on it?
NEW FIELD NEEDS GRASS: am I too late?
EDGING THE TURF: how do I make a straight cut?
IN THIS ISSUE:
a baseball dirt mix that is nothing but dirt
for Spring already?
My next project
- How can I help more fields play better?
I recently installed sod - when can I play on it?
is an assistant coach at a local high school. He installed
sod around the edges of the infield, pitchers mound and home plate
about a month ago. He wants to know how soon he can get back on
the field to use it for baseball offseason workouts or play a
If you did all the preparation and installation right a month
ago, then you should be able to play on it now. Proper
sod installation includes:
old grass removed, topsoil and compost added, roll flat, put out
some 6-20-20 starter fertilizer, moisten, install sod, roll, fertilize,
soak the first couple days, then regular watering and mowing.
The best way to test if sod is ready for play is the "grab
and pull test."
Use two hands to grab a grass area where you did not
sod. Feel how nothing gives? It is solid. Now grab a sod area
with two hands. Pull up. If the roots have taken hold, you will
not be able to feel any indication of loose sod. It will feel
just like the old grass area. You can play on it.
If you grab it and it moves a bit or feels loose, then you need
to wait. This grab and pull method is the best way to ensure the
sod is firm enough for pitcher fielding drills. You do not want
a pitcher loosing footing from loose sod and getting hurt.
Also, your sod is ready for another application of fertilizer
if you installed it a month ago. Regular fertilizer is fine. Something
like 16-8-8 or cool season 21-4-7.
new field needs grass. Am I too late?
in Folsom, CA (near Sacramento)and construction of the new high
school is way behind schedule. The two new baseball diamonds were
to have been sodded a month ago but weren't. Now, there's reluctance
to plant any grass seed or sod because of fear that the grass roots
won't establish themselves before going dormant. We need those fields
to be playable (for daily practice and games) by next spring . The
fields are ready to go, we just need grass. Do you have any good
ideas for us? Can we coax those roots somehow to establish themselves
over the late fall/winter? Chris.
is a perfect time in Sacramento to sod or seed. The days
are not too hot and the nights stay around 50 degrees. This time
of year (September – October) is actually better for seeding
than the spring.
I will give you some options and then tell you what I would do based
on what I know about your project.
First – sizing: Typical high school field
has about 7,500 square feet of
infield grass and about 45,000 square feet of outfield grass.
Sod: Bermuda sod would go dormant in the winter
and take till April before it greens up. A sod made of 90 percent
rye and 10 percent bluegrass would be perfect for fall, winter,
and spring. And with care it can be fine in the hot summer. Sod
made of 50 percent rye and 50% bluegrass is susceptible to fungus
in the hot summer in Sacramento.
I get sod from Horizon at about 30 cents a square foot. Installers
would cost about 10 cents per square foot. The Horizon outlets in
Sacramento use Delta Bluegrass in Stockton and Pacific Sod in Patterson.
Delta grows the grass used in PacBell park. Good stuff. I used it
college field in Santa Cruz. Of course, you need to follow normal
practices with rolling and watering.
Seed: A sports turf mix from Horizon is 80 percent
rye and 20 percent blue grass. This makes a perfect infield grass.
A 50 pound bag is about $80 and covers 5,000 square feet on new
turf or 10,000 square feet when over seeding existing turf. There
is also a trophy mix which is 90 percent fescue and 10 percent bluegrass.
Differences: rye germinates in less than a week. Fescue takes 2
or 3 weeks to germinate. Rye is thinner and can be mowed shorter.
Fescue is wider and withstands drought a bit better. A lot of lawns
Right now I am over
seeding 6 baseball fields and three yards with
the sports turf mix. I started about three weeks ago by aerating
They all look great.
Hydroseed: shoot a mixture of seed, fertilizer,
and mulch on the field. A
contact in your area is Dan Owen at Owen’s Hydroseed. 916-359-7439.
If you seed or sod you will need to put out starter fertilizer.
6-20-20. Fifty pounds is about $14. A bag covers the infield.
Are you too late? NO! But, time is running
out. This is the week for you to do something. You have nice weather.
