FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The same day that we visited Arrowhead Dahlias (that Amy just blogged about), we also visited the Platteville location of Green Valley Turf. Did you know that sod farms are a huge part of the agriculture industry in Colorado? We have some of the best sod farms in the nation–farms that are providing your favorite sports team with high-quality turf. REAL turf. Not that icky fake stuff.
But what Green Valley is doing to grow their sod is completely different than anywhere else in the nation. Essentially they are growing on plastic. Yep, plastic–with a couple inches of sand. And they are producing the Creme de la Creme sod for sports fields, such as the Broncos, Kansas City Royals, the Minnesota Twins (go Twins!), and more. It was a fascinating process.
Our tour guide was Evan Fowler, who has Extension roots in his blood, but worked as a sports turf manager for years until he joined Green Valley. The guy loves turf and has such passion for it.
What Green Valley has found over the years is that growing high-quality sod on a sand-based system is the best way to produce turf that can be installed and immediately used by professional sports team. What you may not realize is that professional sports parks, like baseball fields and soccer pitches, are built on sand. Sand provides the best drainage and aeration for turf roots. These sports complexes are very different than our home lawns.
Growing sod on plastic isn’t easy and it’s taken lots of trial and error to figure it out. The concept is pretty simple–a layer of plastic on top of the native soil, top with a couple inches of sand (specific to growing sod and better matched for sports complexes), and grass seed. A few months later (maybe a year later), you have a thick mat of turf that you roll up, ship out, lay down in the new location, and welcome play.
What’s incredible is the root system. This stuff is knitted so well together with roots that you couldn’t tear it apart, unless you had super-human strength, like the Hulk. We all tried to rip it apart and our attempts were futile. When you put a 300 pound linebacker on it, he can’t rip it apart either, leading to great footing and excellent playability and safety.
This sod was grown for the Broncos. Just a few days after our tour in August, it was being trucked to Denver to replace the field after the Rolling Stones concert. The Broncos had a home game a couple days after the field was sodded. They lost, but it wasn’t because of the turf quality.
Our big thanks to Evan and his team at Green Valley for a great tour. We learned so much and everyone had a greater appreciation for the sod industry. Green Valley does have sod available for homeowners too. And for the Broncos coaching staff–maybe you want to consider recruiting some horties for the team?
— Alison O’Connor, Larimer County Extension
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