The Importance of Verticutting in Sports Turf Management

Sports Turf Verticutting

If you’ve worked in the sports turf care industry for any length of time, you are probably well aware of the importance of aerating and dealing with excess thatch. Verticutting, or vertical mowing, is a time and energy-efficient method of removing thatch build-up and improving the overall health of your playing fields. Aside from helping keep thatch build-up under control, there are many other benefits to adding verticutting to your turf maintenance routine.

You don’t need to invest in a new Toro machine. It only requires using the right reels with blades to cut the turf canopy. Kenney Machinery can help you set up your Toro equipment to verticut and enhance your sport field turf maintenance to promote beautiful, healthy turf growth.

What is Verticutting?

Vertical mowing, or verticutting, is the process of mowing turf using a mower fitted with a reel that has short blades on it. The blades cut vertically through the turf canopy to thin it without compromising the leaf growth or turf density.

Verticutting is different than aeration. Aeration machines punch small “plugs” of soil from the turf, allowing nutrients, seeds, fertilizer, and moisture to penetrate the soil. The “plugs” eventually break down and become natural topsoil.

Instead of taking “plugs” out of the turf, verticutting slices and cuts into the soil to allow moisture, fertilizer, and nutrients to work their way to the grass roots and remove dead thatch and foliage from the turf. The blade breaks up the thatch so you can remove it more easily.

One of the benefits of verticutting is that it creates a more even look and feel to your turf and, over time, verticutting helps the grass grow thicker and healthier.

Many expert turf maintenance technicians use verticutting before they overseed and some use verticutting with aeration.

Benefits of Verticutting

Verticutting digs deeper than aerators and helps remove excess thatch and organic material around the plant’s crown area.

One of the most significant benefits of verticutting is that it helps remove thatch build-up so your turf can absorb fertilizer and nutrients better. Thatch is a layer of dead roots and grass stems that naturally build up between the grass and the soil.

Too much thatch prevents the turf from getting enough oxygen, water, and nutrients and makes it prone to diseases and damage from insects. It also causes the grass to feel spongy and create soggy playing conditions.

You can remove thatch with a special rake, but this method is very time and labor-intensive and not practical for athletic fields or commercial properties. Dethatchers make the job easier but can damage some kinds of turfgrass, like zoysiagrass and Bermudagrass. Verticutting is the perfect solution because it cuts through the thatch and brings it to the surface without damaging the healthy turf.

Verticutting helps the grass blades to stand up and grow higher. Overall, the grass is healthier and creates smoother playing surfaces.

Verticutting Best Practices

Most sports fields benefit from annual verticut treatment. The ideal frequency largely depends on the weather and the type and condition of the grass. Some golf courses lightly verticut as frequently as once a week during the growing season.

You should verticut warm-season grasses like Bahia, Bermuda, centipede, and zoysia grass in the spring after new growth appears. Cold season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, and tall fescue grasses in the fall. Avoid doing anything that will stress the grass during hot or dry periods.

For the best results, you should water the grass two days before you plan to verticut or do it after a light rain. Locate and mark any underground cables, sprinkler heads, or utility lines that might be damaged by the cutting blades.

To verticut thick grasses like Bermuda or zoysia, set the blades about 1 inch apart and on a low setting. Most other grasses do well when the blades are set about 3 inches apart on a high setting.

The best method of verticutting a field is to cut the entire area in one direction (north to south, for example) then go over the field again in the perpendicular direction (east to west).

It is essential to either bag or rake all the clippings and dethatching materials, so it doesn’t remain in your turf. Fertilize the grass with your regular lawn fertilizer and water generously to promote new growth.

For golf courses and other sports fields, a significant benefit of verticutting is that it has minimal impact on the playing surface, unlike aeration. The Twisted Dune Golf Club in Egg Harbor, NJ schedules verticutting on a slow Monday and the grass usually returns to optimum playing conditions in a matter of days.

Verticutting is an easy, cost-effective way to dethatch your turf fields and promote healthy growth without too much disruption or negatively impacting sporting events.