I assume you have full irrigation in place. You need to watch the
watering. Water frequently, but do not overwater. Sod or seed will
be very playable come mid February 2008. Fertilize again in about
4 weeks with cool season fertilizer. Then let it set till late January
and fertilize again with the cool season fertilizer. You will have
a great field by mid February in time for baseball season.
Here is what I would do if I were you. Seed with
the sports turf mix. It
is 1 / 15th the cost of sod. If you have a thin spot, just put out
to do. Use a cyclone spreader, drag a metal leaf rake over the area
lightly mix dirt and seed, spread fertilizer, and start watering.
I hope you are able to get something going soon. According to landscape
professionals in your area, the absolute drop dead date to put out
seed is Thanksgiving. If you wait till after that, you might as
well wait till February. So, you still have a couple weeks, but
the sooner the better.
Seed has a hard time germinating when the temperature goes lower
than 50 degrees. P.S. Horizon on Broadway has over a pallet of 80/20
Sports Turf seed. 40 bags to a pallet. In case you are wondering,
I am not a paid advertiser if you use them or anything else I recommend.
Another good source for seed and fertilizer is Sierra Pacific Turf
Supply. There is one in Rocklin near you.
do I edge straight?
writes in about adging the turf. How do I edge the base
lines to look straight and even? I do not have a sod cutter. I
have an edger and a weed eater. Which one works best? I can't
seem to stay on the path of the string and it comes out jagged.
edging depends on two things:
ground between the turf and the infield skin
edging to keep it under control
A four wheel
sod cutter works well the first couple times when you begin to
renovate a field in disrepair. A field like this often has
a lip and the grass has overgrown the proper specs on a field
diagram. In a case like this the sod cutter does two things:
take out the lip and edge the grass to spec.
Once you have
a level ground between the turf and the infield skin, the sod
cutter is a bit overkill for the job. In fact if it is overused,
it can actually cause some problems... low spots right at the
grass edge. Then you have the opposite of a lip - you have
So, once the
ground is level, a motorized lawn edger might work. The
metal shield is designed to follow the edge of a sidewalk as the
cutting blade edges. On a field, the metal shield
doesn't have the edge of a sidewalk to follow. It will float
on top of the ground. So, you run it next to your line.
hand edger with a wheel and cutter, flat edge spade shovel, weed
eater (I've never tried that), spraying roundup on the grass that
is past the edge (it dies and disintegrates - I've done this on
a field where there was lots of grass and weeds past the edge
and the dirt was too damp to use a tool), walk behind push edger.
The key is
drawing a straight line and following it. Use a string to
mark the edge. Follow it or spray paint over it leaving
a line to follow. As you repeat the edging, it gets better
baseball dirt is just that. Nothing but dirt. How do
I fix this?
Erinn writes in:
I have 3 little league fields that I have done dirt analysis on.
3 consist of nothing but silt. How do I determine how much sand
and clay to add?
Your analysis tells me that you have infields that are nothing but
dirt. A field like this is usually either like flour dust and players
lose their footing or it is hard as a rock and you get bad bounces.
Is that what
you have? The other possibility is that the fields are completely
made of clay. Many softball fields are like this. So, it is important
to know what you have. If it is all clay, you add sand. If it is
all silt, you add sand and clay. A way to tell: wet silt is like
dark mud; wet clay is usually lighter in color, smoother and like
creamy putty. Much of the soil in the Midwest and east US is high
in clay content. Much of the soil in the west coast is high in sand
content. But it varies.
tell you two ways to fix this, and one more thing you should do
first. Assuming it is all silt, here is the key to fixing
try to end up with a mix that is something like this: 30% clay,
45% silt, and 25% sand. And you want this mixture to be
the top four inches. No need to go deeper than that. (Although some
professional fields have almost no silt at all. They are 60% clay
and 40% sand.)
Some facts about this project: There are 4200 square
feet of infield skin or dirt area on the typical little league field
with 60 feet between bases. A cubic yard spread 4 inches deep covers
81 square feet. 1 cubic yard spread 1 inch deep covers 324 square
feet. Hey, this is a fun math problem.
OK. So we know
how many square feet you are working with. Now, there are two ways
to get a better infield mixture.
