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Tall Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass athletic Maintenance Guide

December - February

Fertilization

Follow September-November fertilization guidelines. Fertilize between February 15 and March 15 at the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Quick-release sources of nitrogen, such as urea (46-0-0) and ammonium nitrate (34-0-0), should be watered in immediately to prevent foliar burn.

Irrigation

Follow September-November guidelines. Irrigate dormant turf in warm, windy weather to prevent desiccation. Probe the soil to determine dryness.

Mowing

Follow September-November guidelines.

Renovation

If worn or thin areas are heavily used in the fall, overseed with a suitable seed mixture.

Soil Cultivation

Do not cultivate at this time.

Weed Control

Follow September-November guidelines.

March - May

Fertilization

If the field was not fertilized in February, fertilize before March 15 at the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Water in quick-release sources of nitrogen, such as urea (46-0-0) and ammonium nitrate (34-0-0), to prevent foliar burn.

Irrigation

Follow September-November guidelines.

Mowing

Follow September-November guidelines.

Soil Cultivation

Do not cultivate soil when the temperature is consistently higher than 80°F.

Weed Control

Apply preemergence herbicides to control crabgrass, goosegrass, and foxtail around the time forsythia bushes are in bloom. If the area was reseeded in the spring, use only Tupersan (siduron).

Application Rates for Preemergence Herbicides
ProductAmount per acre
benefin(Balan 2.5G)120 pounds
benefin + trifluralin (Team Pro 0.86G)174 to 349 pounds
dithiopyr(Dimension 1EC)2 quarts
oxadiazon(Ronstar 2G)100 to 150 pounds
Pendimethalin(Weedgrass Control 60WP)5 pounds
(Pre-M 60WP)5 pounds
(Pendulum 60WDG)5 pounds
(Pendulum 3.3 EC)7.3 pints
prodiamine(Barricade 65WG)0.75 to 1.5 pounds
(Regal Kade 0.5WG)64 to 300 pounds
Siduron (Tupersan 50WP)20 pounds*
* Use 8 pounds when seeding tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass

June - August

Fertilization

DO NOT fertilize. Once every 3 years, submit a soil sample for analysis to determine nutrient requirements for fall application.

Irrigation

Either irrigate as needed to prevent drought, or allow fields to go dormant. Follow the September-November irrigation guidelines. Dormant fields should be watered once every 4 weeks in a drought.

Mowing

If fields will not be used during the summer, mow bluegrass to 2 ½ inches and tall fescue and tall fescue and bluegrass mixtures to 3 ½ inches. The taller mowing height promotes deep rooting and healthier plants. Follow the September-November mowing guidelines for fields in play.

Soil Cultivation

Avoid soil cultivation.

Weed Control

Apply postemergent herbicides to control summer annual and perennial grasses, broadleaf weeds, and sedges in early June, if necessary. Apply herbicides only when grass is actively growing, has adequate soil moisture, and the temperature is less than 85°F. Avoid herbicide applications in mid-summer or in a severe drought.

Application Rates for Postemergence Herbicides
ProductAmount per acreWeeds controlled
fenoxaprop(Acclaim Extra 0.57EC)13 to 39 fluid ouncescrabgrass, goosegrass
quinclorac(Drive 75DF)1 poundcrabgrass, foxtails, clovers, dendelion, and others
DSMA*(various trade names)variescrabgrass, goosegrass, bahiagrass, dallisgrass, purple and yellow nutsedge, annual sedges, sandbur
MSMA*(various trade names)variessame as DSMA plus green kyllinga
bentazon(Basagran T/O 4S)1 to 2 quartsyellow nutsedge, annual sedge
(Lescogran 4SL)1 to 2 quarts
halosulfuron(Manage 750F)0.67 to 1.33 ouncesyellow and purple nutsedge, green kyllinga
* Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass have intermediate tolerance to these products. Use with caution and at reduced or minimum label rates.

September - November

Fertilization

Apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in September and again in November when the grass is still green but not actively growing (Refer to Table 1).

Sample the soil to determine phosphorus, potassium, and lime requirements. Obtain test kits from your county Cooperative Extension agent or from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Agronomic Division, 4300 Reedy Creek Rd., Raleigh, NC 27607-6465. Apply lime as suggested by the soil test, but do not apply more than 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet per application. To apply more than 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet, put down split applications at least 4 weeks apart. If possible, apply lime just before soil coring to ensure deeper movement into the soil.

Use a complete N-P-K fertilizer to supply the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium suggested on the soil-test report. This promotes deep rooting and healthier plants. Table 1 gives examples of several fertilizers and the rates needed to supply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, which is 43.5 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Use Table 2 to determine the fertilizer needed for fields of various sizes. Your county Cooperative Extension agent can help with proper fertilizer selection based on the soil test and, if necessary, a closer determination of the acreage to be fertilized.

Fertilizer Conversion Table
Fertilizer AnalysisPounds of Product
per 1,000 sq. ft.per acre
12-4-88.3360
16-4-86.3272
8-8-812.5540
10-10-1010.0435
46-0-02.295
34-0-02.9125
  1. Amount of product needed to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet.
  2. Amount of product needed to apply 43.5 pounds of nitrogen per acre. To determine the amount of product needed to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet, divide 100 by the first number in the fertilizer ratio. For example, for a 16-4-8 fetilizer, divide 100 by 16. The result is 6.25 pounds of product per thousand square feet.

