At DCS we provide consultation on a range of matters related to soil, turfgrass and horticulture. We develop custom recommendations for soil nutrition and analyze physical characteristics of growing media. We help in the diagnoses of diseases and pests and the remediation of injured areas. We aid in setting and reaching goals for surface firmness, smoothness, safety and ultimate playability. We conduct careful environmental monitoring to help protect waterways and natural habitats.
We often provide advice and expertise in the complete construction of a new park or athletic facility, including in the development of custom specifications, quality control and project oversight. We have ample experience in the field of agronomy and enjoy digging in (often literally) to every step of a project, whether that means crunching numbers in Excel, climbing stockpiles at a mix plant, pulling soil cores from parks, farm fields or greens, writing RFPs or conducting research.
From time to time, however, we find ourselves providing expert witness services and professional opinion in litigation cases. While it is undoubtedly interesting and a change from the usual goings-on here at DCS & Associates, we would much rather be involved in the groundwork and quality control measures that prevent massive legal fees and costly do-overs. Due diligence… we can help with that!
Turfgrass and soils are both so often taken for granted and misunderstood. Massive, fantastic parks and facilities are dreamed up and brought into being, but then the natural turf playing areas fail. Within larger projects that encompass jungle gyms, hardscaping, buildings and other eye-catching infrastructure, soil and turf planning is often put on the backburner.
Half-baked specs are passed around nonchalantly, a growing media that kinda-sorta meets the spec is found and purchased, promises and guarantees are made (or not made) over the telephone and ultimately, the grass dies. The rootzone material purchased is unable to support roots in a high-traffic area, or there isn’t enough sunlight for turf recuperation, or flooding occurs due to poor drainage, or sod isn’t carefully selected to match the soil or site…. And who is at fault? Was the spec followed? Was there a spec in the first place? Was it clear? Were quality control measures in place? Was quality control completed by the appropriate party? Was the person in charge of quality control experienced with growing media specs?
Who done it?
For a large construction project, there are generally several organizations and individuals involved. When something goes wrong, the number of characters that come out of the woodwork and the amount of finger pointing and blame shifting can equate to a melodrama of epic proportions. This can all be avoided with clear and concise contracts, memorandums of understanding, foolproof specifications, and QC to make sure those specs are being met.
When you aim to grow turfgrass under stressed conditions – which are what you’ve got in a busy park, athletic field or golf course – it is so important to develop strong, super-clear growing media specifications that are suited to the environment, early in the construction planning stages. After that, it is crucial to provide everyone involved in construction with the information and education they will need to meet the specs. Clarity and cooperation are vital. Quality control testing is a must. It should be performed regularly and diligently overseen by the person or entity with the greatest vested interest in the success of the project. Material should be tested before it is delivered to the site. This way, issues can be uncovered, and decisions and adjustments can be made as necessary, before it’s too late to make changes.
A good spec lays out expectations for particle size distribution and behaviours such as hydraulic conductivity and abrasion resistance, for the final growing media blend. A good spec is not a recipe or a ratio of topsoil to sand to compost. Topsoil is sometimes full of sand, and sometimes it has next to no sand at all. Topsoil is generally sourced from nature and can vary throughout a fairly small geographical area. Sands vary drastically depending on the location from which they are sourced. Compost can be produced from a myriad of materials and can offer both pros and cons depending on several factors.
“Sandy Loam” is not an appropriate spec. If a growing media contains a large amount of fine sand, it will classify as a sandy loam, but it won’t perform much better than a silt-loam. Coarse and medium sand content is important, as is aggregate abrasion testing to be sure that the coarse and medium sand won’t break down into fine sand ten years down the road.
There are so many factors to consider when building a natural turf playing surface. A proper site evaluation matched with great specifications and a solid strategy for quality control are super important. Budgeting some time and money for planning and quality control will lead to massive savings in the long run. Cutting corners just isn’t worth the risk. Plan, plan, plan, plan, plan for success.