October 9,
  With the Maryland SoccerPlex 
A weekly newsletter to keep you informed about EVERYTHING Turf at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
This week we will look into turf blankets and why they are used!
One really, big blanket!
That's essentially what a turf blanket is! The turf blanket, also known as a growth cover, is used to increase the soil temperature by using the sun's radiation and heat and trapping it in. The blanket helps keep the warmth in by trapping it, especially during the night time when regulating the soil temperature is extremely vital to a healthy root system.

The turf blankets are made of a plastic fiber that allows sunlight to pass through the surface to reach the grass. Once through the fibers, the heat waves are then trapped and reflected to the surface of the turfgrass where the blankets are able to trap the heat under the cover. The blankets are also ventilated to allow for air exchange, so that the plants are not suffocated underneath. As a result, the soil temperature will rise and stay higher instead of dropping at night like they normally would without the turf blankets, especially during the latter part of the growing season.  In the off-season, the goal is just to keep the soil from becoming totally frozen.
What's the point?
Keeping  the soil temperatures as high as possible is extremely vital in ensuring the longevity of a turfgrass. The similar greenhouse effect created by a turf blanket can help fight against the potential of direct low temperature injury to the turfgrass, something many fields, and golf courses across the Mid-Atlantic suffered from after the extreme cold of the winter last year. The vented design of the turf blanket allows the light in and some of the gasses such as carbon dioxide out as well as a small amount of heat as not to cause heat stress to the turfgrass plant itself. The results that turf blankets can provide are dramatic. In the picture here to the right, you can see the dramatic difference a turf blanket made on field 10 this past spring.
Turf blankets can be used over the winter, but also during season. For example, in high traffic areas we have put turf blankets down to help these areas recover and be able to germinate (grow) quicker than without a turf blanket. We use turf blankets on our warm-season fields, especially during the winter time in order to keep the turfgrass as warm as possible. We also use them on certain cool-season fields that are sand-capped. The sand does not retain the heat in the same way that native soil and clay can, so giving the ground and plant the extra boost of warmth will really help it come back stronger the following spring. 
On the cool-season fields we generally use 2 turf blankets down the center of the field to protect the center area of the field, the most used area. You can see this during the winter on fields 1, 2, and typically 8. We cover the entire stadium field and one other cool-season field (to be used early spring for the Washington Spirit's training field) as they are sand-based fields so keeping them as warm as possible is ideal. We also cover all seven of our Bermudagrass fields. These fields are extremely sensitive to the cold weather due to the fact they are warm-season fields, so it is vital the soil temperature stays as warm as possible. The goal on these fields is not to promote growth during the winter months, but just to keep the fields from going 100% dormant, which allows for a much faster green-up in the spring. Turf blankets are a vital way to assist in the longevity of a field for spring, summer, and fall. 
Next Week
Check back next week as we look into the crazy weather season we have experienced these past few months.
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 info@mdsoccerplex.org, 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.