How much fertilizer do you need to buy to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet? Divide 100 by the FIRST number in the fertilizer analysis. For example, for a 16-4-8 fertilizer, divide 100 by 16 and you get 6.25. That means you need 6.25 pounds of 16-4-8 per 1,000 square feet. To figure the amount of 16-4-8 needed per acre, multiply the 6.25 pounds by 43.5 (constant), and you get 272 pounds of 16-4-8 per acre.

Typical Field Sizes in Acres
FieldSize (acres)
Baseball*Little League, Bronco1.2
Pony2
Colt3
Babe Ruth, Senior League, Official3.0 to 3.85
Infield1.2
Field Hockey*1.2
FootballPlaying surface 360' x 160'1.3
Playing surface & bench area 360' X 200'1.6
Hash mark are 300' X 54'0.37
440 Oval2.3
Lacrosse1.4
Rugby*1.4 to 1.7
Soccer*2.2 to 2.7
Softball, Adult*Slow pitch (12"), fast pitch1.5 to 2.0
Modified slow pitch (16")1.2 to 1.7
Softball, Youth*1.5 to 2.0
* varies depending on the following:
  1. size and number of fields
  2. orientation and layout of fields
  3. quality and type of support facilities
  4. internal and external buffer zones

Irrigation

If rain doesn't supply 1 to 1 ¼ inches of water in a week, irrigate in the early morning, wetting the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. In sandy soils, apply ½ to ¾ inch of water every 3 to 4 days. Occasionally probe the soil to determine soil moisture. Irrigate only when symptoms of wilt appear (folded or curled leaves, footprinting, or bluish-green color). Avoid light, frequent watering, which promotes shallow rooting and algae, moss, and turfgrass diseases.

To minimize compaction and wear, do not irrigate 2 days before heavy use, and limit use of the field when it is wet. Postpone play and use other practice sites. Game fields should be used only for team play and not for team practice, gym class, or band practice.

Mowing

Cut Kentucky bluegrass to 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches and tall fescue and mixtures of tall fescue and bluegrass to 2 to 3 inches. This high cut enhances deep rooting and promotes healthier plants. Mow as often as required, but do not remove more than 40 percent of the grass height at one time. Do not allow pure stands of bluegrass to grow taller than 3 ½ inches or fields with tall fescue to grow taller than 5 inches. Clippings rarely need to be collected if this schedule is followed. Remove clippings only if they will interfere with grass growth. If the grass gets excessively high during extended wet periods, raise the mower and remove one-third of the new growth; then lower the mower to the proper height and mow again in a day or two.

Soil Cultivation

Aeration (coring) relieves compaction on athletic fields subject to heavy traffic. Aerate monthly when the grass is actively growing using ¾- to 1-inch-diameter tines that remove soil cores. Aerate the field lengthwise twice and crosswise once. To penetrate heavy clay soils, the field must be moist but not excessively wet (water several days in advance). Allow the plugs to dry, then pulverize them with a mower or power rake and redistribute them with a dragmat. More frequent coring may be necessary along heavily trafficked and compacted areas, such as around player benches, between hash marks, along sidelines, and in front of goals. Football fields may be aerated right after the last game of the season to avoid disrupting team play.

Aeration is absolutely necessary to maintain an acceptable field. Rent, borrow, or contract for these services if you do not have the equipment on hand. Do not aerate if the turf is under severe stress (extended periods of drought, etc.). It may take 3 weeks of good growing conditions for turf to recover after aeration. The field can be used while it is recovering.

Thatch removal is not usually needed for tall fescue fields but may be necessary for Kentucky bluegrass fields. Consider removing thatch thicker than ½ inch. Do not dethatch (using a vertical mower or power rake) in late spring or summer.

Weed Control

Use a combination product to control postemergence winter annuals and perennial broadleaf. Apply at the product label rate. For more difficult-to-control weeds (corn speedwell, woodsorrel, wild violets, etc.), apply half the label rate and repeat in 10 to 20 days. The herbicides listed in the table do not control grassy weeds. Do not use herbicides on newly seeded or renovated fields until new seedlings have been mowed at least three times.

Application Rates for Postemergence Herbicides
ProductAmount per acreWeeds controlled
fenoxaprop(Acclaim Extra 0.57EC)13 to 39 fluid ouncescrabgrass, goosegrass
quinclorac(Drive 75DF)1 poundcrabgrass, foxtails, clovers, dendelion, and others
DSMA*(various trade names)variescrabgrass, goosegrass, bahiagrass, dallisgrass, purple and yellow nutsedge, annual sedges, sandbur
MSMA*(various trade names)variessame as DSMA plus green kyllinga
bentazon(Basagran T/O 4S)1 to 2 quartsyellow nutsedge, annual sedge
(Lescogran 4SL)1 to 2 quarts
halosulfuron(Manage 750F)0.67 to 1.33 ouncesyellow and purple nutsedge, green kyllinga
* Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass have intermediate tolerance to these products. Use with caution and at reduced or minimum label rates.