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.
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 is a challenge, but there are solutions.
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.
Up until the mid 1960’s, all athletic fields were maintained without chemical controls, so obviously it’s possible.
Sports turf managers often express the concern that converting to a natural lawn program will result in heavy weed infestations, increased insect and disease damage, and ultimately in total field failure. 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, MA, Marblehead, 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 soil is properly aerated and maintained, the soil is able to hold more rainwater, reducing puddling after rain.
Links & Resources
"Principles of Natural Turf Maintenance" from Grassroots Environmental Education
"Natural Grass Playing Field Case Study: Springfield, MA” from Toxics Use Reduction Institute. 2020.
“Natural Grass Playing Field Case Study: Martha’s Vineyard, MA” from Toxics Use Reduction Institute. 2020.
“Natural Grass Playing Field Case Study: Marblehead, MA” from Toxics Use Reduction Institute. 2020.
"A Cost Comparison of Conventional (Chemical) Turf Management and Natural (Organic) Turf Management for School Athletic Fields" from Grassroots Environmental Education. 2010
"Building an Organic Maintenance Program for Athletic Fields: Guidance from Experts and Experienced Communities" from Toxics Use Reduction Institute. 2021.