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Sports Sand Blog-Q&A With Mansfield Sand

by TurfCareBlog

Sports Sand Blog-Mansfield Sand

In this new blog, we welcome Gary Cunningham from Mansfield Sand.I have put to Gary twelve questions l believe are most commonly asked by groundsmen/greenkeepers in regards to sports sands, questions include.

  • What sports sand is suitable for our pitches?
  • What sand do we use for divot mixes?
  • What types of sand are avaiable?
  • Can you over apply top dressing?

Please tell us a bit about Mansfield Sand 

Mansfield Sand Company has pioneered the development and production of premium silica sand-based products for over 170 years nationwide.

We provide a wide range of innovative products for sports, landscaping, and equestrian uses. These include stadium and training ground facilities; championship golf courses and world class show jumping arenas.

What topdresssing material is suitable for our pitches?

The word topdressing can have different meanings throughout the natural sports turf industry. For the winter sports sector it is used as a term for a pitch dressing application, in the golf sector top dressing is a product name for dressing turf.

It often gets confusing when I am asked to quote topdressing for a winter sports pitch, as in the golf world, topdressing is a sterilised manufactured sand soil dressing predominantly used on golf greens, the most cost-effective option for winter sports pitch dressing is sand, specifically a sports grade product.

What is the difference between a rootzone and a pitch dressing or are they the same things?

I quite often get asked for a sand soil dressing or rootzone product to be spread over a pitch, this always sets off little alarm bells as this is not what rootzones are designed for. Rootzones are manufactured products of differing sand soil blends, to be used in pitch construction as the growing medium for the grass. Rootzones all contain small stones which is spread over the surface can damage mowing machinery or cause player injury. Mansfield Sand sieve down to 6mm for our rootzone products.

What are we looking for in a good sports pitch dressing?

Ideally a good quality silica sand dressing, aerated into the surface is all winter sports pitches require. When choosing what type of sand to use it is important to select the right industry grade of sand that is suitable for sports dressing application. 

sports sand stock

A quality washed sports grade silica sand will be graded between 30 and 45, each grade will be proceeded by two letters which designate which quarry they are supplied from. The lower number the coarser the sand is and vice versa, the higher the number the finer the sand.

At Mansfield Sand we provide two grades of silica sand into the sports market, MM35 and MM40, from our Two Oaks quarry in Mansfield. A generic copy of our sports grade technical sheet can be found in the Sports area of our website.

What types of sand is unsuitable for dressing winter sports pitches with and why?

Generally, you need to stay away from fine and coarse/grit sands. Finer/building sand will in effect seal up the surface whilst coarser products can destabilise the surface over time. Any reputable supplier of sports sand products will be able to provide you with a product grading and technical sheet.

What type of topdressing should we be using as divots mixes?

Post-match devoting is best done with a fork by teasing the surface back together with a light dusting of sand to aid surface levels. For bigger deeper scars a small amount of sandy rootzone mixed with a little seed can be used to add a little body to prevent it being kicked out. As only small amount/hand full of rootzone are being used, it is possible to ensure it is stone free.

loading up sports ands

Should we be using a different rootzone for goalmouth, over the one we use for the dressing of the pitch?

As with any natural sports turf surface certain areas require extra attention due to the amount of activity they receive. Goalmouths are one such area needing extra attention, no amount of aeration and dressing will stop the grass thinning out on a sand soil surface.

In severe situations if wanting to level the surface you can dig out the compacted rootzone and replace with a depth of fresh rootzone or even a reinforced product. If the area is just experiencing general wear a normal renovation sand dressing can be ok with an overseed.

What types of sand can a groundsman buy?

Anyone can purchase sports sand either direct from the quarry or through the various contracting and amenity supply companies that support the natural sports turf industry. Mansfield Sand presently supply many clubs nationwide from elite level facilities through to grass roots sports clubs.

How much annual topdressing does an average sports pitch need (football/rugby)? 

As a rule, we suggest around 60 – 90 tonnes for an end of season renovation over a full-sized playing area. This is guided by the current existing grass cover and how poorly the surface has performed, and what other renovation operations are being done.

It will be important not too spread to much sand so not to smother the grass plant or have a lot of sand laying over bare areas. Whatever the amount of sand spread it is important to aerate it into the surface.

early stages of sports sand production

Over time can you build up too much sand in the pitches, especially for those who lack an irrigation system, also considering stability issues of sand?

The important thing is not to build up a root break, a layer of sand within the surface, leading to shallow rooting and a soft unstable surface. Good practice is to aerate during the sand dressing process, working the material into the upper rootzone profile.

It may take many years and many dressings to achieve a well ameliorated rootzone profile. Over time as the rootzone profile improves, the increased pore spacing created will lead to deeper rooting, a healthier plant and less kickout.

In time as the surface improves there may be a requirement to increase nutrient input and maybe look at irrigating. However, I would not see this as a main concern as its more important to get the game on in the depths of winter when the weather is not so kind.

Will using a sand dressing improve the drainage?

Sand dressing a winter sports pitch is not a replacement for a full drainage system which will over time create a lighter rootzone profile with increased pore spacing. In turn combined with good practice this will increase the hydraulic conductivity within the rootzone and aid the movement of water into the drainage system.


How sustainable is sports sand going forward?

We cannot speak for other suppliers, but Mansfield Sands Two Oaks Quarry site will be producing Sports Grade sand for the next 30 plus years

What is the best way of buying sand and having it delivered?

At Mansfield Sand we can supply delivered to site in many options, the most popular options are 29 and 20 tonne loose tipped deliveries, when wanting bulk loads for full pitch dressings. We can also supply tonne bulk bags of any of our products for when a little is required for touch ups and devoting.

Gary Cunningham
Football & Golf Sales Representative

If you have any questions for Gary, please leave your comments below.

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