TinCaps Head Groundskeeper recaps 2021 season, explains importance of fall lawncare for next season

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Sunday marked the last regular season home game for the Fort Wayne TinCaps. Baseball may be over for the season at Parkview Field, but the work continues for the TinCaps grounds crew.

WANE 15 Meteorologist Nathan Gidley spoke to Head Groundskeeper Keith Winter. He has been with the team for 12 seasons. Before that, he worked for three years with the Great Lakes Loons. Winter says it was a season that featured periods of wet and humid conditions, but the biggest challenge the crew faced was not from the weather.

The biggest challenge for the crew was the reduced budget as a result of the canceled 2020 season. They did not have access to all of the resources they usually would have in a normal season.

The crew had to battle a lawn disease called Summer Patch with the limited resources. This is a fungal disease that forms when moisture is trapped under the tarp during hot and humid conditions. The disease impacted the turf and infield grass starting in late July. The disease is best treated preventatively with a series of fungicides, but they did not have the financial means to conduct as much preventative care over the past two years. This lack of advance care made the disease more of a problem, although Winter says the disease may not have even occurred if the tarp had not been on the field for extended stretches.

Winter emphasizes that the Summer Patch disease may not necessarily appear again in the future and is more situational.

Winter says the canceled 2020 season also had impacts on the grass itself. The turf was able to heal itself last year without the normal wear and tear. This made the maintenance of it easier, but the less fertilization applied to the grass because of the budget restrictions impacted the way the grass grew. This made the management of the full-go 2021 season a challenge because the field was managed so differently last year and the budget continues to be restricted.

When asked about comparing the weather this year to past seasons, Winter says it is hard for him to do so. He focuses more on the day to day operations and less on the change over time. The crew does anything that is necessary to have the field ready. He takes it homestand by homestand and recognizes the weather during one particular stretch of games may be rougher than the weather during a week the team is on the road.

Now that home games are over, the grounds crew has begun overseeding and top-dressing. Winter says the best time to grow grass is in the fall, from mid-to-late September through October. The grass needs to go into dormancy healthy so it is ready for the spring. Greater root growth in the fall will allow plants to green up, have greater density, and be in better shape come springtime.

Winter also shared tips on how to maintain your lawn throughout the year.

To keep your lawn looking nice, he recommends changing your mowing pattern every so often, mowing with sharp blades, completing three full lawn fertilizations each year, and having your lawn aerated. He also stresses not to pull weeds and instead use a herbicide.

Ultimately, spring is the best time to spray for weeds, while fall is a crucial time to ensure your lawn is healthy come springtime. Make sure you aerate, overseed, and fertilize your lawn this fall to keep it in great shape for the months to come.

If you are interested in learning more about Winter’s role as Head Groundskeeper, read his bio on the team’s website.

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