May 2011

1st MLB Field Maintenance Clinic in Culiacan Mexico

This past Thursday MLB Hosted its First Field maintenance Clinic in Culiacan Mexico for the mexican winter clubs. The event was Sponsored by Diamond Pro products.  With a turn out of 30+ Chad Olsen and Josh Marden Brickman Sportsturf Sportsturf  Managers went over the basics of field maintenance throughout the day.  Culiacan is home of the Tometaros or “‘Tomato Growers” .  Thanks for attending the event.

Brickman & the National Mall in this weekend’s USATODAY.

As mentioned in an earlier post we have a great turf team put together to make this project as successful as it can be. Thanks Steve, Peter, Norm and Jim.

Landscaping Tips for Shady Lawns


Its almost summer and in some cases you may have problems growing grass in shaded areas around your yard or near your sports facility.  Sometimes you should call it quits and just install a ground cover specifically designed for the shaded areas. (As long as there not on the field)  There are some shade tolerant turf grasses but even with those the turf’s success depends on how aggressive your maintenance program may be.

Eventually those trees that were planted when your site was first developed will dominate the landscape and turfgrass, creating a shaded environment. While shade trees provide many benefits, it can make growing plants beneath them a challenge. Converting a bed of juniper or turf grass into something that can tolerate this new environment is often necessary in the landscape/turf world. Let’s look at some dependable ground cover plants that can tolerate shaded locations.

  • Pachysandra – An excellent, evergreen ground cover that is tailored to growing in the shade, Pachysandra is indispensable to areas of the country where it is hardy. The glossy green leaves, white spring flowers and controllable habit make it effective under trees or other areas where shade limits your plant palette. Very good at keeping out weeds, Pachysandra prefers an average soil with normal water requirements.
  • Liriope – This grass-like evergreen groundcover is actually a member of the lily family. Extremely common from the Mid-Atlantic into the South, Liriope is one of the most adapted groundcovers available. Sun, shade, wet or dry does not seem to bother this dependable plant. Ideal conditions are an average soil with even moisture, sun or shade is agreeable to it. Many varieties exist with variegated forms (white and yellow striped leaves) available. Liriope muscari is clump forming and not aggressive, while Liriope spicata is stoloniferous and will be more aggressive.
  • Vinca – A daintier groundcover, this evergreen prefers shade, but tolerates partial sun. It is not drought tolerant and likes a rich, humus soil. The periwinkle blue flowers occur in late spring and are an added benefit in the landscape. Best when viewed up close and in smaller areas.
  • Mondo Grass – Not a true grass, but a relative of Liriope. It is smaller in leaf and size than Liriope and will burn out if planted in full sun; nevertheless Mondo Grass’s fine textured leaves are effective when used in shaded beds under trees or by outdoor features. A dwarf variety is available that only grows an inch or two tall and looks nice around flagstone steps.
  • Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium) – This groundcover is not evergreen but its ability to grow in dry shade makes it a good choice for some areas. Bishop’s weed has a white edge to the leaves which help brighten up shaded sites.
  • Sedge (Carex sp) – Sedges are grass-like plants that are excellent groundcovers for wet, shady locations. Sedges come in many leaf types, with yellow and white varieties along with wide and thin blade types. Plants can be mowed down in the spring to clean them up.
  • Plumbago (Ceratostigma) – Plumbago is a drought tolerant, aggressive groundcover for sun or shade. The 10-inch tall plants have blue flowers in summer and the leaves turn a maroon color in the fall.
  • Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria) – The legendary fragrance of the white spring-blooming groundcover makes this a popular plant for dense shade. Plants form a dense mat of strap-like leaves that will gradually spread to form a weed-free groundcover. 

Steve Sullivan is our Horticulturalist at the Brickman Group .  If you have general landscaping questions you can send them to me or go to  the site below for some ideas.

South America’s Baseball Ways

On a recent trip to south america I came across a few interesting things that drove me to snap a few photos. One is the sign above.  It is literally the way Major is sometimes pronounced in many latin countries.    The other was the use of linoleum as a tarp cover. Not that it was the best but it was what they had available and  how they made use of it.  Never thought about linoleum that way but I guess it is water proof on one side and its heavy and lays flat.   I cant help but to think of my moms kitchen but nevertheless I have to give it to our south american turf managers for being resourceful.  It’s much better than leaving it uncovered! 

 I also checked out a “chalk stick”  I guess if you can have a paint stick… a chalk stick would work to.  Conserves chalk and is easy to use.  Unique idea …compliments from our friends in the Caribbean.

