Make Manor Field Great Again!

One of the Breakers key initiatives for the 2018 season is to improve the condition of Manor field. It’s our Make Manor Field Great Again (MMFGA) initiative. Maybe pronounce it Mif-ga? LOL.

Like most Marin fields, Manor field gets a lot of use from multiple sports. Compounding that, Manor has a very old sprinkler system. We all agree the field is presently best categorized as “Budget Irrigated”, per the field maintenance standards study from Washington State University we’ve selected as our guide. This basically means bare spots in the middle of the field and in the goals, and a generally uneven playing surface.

Our 2018 goal is to bring the field up to “Good Quality” condition which means green, dense grass and a smooth surface. We are not shooting for Top Quality fields as this would require maintenance practices unrealistic for a public field and would require us to severely restrict general usage, and close the field when there is any decent amount of rain.

Achieving a “Good Quality” field will require the implementation of a well thought-out maintenance program including:

  1. PH test the field. If PH is off then apply lime if needed. The crew already did this in the Fall.
  2. Lock the goals. Prevent non-permitted use of the field. Men’s soccer groups frequently use the field for their games. These are typically un-permitted (i.e., they don’t pay for the field use). Grown men tear the field up as you can imagine.
  3. Gopher maintenance. This needs to be more proactive. Breakers spends $2,000 each year on gopher maintenance. We need to ensure the contracting company is more consistent to catch the gophers before the damage is done. The lumps on the west side of the field are significant, and a result of an inconsistent gopher program.
  4. Aerate 2x per year. This was done in the Fall, and we will shoot to do it again prior to the start of the season in Aug.
  5. Top-dress. We will shoot to do 3 light top-dressings throughout the dry months of Apr to Aug. Previously this was done just annually.
  6. Reseeding. This is already done on an annual basis on the center of the field. But it often fails to “take” on the center of the field due to dry periods and requirements of the Manor school to remove the protective fencing around the damaged area so the kids can have access. We already reseeded the entire field this winter. But we’re still not happy with the condition of the center of the field. We are going to do our best to address this in time for Fall.
  7. Fertilizing. This has typically been done 2x per year. We will look to augment this to do it 5x per year for the center of the field where its needed most.
  8. Usage pattern. During the Fall season we will try and shift the field to move where the center is located and thus “spread the pain” more broadly. Apologies to the parents if this means you get pushed a bit closer to the fence while watching games!

The Manor field is looking pretty lush right now. But the center of the field is still not up to our standard. The winter seeding didn’t “take” well due to the extended dry period we had. And we struggled to get the crew to turn the irrigation on. We’re hoping recent rains and our over-seeding efforts will bring it back. The grass needs to be dense and healthy leading into the hot, dry summer or it will simply turn to dust.

So, there’s our plan. I am concerned about our ability to get the center of the field to “Good Quality” by the fall given the issues with the winter seeding, but it will improve. I think the center of the field needs to be tilled, new soil brought in and it needs to be fenced off for several months. I am working to see if this is feasible for this summer.

We don’t have total control of Manor field, and we rely on cooperation with the Ross Valley Schools Maintenance & Operations team. They have been very good about meeting with us, discussing plans, and jumping in proactively to get this project going. Having said that, it will take some time to perfect the program. The condition of the irrigation system is a concern that could thwart this program. If the operations crew has to constantly fiddle with repairs, we’ll end up with spotty irrigation. A total tear and replace of the field and irrigation would run about $70,000. We’re not ready to tackle that this year, but it is on our radar to consider.

Manor is our priority, but we are now looking more closely at Lagunitas and White Hill as well.

If there are any lawn nerds out there, we’d love your help. And any donations of soil, seed,  fertilizer and labor would be much appreciated!