A technical glossary for sports field maintenance

19 December 2017

Maintaining a sports field is an art! You need to know the differences between a natural pitch and a synthetic pitch, their requirements, the tools that exist and their uses… And that’s not all – maintaining a sports field requires a certain vocabulary: here are the technical terms you need to know at your fingertips!

How to ensure successful sports field design and maintenance: our ultimate guide!


Aeration consists of making – with the help of a knife or spike – perforations of 8 to 10 cm, at regular intervals in natural grass pitches. This stimulates the roots, encourages water, air and fertilizer to penetrate, and encourages microorganisms to act. The density of the aeration – that is, the number of perforations per square meter – must be defined in a contract.


Brushing helps to stop the fibers on a synthetic pitch from flattening and evenly re-distributes the in-fill material.


Cleaning a synthetic pitch involves extracting the surface part of the in-fill material to remove the foreign objects from it.

Cutting the borders

Border cutting is done with a spade or edger. It allows you to mark the boundaries of grassed areas of a natural pitch.


Using a decompactor at a depth of 10 to 25 cm, you can decompact a sports ground to soften the grass pitch, improve the circulation of air and water, and encourage roots to develop. The level of compression is measured with a penetrometer. A rest period is recommended after decompacting – the length of this period depends on the depth and / or quality of the substrate. Decompaction also ensures good shock absorption for optimal playing conditions on synthetic pitches.

Deep cleaning

A process exclusively for synthetic pitches, deep cleaning consists of removing foreign bodies from lower layers of the in-fill material, including fine particles, with the help of a special vacuum cleaner.


Fertilizing involves applying a fertilizer to the soil or turf, to ensure the optimal growth of grass seeds or established grass. This helps the grass to grow densely and become green and robust. Fertilization must be adapted to according to climatic conditions and the chemical composition of the soil.

Hollow coring

Hollow coring is one of the most effective solutions for combating the formation of thatch and airing a sports ground’s soil. It involves making and extracting 8 to 10 cm ‘carrots’ of soil at regular intervals in a natural grass pitch. These perforations can be filled with sand or crumbled top soil, or left empty.

In-fill maintenance

In-fill maintenance involves adding extra materials (sand, elastomer granules etc) to the coating of a synthetic pitch.


The aim of irrigation is to provide the grass with water. To keep the terrain in good condition, watering should be done evenly – but not too much – on all the areas where the grass has roots.

Maintenance book

The maintenance book is a document provided by the organization that constructed the sports ground. It details the maintenance operations necessary to keep the ground in good condition.


Mowing involves cutting the grass on natural pitches to create a playable field for users, according to the season and sport.


Mulching is done on sports grounds with natural grass. It involves leaving shredded organic waste in fine particles on the pitch. To be effective this operation – which is performed with a special kind of lawn mower – must be carried out regularly.


Overseeding allows you to increase the density of existing grass.

Replacing the divots

Replacing the divots created by tackles means you can keep the pitch in good condition. It must be done immediately after the players have finished and left the field.

Sand spreading

Generally carried out after decompaction or aeration, sand spreading improves the soil of a natural grass sports pitch.


Scarifying extracts thatch, moss and horizontal vegetation at a depth of 0.5 to 2 cm – depending on the thickness of the thatch. This intervention prevents moss and thatch accumulating, allowing the grass underneath to grow.

Surface removal

Surface removal means taking up the turf to eliminate thick layers of thatch, re-establish old surface drainage systems and create a smoother pitch. Generally carried out between seasons, this operation usually happens before the installation of new turf. A layer of soil of between 1 to 6 cm can be removed.

Top dressing

Often combined with overseeding, top dressing improves the smoothness of natural turf. It requires a product whose composition – mostly sand – varies according to the support in place. A metal net is used to level the field, which smooths the turf by eliminating micro-deformations.


Verticutting a sports field means cutting the ground vertically with the help of a machine, to a depth of 1 to 2 cm. This helps aerate the soil below the grass and remove dead grass.

Crucial phases in golf course maintenance throughout the year

Whether it’s natural or synthetic, the maintenance of a sports field requires more than green fingers. If you want to know more about the specific terms relating to sports ground maintenance, visit the highly informative website of Unep (in French), a Paysalia partner.

© Photo credit: Freepik / 4045

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