The Importance of Verticutting in Sports Turf Management


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

Verticutting, or vertical mowing, is a time-efficient method of removing thatch buildup and improving the overall health of your playing fields. Aside from helping keep thatch buildup under control, there are many other benefits to adding verticutting to your turf maintenance routine.

You don’t have to invest in a new Toro machine in order to effectively apply verticutting methods to your sports field. Instead, you’ll want to be using the right reels with blades to cut the turf canopy. The professionals at 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 at your sports facility.

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 often compared to aeration, but the two are actually different. 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, as aeration does, verticutting slices and cuts into the soil to allow moisture, fertilizer, and nutrients to work their way into the grassroots and remove dead thatch and foliage from the turf. The blade breaks up the thatch so you can remove it much more easily.

One of the benefits of verticutting is that it creates a more even look and feel to your turf. Over time, verticutting will help the grass grow thicker and healthier than before.

Many expert turf maintenance technicians use verticutting before they overseed. Other turf maintenance technicians might use verticutting with aeration.

Though aeration and verticutting are different processes from each other, they can often be used together to drastically improve the overall health and appearance of your lawns.

Benefits of Verticutting

Verticutting digs deeper than aerators and helps to remove excess thatch and organic material around the plant’s crown area. This will help the area get better access to necessary nutrients like oxygen and water.

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.

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 course managers 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.

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.

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 they don’t remain in your turf. Fertilize the grass with your regular lawn fertilizer, and water generously to promote new growth.

Aeration Vs. Verticutting

For golf courses and other sports fields, a significant benefit of verticutting is that it has minimal impact on the playing surface, unlike core 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 very non-disruptive to your area in the immediate future. Other methods, like core aeration, might take days to even weeks to return to playing acceptable playing conditions.

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.

Contact Kenney Machinery for Verticutting Services

Verticutting your grass or turf area is a great way to make sure that your area remains healthy is allowed access to necessary nutrients. Remove the thatch that is plaguing your area and see the improvements made by verticutting services with an appointment with Kenney Machinery. Please give us a call today for more information.