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First & lawn: Turf tips from the experts
Football field caretakers share ideas to keep your grass green
The football field at City Park Stadium is ready for tonight's season-opening game between Gainesville High and Buford. - photo by Tom Reed

For complete high school game coverage, visit The Blitz.

Bring on the fans, players and hard hits — tonight is the kickoff of high school football season in Northeast Georgia.

All week, stadium attendants have been preparing for masses of fans to take the stands and watch their team in the home openers.

But it doesn't happen without the help of some special people at each school who care for and maintain the fields that are as manicured as a golf green.

At home, some of the same turf tips can help keep your lawn green and pristine through the fall and winter with just a little work and consistency, according to David Presnell, Landscape and Turf Technician for the city of Gainesville.

"Consistency is the key," he said. "Stay on a solid horticulture program with insecticides, weed control, good horticultural practices, fertilization and mowing schedule. It's all about consistency, year round, seven days a week."

Mark Collins, president-elect of the Georgia Sports Turf Managers Association, agreed that consistency is so important.

"As long as it's growing - and, matter of fact, if you have Bermuda grass you can actually fertilize just as it's starting to go dormant - the roots will actually soak that up and be ready to jump in the spring," he said. "I have Bermuda fields and of course it goes dormant in the winter, but now I have soccer and baseball fields ... just before they go dormant I'll reseed with rye grass. It's a perennial rye grass and that way we'll have green all winter."

Collins maintains 11 fields in Oconee County all year long. Presnell manages City Park Stadium, along with some local golf courses.

In 2008, Presnell and Bobby Gruhn Field at City Park were awarded the Sports Turf Management Association Field of the Year award.

"Some of the criteria is for having a comprehensive management plan and overcoming difficult situations," he said. "We were in the drought but still needed to maintain it to top quality throughout the drought, and how we did that."

Presnell and two other employees keep Bobby Gruhn Field looking green all year long. They mow the grass to 5/8 of an inch three times a week. And they have been preparing all week for the Gainesville High opener against rival Buford tonight.

"We have a great team and a great support staff to keep the field looking nice," he said. "There's a lot of work behind the scenes that the average fan doesn't know about to have the entire facility ready. The day of the game, we will finish painting, mow, set up equipment and check everything out. If it's wet, we'll bring blowers out and clean it up so there is nothing on the turf. We'll clean the entire facility from top to bottom.

"I hope it adds a lot of beauty and community pride. It's their field, it looks good and hopefully the game will go good."

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