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Installing and Maintaining Heavily Used Lawns

By Tony Koski,Turfgrass Specialist, Colorado State University

Do you have a playground or other heavily trafficked lawn area? As with any lawn installation, the most important step by far is proper soil preparation (deep tilling and mixing in organic amendment). This is particularly important on a heavy or compacted clay soil.

The best grass to use for a high traffic playground area is a "sports turf" type of Kentucky bluegrass sod. Ask for this type of product specifically from a sod producer. For a listing of CO sod producers see http://www.rockymountainsodgrowers.com/

See the Colorado State University Turf website for detailed information on sodding steps at: http://csuturf.colostate.edu/Pages/homelawncare.htm .

The more traffic an area receives, the more frequently it must be fertilized (promotes growth and recovery), core cultivated (to reduce soil compaction), irrigated (which promotes growth and recovery from traffic) and mowed (more frequently than your average home lawn). Together these practices stimulate grass growth to replace what is worn off.

Fertilize monthly from March to November (instead of the recommended 2-4 times yearly for a home lawn). Aerate at least twice during the year (spring and fall and another time in early summer would be good). Irrigate to maintain consistent soil moisture, but not so much that it is constantly saturated or muddy. The lawn should be mowed twice weekly. Following core aeration, the area should be overseeded with the same bluegrass varieties to which it was sodded (or with perennial ryegrass, or a 50:50 mixture of bluegrass and ryegrass). This type of maintenance program gives the greatest potential for maintaining healthy, vigorous lawn.

It should be noted, however, that traffic may be so intense and concentrated that even a Coors Field turf care budget couldn't maintain healthy lawn. If this is the case, one of the various artificial, rubber "infill" turf systems may be considered. These cost 6-12 dollars per square foot to install, and are NOT maintenance free, as some may imply. Think of them as an expensive outdoor carpet that must be cared for to prevent deterioration, and that traffic (and weathering, UV light, etc.) will wear them out - especially if they are not properly maintained.

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010