So far this year in the Pittsburgh area (as of June 9th) we have experienced precipitation 116 out of those 160 days, with certainly more days tacked on since. That means 72.5% of this year, we’ve experienced some sort of precipitation. On top of that, the span of consecutive days we’ve been able to muster up with without rain has been a whopping 3 days.
This relentless rain is happening all over the country, though. Many states in the Midwest have seen devastating flooding and overall extreme weather, wrecking havoc on homes, businesses, communities, ball fields and crop fields alike.
According to NOAA, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska had record breaking precipitation in May with the vast majority of the remaining states coming in well above average.
Clearly this weather has been anything but ideal and some days it feels like it may never dry up.
The minute the rain does let up though, there’s immediate pressure to get those fields in shape. This pressure from outside opinions, or even from yourself, you can get you into a situation where you’re on the field too soon, resulting in more harm than good.
Patience is key, especially during these wet times!
Remember: if it’s too wet to walk on, it’s too wet to work on.
If you’re leaving deep footprints, 1/4″ or deeper, and/or material is sticking to your shoes then you should not be working on it.
So, how do you prepare your fields prior to a rain event to set yourself up for success and what do you do after a rain event to get it back in shape?
Preparation Before a Rain Event:
Things we know: weather is at the touch of our fingertips–utilize that convenience. It’s important to stay on top of it and know when rain is coming so there is ample time to prepare.
Gray Areas: weather forecasting is not an exact science and the weather is often unpredictable, changing without notice. More rain could fall than what was in the forecast, or a pop-up storm could come out of nowhere, making preparation sometimes difficult to determine or to even execute.
The amount of preparation needed will depend on the amount of rain in the forecast and the existing infield conditions.
Below are some tips that can be helpful in preparing for a substantial rain event.
- Check the moisture in your infield. If your infield is dry and loose, the rain can make the loose surface turn into wet slop and, depending on the slope, can accelerate the chance of erosion and runoff. It may seem contrary as rain is on it’s way, but keep moisture in your infield so that it maintains a firm stable surface.
- Drag your infield with a rigid steel drag mat to help seal off the surface. Again, always important to make sure there is some moisture in the infield surface otherwise it will not seal off. Do not nail drag or open up your infield prior to a rain event.
- Roll your infield with a double drum roller if available or, at least, wheel pack or tire roll as much of the infield as possible. At a minimum, roll the position areas, baselines, base cutouts, and home plate circle. Again, make sure there is enough moisture in the infield to obtain the proper compaction.
- Check your edges to make sure there is a smooth transition into the turf and there isn’t a lip developing so that surface water can exit the infield.
- Tarp your pitching area and home plate area especially if mound clay has been installed in these areas.
- Tarp your infield skin surface. This is important when large rain events are forecast and games need to be played soon after the rain event ends.
Preparation of the Infield After a Rain Event:
Do not attempt to get on the infield skin surface until the rain is over, there is no additional rain forecast, and it is dry enough to walk on without the infield mix sticking to your shoes. If the infield mix is sticking to your shoes and you are leaving deep indentations, walk away and let the infield dry.
- Once you are able to walk on your infield without the above happening, nail drag your infield to a depth of 1/4 inch. It is very important to not nail drag too deep. The goal is to break surface tension and allow the infield conditioner to work. Do not rip up the infield by nail dragging deeper than 1/2-inch.
- Walk away for 30 minutes or more to allow time for your infield to dry naturally with sun and wind.
- Apply topdressing/conditioner. Avoid using Rapid Dry or Quick Dry products if possible.
- Finish grooming the infield with a steel drag mat.
Pittsburgh Weather Stats: https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/06/10/pittsburgh-weather-2019-rain-how-much/
NOAA Precipitation Data: https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/?Set-Language=ar