Removing snow from athletic fields

Believe it or not, winter is coming sooner than we’d like. This means it is time to start looking at what you can do NOW to prepare for winter weather (and impending snowfall in many places!), in order to give yourself the best chance of having a playable field come springtime.

Snowfall can actually provide benefits to turfgrass during the winter months. But what if you have an urgent need to get the field playable during winter snow; or you have early spring games on a field that is still covered in snow? We all know that it’s best to let the snow melt naturally in due course, but if you really need to prepare a field for practice or play, the key is in the planning. Here’s what you need to consider:

  • Keep an eye on the forecast and be prepared to head to the field with a plow or shovel, preventing the snow from building up; removing the snowfall inches at a time will help prevent a huge pile up.
  • Be careful with the playing field surface—aggressive scraping can cause real damage to your grass.
  • Only shovel or plow down to an inch of snow and let the sunshine do the rest. And if you’re in a hurry, help it along with a dark topdressing that will attract the heat.
  • Make sure you have somewhere to put all of this snow! If you’re looking at a large snowfall and plan to remove the snow consistently, plan where you’re going to put the extra snow so that it is safely out of the way.
  • Lastly, stay away from salt! There is nothing more damaging to turfgrass in the winter.

The work required on a sports field can be extensive, especially with all of the additional steps the cold winter weather requires, but when properly cared for, your fields will survive the weather and be ready for spring maintenance.

For any successful outcome, proper preparation is vital, so of course the same is expected when working towards a nice, healthy natural turf after wintertime. To correctly prepare your field for the cold season, there are four important things to keep in mind: aerification, overseeding, topdressing, and mowing adjustments.

Aerification is one of the most important steps when maintaining a green turf through the brisk weather. If there is no airflow amongst the roots of the turf, snowfall can cause suffocation, acting as a wall separating the turf from air. Similar to bears before going into hibernation, your turf needs to be comfortable and well prepared before winter hits. If you live in a climate where snow can accumulate for months on end, aerification at the end of fall and early winter is critical. Considering how much you have compacted the rootzone mix throughout fall season; it is important to get air into those roots. This will create a better environment for the turf and will allow any moisture from the snow to work its way down.

Just with any other plant, turf needs air to breath and nutrients to sustain itself. Once ventilation has been created throughout the soil, overseeding comes into play. Overseeding is essential to maintain the long-term health and vibrancy of turf; something easily compared to one taking their daily vitamins. It improves the look of the turf (both density and color), preparing it with substances to properly survive the harsh conditions that come along with winter.

Once turf is prepped, the next step before the upcoming cold weather is to cover it with a topdressing, a layer of product evenly distributed for many purposes, but in this particular case, to avoid winter desiccation. Not only will the topdressing act as a barrier between the roots and the cold weather, but it will also protect the crown of the plant, helping with faster recovery. Though any kind of topdressing product is better than none at all, there are benefits to applying something more than straight sand. For example, porous ceramic products help protect the grass plant and provide increased air space in the rootzone. Porous ceramics do not degrade during freeze/thaw cycles, which also helps provide a long-lasting benefit that will carry well through the spring season.

Just before winter, mowing practices need be adjusted to better prepare for the cold weather. As the snowfall sits directly atop the turf, it is suggested to let grass blades grow out longer in order to create a greater distance between the root of the plant and the snow, preventing freezing that will stunt grass growth. And while it may seem obvious, don’t forget to take care of your irrigation and blow the water out before the chillier winter temperatures set in.

When you’ve prepared effectively, you can sit back and let Mother Nature do her work.

Katie Ray wrote this article on behalf of Profile Products.