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Natural Grass Management

Natural grass eliminates many of the health concerns found in artificial turf. By using organic maintenance practices, communities can also eliminate the use of toxic insecticides, herbicides and fungicides (pesticides).

The challenge facing municipal turf managers and school facilities directors today is how to grow strong, resilient turf grass naturally without chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, given the demands of busy sports schedules and budgetary constraints. It can seem overwhelming, but there are simple and effective solutions.​

 

Up until the mid 1960’s, all athletic fields were maintained without chemical controls, so clearly it’s possible, but it’s much less difficult today with widely available modern techniques, machinery, grass varieties, soil testing, fertilizers and soil amendments.

Tisbury’s Veterans Park, Martha's Vineyard - aeration and slice seeding Oct. 2018.

Sports turf managers often express the concern that converting to a natural fertilization program will result in heavy weed infestations, increased insect and disease damage, and ultimately in total field failure.

According to organic grass athletic field experts, the key to a well-functioning field is healthy soil and a healthy grass root system. Individual fields can be diagnosed and maintained in a way that addresses specific issues and performance needs. Regular pest monitoring can save money and identify pest pressure early, before it becomes a widespread issue.

Schools and communities may also have questions about how many hours of play can be supported by a natural grass field. School administrators and parents may find it useful to read case studies of Springfield, MAMarblehead, MA, and Martha’s Vineyard, MA, which include detailed information on maintenance practices, costs, and playable hours. 

Different communities have different approaches to what their fields need. Springfield, Marblehead, and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts do not rest their fields and do not restrict play during particular seasons or rotate fields. When drainage is designed appropriately and functioning properly, and a field is regularly aerated and adequately fertilized, the soil is able to hold more water, while reducing puddling after rain and the need for irrigation.

Proper construction and maintenance of natural grass will result in durable fields that can withstand high use, while keeping long-term cost low. Organic management can be adapted to suit the needs of any community, site or climate. A little knowledge about modern grass management techniques can go a long way.

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