Rain, Rain Rain: Follow Up From Nats Park


“Grass Fields Are Always Rained Out”.  It is one of the most common attacks on and regular misconceptions about natural grass fields.

In this age of creative thinking and technology supporting hard working Sports Field Managers, these perceptions just are NOT true any longer.  Last year, as rain was pummeling much much of the country, we shared “Rain, Rain, Rain: Play Through on Natural Grass” with a few of the many success stories from natural grass fields sustaining play during rainfall.   “Weathering the storms” is another favorite that introduces some thoughts around natural grass fields sustaining play during rain as well.

BUT BASEBALL FIELDS are perceived to be even more challenging than rectangular fields.  Infield skins without a tarp take days and even weeks to dry following heavy or sustained rainfall.  Parks and high schools without the money to purchase a tarp feel that they have no chance to ever play during wet time periods.  Their reference many times is that they don’t have money like the professional teams to have a tarp or staff to cover the field.

Nationals Park in Washington, DC provides us with a shining example of what is possible for a baseball field in the 21st century.

At 11:30pm last night during a deluge that dropped 2″ of rain in less than 1 hour…


And at 11:3oam this morning as the hard working Nationals Grounds Crew, lead by Mr. John Turnour, finish preparing for tonight’s game:




Simply because of proper natural grass field construction and via innovation and technology in infield skin maintenance products.  The perception that a full tarp is required to keep a baseball field playable, especially at the Parks and High School level is just that.. PERCEPTION.  Baseball fields around the country, from Parks to Pros, are working with these innovations and technologies and no longer utilizing full infield tarps full time.  The only tarps required always are 1 small tarp on the mound and a tarp on home plate to protect these areas built with higher clay content. Ironically, these improved products create infields that play BETTER when they get a lot of water or rain on them!

Natural grass fields are NOT always rained out.  And baseball (and softball fields) do NOT always require full field tarps to stay playable.  Creative thinking and technology supporting hard working Sports Field Managers are redefining what is possible for natural grass fields.  Because “if we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always gotten”.  

Special THANK YOU to Mr. John Turnour or the Washington Nationals for allowing the use of this baseball field example.  And THANK YOU to each and every hard working Sports Field Manager and your support teams for all of the amazing examples of high quality, high use natural grass fields!!!  You are #GrassCanTakeMore™

Stress Time: Soil Test To Focus On The Weakest Link

Summer stress for natural grass surfaces is on.  Its known as the “90 Days of Hell” in the transition zone and cool season climates.  Some of our clients are reporting stress.. and social media abounds with stressed grass and stressed turfgrass managers.

Currently for clients that are seeing any kind of stress or lack of growth, we are sharing 1 simple message to our clients:  Soil Test Immediately.


Liebig’s Law Of The Minimum 

“The availability of the most abundant nutrient in the soil is only as good as the availability of the least abundant nutrient in the soil.”

Soil testing is something that seems so simple and so trivial.  Previously we have done it and/or recommended it 1-2 times per year, but with no plan on why or when.  Then 1 day it registered with me completely when a turfgrass scientist and inventor made a very simple yet bold statement:  “I can diagnose any plant growth or healthy problem from a soil test”.

My immediate reaction was to press him. “Wait.  What?  What about the tissue test? What about a pathogen test? What about…”  NO, it can NOT be that simple!

But he can.  And he does.  A soil test can diagnose a wide range of things from something as simple as salt stress all the way to disease potential. A soil test is a true diagnosis tool.


Liebig’s Law Of The Minimum

This “law” or “principle” of the minimum was formulated by Carl Sprengel, a German botanist, as early as 1828.  It became more well know when German biochemist and professor Justus von Liebig publicized and studied it more widely starting around 1840.  Liebig’s work became the foundation for laboratory oriented teaching as its known today and earned him consideration as the “Father of the fertilizer industry”.  Simply put, Liebig’s Law of The Minimum summarizes that plant growth and health is not controlled by the total amount of nutrients available in the soil… But instead plant growth and health is control by the scarcest of the nutrients available in the soil.  Liebig’s Law many times is summarized with the icon of a leaking bucket.  The factor of which is the weakest or slowest on the bucket is where the bucket leaks.  It is also described using a chain example- the weakest link in the chain is where the chain will break.


Using Liebig’s Law for turfgrass management… turfgrass growth isn’t driven by maintaining upper levels of nutrients, its driven by building a foundation of all nutrients.  Grass plants are prone to disease when lacking in certain nutrients as much as having excess in other nutrients.  With the stress period of summer arriving now, a soil test from March or isn’t telling us what we need to know NOW.  Soil holding can change quickly, especially in times of frequent irrigation during drought (being experienced in part of the country right now) and in times of too much rainfall (also experienced by part of the country over the last 2 months).  Thus planning forward, for this season and forever more, our simple yet important recommendation of getting a soil test in mid-June/ early July will be concrete to help preparation for stress and in diagnose turfgrass stress or lack of growth.

Seems so simple and outdated from 1828, but a basic principle such as Liebig’s Law will certainly stand the test of time!

Frequently we are asked which soil test we utilize, as many different companies work in the soil testing market. Some of these soil tests are better than others.  Natural Grass Advisory Group™ utilizes the Ana-Lync SportsTurf™ Soil test from Harris Laboratories and Analysis International™.  We use Ana-Lynch SportsTurf™ because NGAG and Growing Innovations™ helped develop this one of a kind, sports field specific turfgrass soil test in conjunction with Floratine Products Group.  With Ana-Lync SportsTurf™, we are able to provide our clients technology and information specific to sports turf  that we have been able to influence development of.  We are able to use this test independently to create our prescriptions and advice. An example of Ana-Lync Sport™: 

SAMPLE REPORT - SOCCER - 2013-05-01 (SportsTurf) (dragged)

This blog post is Copyright © JeradRMinnick 2016 and requires written                                      permission to re-use or re-post in any commercial manner.