We know what it’s like to maintain a wet ballfield or lawn. Try as you might, keeping people off the field in the spring is impossible. You can’t get equipment on the field until it dries. Fixing damaged sod by hand is no fun, and neither is washing those muddy jerseys.
What can you do about a wet ballfield?
The best way to keep people off the field until it’s dry enough is to make it really inconvenient. Fencing the field may be the best way.
A 4 foot chain link fence will deter vehicles, but people can easily climb over. A 6 foot fence will stop all but the most determined. There is no way to stop someone truly determined.
Black vinyl coated chain link fence is a barrier, but visually unobtrusive. In baseball and softball fields, consider plastic bumpers on the top of the fence to protect players jumping for the ball.
Provide lockable pedestrian access at appropriate points, and vehicular gates where grades allow for maintenance and ambulatory vehicles.
If you’re building a new ballfield or plan to demo and start from scratch, paying attention and getting it right the first time will make a huge difference in the spring.
Great ballfields are designed with free draining soil and water from above in mind.
In most places, the natural soils are not exactly free draining. In lieu, a layer of coarse sand and a network of underdrains will ensure that water is whisked away to keep the turf dry and playable. This doesn’t work for existing fields. But if you’re starting from scratch, an under drained layer of coarse sand is a touchdown.
Dry turf is great to play on but not so easy to keep green come August. That’s why you need water from above. Summer rains are not common so plan on irrigation, either the hose and spray variety or the automated in-ground method.
Sometimes a wet ballfield is the result of a grade cut.
Very few ballfields were naturally flat for ball play. Most have areas of cut and fill. The wet areas are sometimes near where the land was cut. Water is flowing overland or through the ground from the adjacent high area to the field below.
If there’s room, deepen a ditch at the toe of the grade cut. A ditch will intercept the groundwater before it reaches the field. Or, put in an underdrain in lieu of a ditch, accomplishing the same result. The deeper the ditch / underdrain, the less water will reach the field soils. Be sure to provide positive drainage out and away from the area.
Adding underdrains to an existing field might be just what’s needed to add a month or two of play to the beginning of your season.
Delineate where the field is wet, then map out a network of underdrains every ten to twenty five feet or so. Line up the underdrains perpendicular to the surface contour, or in other words, make sure the drains flow downhill, however slight. This can be difficult to tell by eye on a nearly flat ballfield. Use equipment, such as a survey level, pop level, or use a clear hose full of water to figure it out.
A standard four-inch plastic underdrain pipe will work just fine. Dig an 18 inch deep trench, line it with filter fabric, put in the pipe and crushed stone, wrap the stone top with the fabric, then backfill with topsoil and turf. See the detail to the right. The filter fabric and stone are critical to avoid sinkholes and to keep the underdrains from clogging.
Towards the low end of the pipe network, connect the underdrain network with 4 inch pipe and pipe it out to a point low enough to provide positive drainage.
Retrofitting a wet ballfield with underdrains will help but is not guaranteed to fully solve the problem. Other factors can come into play, such as underdrain network density, subgrade soils, surrounding grades, ledge, topsoil permeability, and vegetation. Call Main-Land today at 207-897-6752 for more information, but please don’t send us any muddy jerseys.