Best practices for moisture management

From the DuraEdge blog, written by Luke Yoder: These #BestPractices for proper moisture management are spot on for Spring Training environments and other teams in the South for March. This type of watering would come into play in April or May and last throughout the summer for teams in cooler more wet climates.

The key to setting yourself up for success with moisture management is a properly installed foundation. This requires your infield to have 100% positive surface drainage. We recommend a 0.5 – 1% slope to achieve this. This process typically involves an experienced laser grader.

In order to prep for your first game, your infield profile requires consistent moisture throughout. This can be measured manually, with a key or knife, or with a moisture meter. Moisture meter readings should be 25 – 30% when inserted 3 – 4 inches into profile. After you achieve this desired moisture content throughout your profile, rolling–in most cases–is the next step to achieve proper compression. Proper compression is only accomplished with ideal moisture throughout the profile. As long as your profile does not dry out more than the top 1/2 – 1″ at a time, you will maintain proper compression by simply keeping your ideal moisture percentages throughout the profile.

Maintaining moisture throughout homestands or throughout your season in general will require keeping your ideal moisture levels in place by timing your hydration schedule for most effective results. The most beneficial time to water is at the end of the day close to sunset. This should be the heaviest watering that creates standing water across the entire infield surface. Flooding the infield at this time means minimal evaporation and maximum absorption of water into your infield profile. Effective watering at the end of the day will set you up for success the next day.

In the instance where you have a game at 1 PM, it is ideal to start taking a look at your surface around 8 AM. If you can walk on your skin without leaving footprints and there is no standing water, this is an ideal time for nail dragging. Perform your nail drag and keep an eye on your conditioner. Within 1 – 2 hours when your conditioner starts to dry, take a 1″ mesh screen drag over the surface to bust up and settle any clay chunks. After dragging is complete then it’s time for another water. At this point you want to put a heavy shine on your surface, but not leave standing water. After you’ve got your infield shining, then you can turn it over to the team for workouts prior to your game. Whatever time you get between workouts and the game perform a quick drag and a water. This last water is basically just coloring your conditioner since your base is already set up for game-time.

If your team has been away or you simply missed some watering, you may lose your moisture down past the first inch. Once you re-achieve proper moisture throughout, your infield will become soft and will need to be compressed properly under ideal moisture conditions. If you don’t have a roller, use a utility vehicle or mower with turf tires to compress.

If you have a dedicated “dirt zone” for watering, or if you adjust your heads along your dirt edge to go to 360 vs. 180 degrees, this can help reduce your time on the hose by effectively watering 50 – 75% of your surface.