How to turn your home turf into a field of dreams
Think it’s a challenge to maintain your lawn? Imagine the task of building the perfect turf with 2,000 pounds of sod in less than a month for the Super Bowl, football’s biggest event.
Some of America’s elite groundskeepers for the Super Bowl and other sports venues offer these tips for caring for and maintaining your home turf:
Sharpen blades for the blades. Homeowners often care for their yards but neglect their lawn equipment, according to NFL field director Ed Mangan, who supervises groundskeepers for the Super Bowl. “A sharp blade is really paramount. Have a spare around,” says Mangan, who also serves as grounds chief for baseball’s Atlanta Braves. Whenever a minor league ballpark field looks a bit scruffy, Mangan asks the grounds crew when they last sharpened their mower blades. A dull blade cuts “more like a Weed Eater instead of a blade,” he says.
Fertilize in the fall. If you can fertilize only once a year, shoot for around Sept. 1, advises George Toma, who has helped to prepare every Super Bowl field in history, beginning in 1967. “A lot of people [are] locked up in their houses all winter and then they go out there and start doing a lot of things in the spring. You have to do it in the fall. That’s Mother Nature’s time,” he says.
Water grass early in the mornings. To reduce water loss to evaporation, turn on your sprinklers before it’s too hot and windy. And guard against overwatering. If watering in the afternoon, merely shower lightly to cool off the grass. “I want that grass going to sleep in a dry diaper. If it’s a wet diaper, maybe you’re going to catch a baby rash; the grass is going to get diseased,” says Toma, who retired in 1999 as chief groundskeeper for baseball’s Kansas City Royals and football’s Kansas City Chiefs.
Don’t let automatic sprinklers make you complacent. An automatic irrigation system can lull a homeowner into ignoring his yard, according to Mangan. For instance, if it’s rained three days in one week, a lawn probably can go the rest of the week without additional water. Also, some problem areas may require watering by hand. “Just take a walk across the yard with a cup of coffee and look at it,” Mangan urges.
Mow often. Homeowners should mow once or twice a week, says Heather Nabozny, head groundskeeper for the Detroit Tigers baseball club and a member of the Super Bowl grounds crew since 2003. “Don’t let your turf get too long,” she says. “You don’t want to take off more than a third of the [grass] blades at a time.”