Q: I am taking care of a high school baseball infield grass. I need to fertilize the lawn and reseed a few spots. Could you steer me in the right direction as to fertilizer and lawn seeds?
— Garden Club reader Monte
A: No, Monte; thank you. Well-maintained turf is a critical component of baseball that most don’t appreciate until they play on a patchy or dying field. Conscientious athletic field maintenance can make the game all the better for both players and fans.
For spot reseeding, you’ll probably do best to try and match the variety of grass already growing on the field. We’ve recently published two articles that might help you identify the grass that’s already there — one on cool-season grasses, and the other on warm-season grasses. Which you should look for will depend mostly on what part of the country you’re in. Cool-season grasses are more frequently used in cooler northern states, while warm-season grasses predominate in the warmer south. Bermuda grass and bluegrass are preferred by many, since they perform well on fields without built-in irrigation and generally make for low-maintenance turf.
As for the fertilizer you should use, a soil test can help you determine what minerals your field needs most. Generally speaking, fertilizer with a ratio of 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 are a safe bet, but depending on the pH, phosphorus and potassium levels in your soil, you may want to ratchet that ratio up or down a little.
Just as important as the ratio, though, is your timing. You’ll want to apply a complete fertilizer in early spring to boost growth before the baseball season begins. During the season itself, you can probably concentrate on the amount of nitrogen your turf is getting. Most groundskeepers recommend using between a half and three-quarters of a pound of nitrogen for every 1,000 square feet of turf per month. Relatively light, frequent applications will probably do more good than heavy applications only occasionally. The more use the field gets, the more frequently you’ll want to add nitrogen. That will let you build up the turf between games, helping it recover from the wear and tear of play.
You can finish off the season with another application of a complete fertilizer, several weeks before the first frost. Some groundskeepers recommend using a gypsum-based product to help promote root growth during this last round of treatment. Finally, you should also fertilize after you reseed. Be sure to water thoroughly after each application so that the fertilizer won’t scorch your grass.
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