When the calendar says “spring has sprung” maybe it’s more fitting to say “spring is here”. Thanks to the typically squishy sound beneath my feet as I walk the ballfields at our Little League park, early spring is a bit of an adventure. Winter is usually trying to hang on here in the northern part of the country, but I’ve seen the future … and it’s wet fields. What is a groundskeeper to do to keep his or her fields dry and playable as quickly as possible?
Here are some wet field tips:
- Wait till the field has lost all frost in the soil profile before attempting any work on the skin portion. If it’s too soft to walk on, you should not be on it.
- If your field is in the northern part of the country where you get a decent depth of frost each year (3″ or more), be sure to roll the field once it has dried enough to help seal the field back up so water will run off the field more easily.
- The winds of winter can build up soil and topdressing materials into the lips of the infield skin. These lips will drastically affect the drainage of water off of your infield skin so be sure to clean out all lips.
- Make sure the surface of the skin is smooth and level. Fall is one of the best times to re-level your infield skin so there are no low spots in the skin which will collect water. This exercise best prepares your field(s) for rapid water removal in the spring.
- If it wasn’t regraded last fall, go out to the field right after a rain while there are still puddles on the infield skin and, using a rake, carve the outline of each puddle. When dry, nail drag the infield avoiding the low spots so you can find them, then use the loose infield soil to fill these low areas to help the water move off the infield more effectively.
- Keep some calcined clay drying agents around for those emergencies. But if the puddles are large or deep, then use some puddle sponges or a puddle pump to remove excess water leaving just very shallow wet areas where drying agents can then work their magic.
- Whatever you do, NEVER use brooms to sweep excess water off an infield. You will only be worsening the surface grade of the skin by sweeping more soil out which will create an even deeper hole for water to stand in. This will also build up the lips even worse creating a bigger dam along the edge.