July 2015

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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Page 26 of 51 July 2015 | SportsTurf 27 you have less than 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches of infill, you need to add more and since there is no standard and each manufacturer will recommend different levels, my experience is to maintain infill to allow ¾-inch or less of exposed fibers above the infill level. In each square foot a ¼-inch of infill is equal to approximately 0.55 pounds of crumb rubber. Most rubber/sand infill systems will not need additional sand since sand tends to stay stable within the turf. On rare occasions, sand may be lost due to operations (snow plowing) or torrential downpours that cause flooding; in those circumstances, sand will need to be added to the mix. GROOMING THE FIELD Grooming the field is an essential maintenance task. We highly recommend using a groomer designed specifically for synthetic turf, such as the GreensGroomer or the Wiedenmann units. When using any groomer, adjusting it so that it only lightly touches the fibers will provide the best results; do NOT lower the entire weight of the groomer onto the turf UNLESS you want to level out uneven spots or move the crumb rubber to fill an area such as a lacrosse goal crease. When "tickling" the fibers with the groomer's brushes, the intent is to stand the fibers up to mini- mize their lay-over from use. We recommend that the field be groomed every 300 to 350 hours of use; some internet articles suggest 400 to 500 or more hours, and much depends on your facility's available manpower. At minimum, the field should be groomed several times during the highest use periods and less often during the down times (if there is such a thing). CLEANING THE FIELD Trash and debris are a constant nuisance. Timely removal is important to keep them from becoming ground into the infill material, causing removal problems later on. Although largely overlooked, chewing gum on the field should be removed as soon as possible. Most chewing gums today never harden, and with the intense heat in the field, gum becomes gooey and eventually spreads across the turf surface. To remove gum, use either ice cubes or a freezing spray agent to harden the gum, chip it off and remove it. When we deep-clean our clients' synthetic fields, our equip- ment most frequently removes items such as sunflower seeds, pistachio/peanut shells, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, wire ties from nets, buttons, fabric scraps, cleats, bobby pins, jewelry, screws, nails, staples, paper clips and rocks (from broken stone bags that are used to weigh down goals and equipment). These items—plus dust, dirt, pollen, body skin cells, human hair, leaves and pine needles—can end up embedded in synthetic fields, where they remain for much of the life of the field. It's astounding, actually, how quickly debris can accumulate, unseen, on a synthetic field, causing several problems. Such debris can create safety hazards for the athletes (particularly sharp metal items), abrade the synthetic grass fibers and degrade the crumb rubber (which, in turn, increases the field's hardness), reduce water infiltration by clogging drainage pores, and develop an organic layer that is conducive to the proliferation of bacteria, mold, moss, fungi and insects, as well as the germination of weed seeds. Special deep-cleaning equipment with HEPA-filter vacuums can remove this type of debris from within the turf. Rain, snow, sleet and hosing will not wash it out. Invariably, field managers ask if synthetic fields need to be disinfected. For the best answer, my suggestion is to review the research pages of Dr. Andrew McNitt at Penn State (http://crop- CONTROLLING WEEDS Weeds can exist and thrive in synthetic turf, especially if the field is not deep-cleaned regularly enough to prevent an organic layer from developing. Also, if your turf is surrounded by bermu- dagrass or any other creeping grass variety, be prepared because the stolons and rhizomes of such grasses tend to seek their way into and under the synthetic turf. Synthetic-field surfaces reach optimal growing temperatures before the surrounding turf does, providing a perfect greenhouse effect for creeping varieties to spread. After they start spreading beneath the synthetic field, they will find the drainage holes and send their shoots upwards for the sunlight. The resulting sewing-machine effect makes removal of creep- ing grasses quite difficult, and in most cases, they will need to be chemically treated (as approved by the turf manufacturer) to kill them off. The simplest solution is to prevent them from growing in the first place; this can be done either by pulling them when young, spraying Round Up or an organic product designed to kill young weeds and grass, and then being vigilant so that you can act quickly if you discover an encroachment. PATCHING WORN AREAS Pay particular attention to maintaining adequate infill material in heavy wear areas. Synthetic fields wear just like natural turf, except that you can't grow the fibers back in once they are gone. For instance, lacrosse players can destroy a goal crease in as little as one year if the turf is not maintained. The infill material gradually gets kicked or shuffled out, and then the fibers take a beating and break off quickly without the support of the infill material. Before you know it, you're left with a big black area (which is the backing for the synthetic turf), and now it's time to patch it. You could replace the area with either a piece saved from the initial installation, or you could cut a piece from outside the playing area so that it matches in color and type. Still, though, it won't be a perfect match because the fibers in the patch piece will not have had as much wear (so the "nap" won't be the same). In addition, to make a patch in a synthetic field, you will need special materials, and your local home improvement or hardware store does not carry them. Don't use Gorilla glue, "liquid nails," styrene bonding agents, and/or drywall screws or framing nails for repairs, since they are not designed for synthetic turf and may later become a liability nightmare. Instead, contact the manufac-

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