The first way to get a better infield is to dig out (4 inches
deep) what you have and replace it with the right mix.
This is more expensive, more work, but a real way to get the right
baseball dirt mix.
A little league field with a grass infield needs about 50 yards
of baseball mix 4 inches deep. A good baseball mix costs about $45
a yard. A cubic yard is about one ton. 50 yards would cost about
$2500. You will need a bobcat or mustang to scrape and scoop out
existing material. $300 a day to rent. You will need a dump truck
to haul out the existing stuff. $300 a day to rent one... and you
need a place to dump it. You need a large tractor (preferably with
a tiller attachment) to spread the new mix and to pull a drag. $250
a day to rent. Then you need a small steam roller to flatten it.
$200 a day to rent. You need helpers for this option. Estimated
cost for this option - $3600.
second way for you to get a better infield is to add other materials
to what you have. Spread and mix it in. This is easier,
cheaper, done more often, and you get a good result.
You need about 13 tons of sand and 13 tons of clay. (You need to
spread both the sand and the clay 1 inch deep and till or mix it
into the top 4 inches. Do not go lower or you are just wasting it.)
A dump truck holds about that much. This would cost about $1200.
You will need a tractor tiller to spread and mix it. $250 to rent
for a day. Then use the small steam roller to flatten it. Another
$200 a day to rent. You can do this job by yourself, but helpers
are always nice to have. Estimated cost for this option - $1600.
to cut costs: use a 100 pound lawn roller instead of the
steam roller. It works, but this is a lot of work to pull around
a field enough times to flatten out the dirt mix. If you have some
helpers, this is an option. Put a couple young men on the job of
pulling or pushing this around. These rent for $20 a day if you
do not already have one. Some small little league projects like
this can be ‘free’ if you get locals to donate the equipment
and the mix.
So, we just
looked at two ways to fix the infield mix. BUT, there is
one more thing you should do first.
Go to your local
landscape or rock supplier. Go to one with many different dirt,
rock, and sand mixes. Take a couple sandwich baggies with you. Get
separate samples of the sand, the clay, and what they call their
baseball mix. Fill a sandwich bag up with each sample and put a
twisty on it. Then go home and get two wide mouth glass jars to
do a little test.
Put 2 inches of your existing infield dirt into a jar. Add 1 inch
of the sand. Add 1 inch of the clay. Fill the jar with water. Shake
it. Let it stand a couple hours. See what you end up with as far
as layers of clay, silt, and sand. If you really have silt, you
will see the three layers. If you really have clay, you will see
two layers. This test confirms what you have and approximately
what you end up with before doing the big job.
And the baggie
with what they call baseball mix, do the jar test with that also
just to see what it is made of. That way if you decide to go with
all new infield mix, you can tell if it is the right mix or not.
A lot of so-called baseball mix is just crushed brick and some sand.
It looks nice when it is wet, but does not provide firm footing
here is some more reference material from my website:
sample project improving the dirt mix on a softball field
hints and tips when correcting infield skin mix
decisions, tips, and mistakes to avoid on this project
list of 6 ways to improve your baseball infield skin - these
range from free, but short lasting to long lasting with a price
When you use a ballpark audit checklist, you'll know exactly
what your ball field condition is and exactly what you need
to do to fix problem areas or prevent something from becoming
found that a checklist is the way to go. It also shows me
where the priority areas area: safety. I'm sure you could
make up your own checklist, or just go out and walk your entire
field and take notes.
next project: a baseball field maintenance handbook
Many people write in telling me that this site has helped them
quite a bit. In fact several asked if I had a handbook summarizing
I've been kicking this around for a while and decided to create
an e-book. It will be a baseball field maintenance handbook
that you can take with you to the field. It will have everything
you need for a successful work day or baseball field project.
It will include the planning and decisions you need to make, tools
and equipment for your work, supplies and materials you need,
diagrams for your field , worksheets, and of course: tips,
hints, and mistakes to avoid.
I'm working on this and will have it ready in the coming months.
So, for me... it's fingers to the keyboard while my tools rest
for the winter!
better play more often,
Publisher, Editor, & Groundskeeper
Ultimate Baseball Field Renovation Guide