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Renovation of a rutted/neglected school field

We maintain school grounds in the East of England, primarily grass cutting, line marking, tree and hedge work. Our client has approached us to renovate a school field which has been neglected, and bring it to a useable condition for playing football, hockey etc. This is totally new territory for us, so we're looking for advice, options, to establish if it can be done in-house with a compact tractor and attachments or bring in a specialist contractor? 

The field is 6-7 acres of grassland. We have just started cutting it and will continue to do so every 2 weeks. Its full of ruts, divets, small undulations, hence it being unplayable. 

My limited knowledge believes there are a few options but what is best, or are there other ways?

  • kill of the grass - use a stoneburier machine to bury everything and bring a fine tilth to the surface - topsoil and grade any undulations - seed - water 
  • remove the exisiting turf (and roots) - topsoil and grade - seed - water 
  • lay topsoil on top of the existing grass - roll - hope the existing grass comes back through
  • plough - cultivate - stone pick - level - seed - water 

I value your thoughts and opinions.

Thank you

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  • Alan, We have done similar, the options you list are budget dependant, but bear in mind if they want a cheap job it may come back to haunt you!! 

    We would use a 360 to scrape everything off, and depending on existing soil import and level 6 inches of screened top soil, then seed etc. This is the most costly option, due to removal from site of the turf etc, you could minimise this by putting the material through a screening machine on site and retaining the screened material, this would also reduce the cost of disposing of waste and also greatly reducing the amount of top soil to be imported.

    I would not be confident in the outcome of the other options you list, however if the client wishes to go with one of these because of cost, ensure that it is written into your contract/quote that you cannot guarantee the end result and make sure the client acknowledges this in writing. Hope that helps.

    • PRO

      Thanks Peter.

      you're absolutely right, it's budget dependant, so I think I'll give my client a few options. 

    • PRO

      Peter, I am wondering why we need to scrape it all off with a 360, opposed to killing off short grass, then using the Blecavator to burying it. Have you previously experienced poor results from using a Blec? What machinery/tractors/lutes have you used to level off such large areas.

      All thoughts gratefully received, particularly as it looks 99% we have the job.

      • Alan,

        Basically this was down to clients spec and uncovering a lot of aggregate when digging test holes. We weren't confident that this once disturbed by a Blec or stone burier that it wouldn't rise to the surface. Yes a costly operation but it hasn't come back to haunt us!

        • PRO

          Yes I totally agree with your logic Peter of digging trial holes, hopefully we shall find good soil. Could you please help with any ideas on levelling a rut-free 6 acrea field, did you use a lute and a tractor for example?

          Appreciate your guidance.


          • Alan, we used a modified Dutch Harrow, very similar to a lute but lot heavier

  • PRO

    I would spray it off, then use a blecavator on the whole area. Then level off using the largest leveling board/lute you can put on your tractors likage, get it as good as possible then seed with a seed mixture designed for football, rugby etc or for playing fields.

    • PRO

      We've got a Kilworth stone burier, however we have experienced that when the soil settles a certain size of stone still comes through. Have you experienced why this may be? Otherwise, it's a viable and more cost effective option. 

  • I know nothing about this subject, but found it interesting reading.  I think the reason that large stones come up to the surface with the soil settling is the same effect that causes you to find all the small bits at the bottom of your cereal packet.  The smaller grains slip into the gaps under the stones, while the stones are supported by the soil that is already underneath.

    • PRO

      Thanks Neil very useful :) I shall test your theory tomorrow at breakfast :)

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