August 21,
  With the Maryland SoccerPlex 
A weekly newsletter to keep you informed about EVERYTHING Turf at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
This week we will begin a mini-series within Turf Talk where we explain the different types of projects and tasks that go into maintaining our fields at the SoccerPlex. First up, mowing fields!
Mowing - There's much more to it than you think!
Mowing grass seems to be the most obvious practice that must be done to maintain any field. With a complex of the SoccerPlex's size, it is quite a feat to accomplish mowing all fields. With our 21 grass fields and the surrounds our grounds crew has to stay on top of about 162 acres of grass to mow. Mowing a field is much different than mowing a lawn, there are many different characteristics that our grounds crew changes depending on the type of grass, the time of year, the pattern being mowed, and what the weather has been.
Rotary vs Reel; Bluegrass vs Bermuda
The type of mower used to cut the grass depends on the type of grass. For our cool season fields (1-8, 10, 21, and 22) we use a rotary mower. This mower is the same type that you probably use to cut your own lawn where the blade spins in a circle to perform the cutting, just on a much larger scale (typical home mowers cut 21" at a time, our mowers cut 108"!). For our Bermudagrass fields (9, 12-17) we use a reel mower. We also use a reel mower for our stadium, even though it is a cool-season field, to help keep the pitch as even and level as possible. A Reel mower is more similar to the ones your grandparents used, where the blades move north to south, like a scissor, to perform a finer cut on the grass. The north to south motion is needed on the Bermudagrass because bermudagrass grows horizontally unlike Kentucky Bluegrass that grows vertically. 
What's it like outside?
The time of year and weather have a major impact on how often fields need to be cut. For example, in the direct heat of summer, bermudagrasses' favorite time of year it grows so quickly that our grounds crew finds themselves mowing it almost every other day. However, when we first open fields in spring, we barely will cut bermudagrass once a week because it is still dormant. During its growing season we cut Kentucky Bluegrass usually 2-3 times a week.

The weather is always a huge factor on when the fields need cutting. In the past two weeks we had over 7 inches of rain and of rain, and were unable to cut for almost that entire stretch.  This presents a challenge due to how tall the grass gets in that period.  As we have discussed in the past, you never want to cut off more than 1/3 of the living plant each time you mow, so when we finally were able to cut, we had to mow at almost 2" tall, then gradually take the height down over the next week or two afterwards. Mowing grass when very wet can cause trauma to the turf itself so it is best to mow when the weather is dryer.
How long?
The amount of time that it takes to cut a grass field depends on the number of mowers being used, and the pattern that is being cut. Patterns are used for multiple reasons! The pattern can actually assist the sideline referees judge offside calls. The most common pattern you will see at the SoccerPlex is the traditional checkerboard.

When we have two mowers on a field, the grounds crew can complete a whole field in about 25 minutes. When there is 1 mower the field takes about an hour to complete. Our stadium field takes the longest to mow due to the complex pattern that is normally being mowed in. Generally it will take about an hour and a half to mow the stadium field because it must be mowed north to south and then east to west to set the pattern in. 
Next Week
Check back next week as we discuss aerifying a field and its benefit!
Ask Us Your Questions
Do you have a burning turfgrass related question? Ask us! We will be happy to answer it in future iterations of Turf Talk - just email us at, subject line Turf Talk Question.
Many Thanks to Fine Earth Landscape, Inc. for 
Their Continued Support of the Maryland SoccerPlex.

Learn more about Fine Earth here.