America’s Front Lawn is planning a Makeover

The National Mall is planning a much-needed renovation of a few of  the 30+ panels this year and the first phase is slated to begin late this summer.    What a great project and something ( Brickman‘s Sportsturf team) is excited to be a part of as the official turf consultant for the “Trust for the National Mall“.   Over 20 million people see the Mall every year.  The parks service issues around 3000 permits for multiple functions and one of the main complaints from people  is how it always looks.  Trying to compare this venue to anything else in the world is really difficult so we looked at every park and various large sports complex operations that appeared similar.    Keeping grass growing is tough in this transistion zone area …. much less trying to  keep it green with millions of people walking on it.    It’s a 3 pronged approach which includes renovating the lawn with better soils , drainage. and an irrigation system, managing the events a little differently and updating the maintenance operations.   The National Parks Service does an unbelievable job taking care of the mall with the resources they have.   With budget cuts and more people wanting to use the Mall it really is amazing what they achieve with so little. 

Sometimes when I talk to  people about the “Mall” in DC they really think I am talking about a shopping center.  Then I tell them its America’s front lawn and ….I get the AHA moment .  

There is a slate of turf folks involved in some capacity with this renovation including Dr. Peter Landshoot-Penn State,  Dr  Norm Hummel ,  Dr  Mike Goatley- Virginia Tech Turfgrass – Mike and his  folks are  working on a study regarding  turf protective coverings for events.  Steve LeGros  is helping with the fertility planning, etc…  All great turf people.

The renovation will involve removing existing soils, amending them,  adding drains and new irrigation and installing a few cisterns –  Each are 150’ x 34’ wide  x 10’tall.  250,000 gallons each and there are 2 in the 1st phase.   Completely irrigated turf areas with an automatic system and a full underdrainage system that will assist in collecting the rain water to fill the cisterns  .  Seed selection was fun –  After a full review of local seed varieties Peter and Steve narrowed down a 4 way blend of grass seed that everyone agreed on.  30% Wolfpack 2 Tall fescue, 30% Firenza Tall fescue, 30% Turbo Tall fescue and 10% P-105 Kentucky Bluegrass      HOK is the Architect of record.

More to come as this project develops.

What is Baseball Infield Clay?

Over 80Daves_greek_photos_212% of the game of baseball is played on the infield, which is why the infield clay is one of the most important components of the field.

Recently,  I have received a couple of emails asking the question, What is the infield clay really made of? In layman terms,  it is composed of three materials. Sand, clay and silt.  The tougher question is what are the percentages of the content of each material, and the particle size of the sand.  The composition is the true science of the infield clay even though the daily maintenance performed on these fields at a higher level is sometimes considered more of an “art”. Most companies that provide ball diamond mix state they have a something like a  60%-70%  sand ….20%to 30% clay  and 10% to 20% silt.    Most infield clays and baseline clays are about 5 inches deep. Bellow that there is a level of sand and pea gravel on the big league fields.

As a general rule of thumb this distribution makes sense, but the key factor is the sand particle size which comes in numerous variations from “gravel” to “very very fine”,  Angular and round and so on.   Separate tests are performed on the infield clay mixture to determine the sizes and distributions of materials as well as the percolation rates which give you an idea on how it may drain or dry out.  Normally infield clays do not drain very well and are not really supposed to depending on the level of field you have.  You can obtain pretty much any type of blend you want from numerous clay companies. The geographic location and your budget will drive your selection to the material you can obtain.

When I worked for the City of West Palm Beach managing the spring training facility for the Atlanta Braves and the Montreal Expos we used a higher sand base 75% sand 15% clay 10% silt with a medium course level sand that allowed the rain to pass through the infield clay a little easier.  These days I use a more stable clay with a analysis of  40% clay 50% sand and 10-20 silt.  This is a real heavy mix but can take a ton of abuse.   Where you live and how much the field is used also drives the decision on the type of infield clay you may have.

Daves_greek_photos_055The infield clay is no deeper than 4 to 5 inches and is uniform all through the mixture. On some major league stadiums the clay sits on a bed of sand and is sometimes separated with a Geo-cloth.

Everyone that has been to a professional game notices the time the crew takes on dragging and watering the infield clay before the game.  The key to a good infield and making it a great one is how you manage the moisture level in the clay.  Kind of like the Goldilocks & the three bears nursery rhyme ” not to hot, not to cold, etc…your infield clay needs to hold the right amount of moisture to not be to soft, to dry, to hard or to moist. Companies now manufacture a material which is known in the industry as a soil conditioner. It is applied to the top of the infield to help control moisture.   These materials are sometimes called,  “Diamond Pro” , “Turface”, “Terra green” , “Pros Choice” etc…they are basically a calcined clay heated to a very high temperature and sized and colored to your liking.  Daves_greek_photos_223

Maintaining the infield’s moisture level requires  consistent monitoring and maintenance. Coaches and players are continually giving you feedback on the condition of the infield helping you determine where you need to be with the moisture and maintenance methods used. Based on the weather, climate, time of year and even the team that is on the field, your maintenance of the clay could change a little on any given day. Its one of the most unknown interactions in professional sports.  That’s why they sometimes call the groundskeeper the 10th man on the team!