Extending the Green on Athletic Fields

By Pamela Sherratt and John Street

Growth covers can offer many advantages to field managers

Consistent rain and low temperatures, coupled with cloudy days (sunlight seems to have been non-existent), has led to some pretty unhappy grass lately.

The sports facilities are closing their fields down for the winter. Those facilities that host spring games might investigate purchasing a growth cover/tarp.

Advantages of using a growth cover:

  • Significantly quicker spring green-up. Temperatures under the cover can be 6-10 degrees warmer than ambient air, so turf growth is 2-4 weeks quicker than on non-covered turf.
  • Extended fall color – this is particularly important for late fall sports and warm-season grass fields
  • Speeds up seedling germination & establishment
  • Holds seed in place and prevents erosion during a rain event
  • Having the field covered discourages people from playing on them while they are being renovated
  • If the cost is too restrictive for a blanket that covers the whole field, smaller pieces of blanket can be used to cover high trafficked areas, such as goal mouths and sidelines. Just be aware that covered areas will be a darker green color than the rest of the field in the early spring

NOTE: A growth blanket, such as Evergreen by Covermaster, costs around $15,000-$20,000 for 90,000 sq.ft, depending on whether the cover has to be custom made (e.g. for baseball) or is just a standard rectangle. While there are less expensive covers out there, a good quality cover gives better results, lasts longer, and usually carries a 7-10 year warranty.

Beware of Snow Mold! – One final comment, from CSFM Mike Schiller “if you are going to use the grow cover during the winter to protect the turf and speed up growth in the spring, it is very important to put down a snow mold fungicide, or a good all purpose fungicide, to prevent any outbreaks under the covers. Trust me I have learned the hard way. Even if you put it on in February or so, I would still recommend a fungicide, because the last thing you want is disease under the covers”.

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