A clear, complete set of specifications covering in detail all materials, soil preparation, and seeding of any athletic field is a necessity. This will provide a definite and uniform basis on which bids can be made, and, if properly drawn, it will prevent misunderstandings as to exactly what, when, and how a job shall be done. Good specifications add the assurance of quality and proven techniques to the mutual benefit of the customer and contractor.

Specifications will vary widely on individual jobs because of differences in soil, climatic conditions, and use requirements of the areas involved. Certain elements, however, should be common to all. These include a preliminary statement of what is to be done, areas involved, materials to be used, and rates and methods of their application.

An outline of specifications that can be adapted for a wide variety of situations follows. Here, the suggested form of the contract appears first. Explanations of the contract design appear iafter. Your own outline of specifications probably would not use this split-page format.


Section I. Scope of contract

These specifications include:

  • Finished grading. Install tile drainage, catch basins, and irrigation system; remove trash and stones; grade and contour; furnish and apply topsoil.
  • Preparation of seedbed. Furnish and apply lime, fertilizer, and physical conditioning materials; incorporate materials into the soil.
  • Seeding. Furnish and apply specified seed of acceptable purity and germination.
  • Vegetative planting. Supply stolons, sprigs, plugs, or crowns of specified species and/or varieties. Plant in specified manner.
  • Sod. Supply sod of specified species and/or varieties and lay sod in approved manner.
  • Repair and reseeding. Provisions for cases of an unsatisfactory stand.
  • Maintenance. Mowing, fertilizing, watering, and pest control provisions.
  • Payment provisions.

Authors explanation of contract

Explanation. The scope of contract section summarizes all items in the contract for which contractors will be responsible, beginning with finished grading. It permits them to determine quickly any contract provisions which they will be unable to undertake because of lack of equipment, labor, or for other reasons. While such an initial outline is not essential, it has proved to be a great convenience, particularly when detailed specifications cover various areas and involve several pages of provisions, which otherwise would have to be examined in detail to get the necessary information.

The section should list in order all of the major operations that are called for in the body of the contract. The blanket from indicates the major items usually included in this section. The requirements of the particular job will determine which operations should be included in the specifications prepared for it.


Section II. Seasonal and weather limitations

  1. Fall planting. Not prior to _____ or later than _____.
  2. Spring planting. Not later than _____.
  3. Planting at times other than specified may only be done under specific conditions and with the consent of the owner or owner designated representative.
  4. All operations shall be performed only when the soil is in proper condition to permit satisfactory work, and with expressed consent of the owner or owner designated representative.


Explanation. The desirability of seedings during optimum periods, and seedbed preparation only under favorable soil conditions, make the inclusion of this section necessary. Continuation of work at other than specified times or conditions should proceed only with the consent of the owner, architect, or other owner designated representative.


Section III. Materials

1. Fertilizers. Shall be of standard quality as designated in Section III, 13, a, b; delivered to site in original bags or bulk; protected at all times prior to application against mechanical or weather damage which would prevent proper distribution; applied at rates and in manner designated in Section III, 13, a, b, and Section V, 2, b, c, d.

Explanation. Because of the wide variety of materials on the market, it is necessary to indicate quality and rate of application of each material for individual area. The concentration of all material requirements in one section simplifies determination of total quantities.

Fertilizers. Fertilizers differ in the quantities of nutrients which they contain, in the ratios in which these nutrients are present, and in the kind of material from which each nutrient is derived. It is essential, therefore, that the rate of application, grade, and composition of each fertilizer used be indicated for each area.

Quantities needed are best determined by soil tests, available through Agricultural Extension Service or other agencies. Specifications should include the grade and the kind of material from which the nutrient elements are derived. For example, a complete tabulation of fertilizer for a football gridiron might be set up as in parts a and b of the table in Section III, 13.

2. Lime. Shall be standards commercial product of quality designated in Section III. 13, c of this section, delivered in bags or bulk and applied at the rate specified in the same paragraph and in the manner designated in Section V, 2, b.

Lime. Rates of application are based o lime requirement tests. Ground agricultural limestone is the recommended form. Its value is based on chemical composition (calcium carbonate equivalent) and degree of fineness. Ground agricultural limestone is available as calcium carbonate (calcite) or as a mixture of calcium and magnesium carbonate (dolomite). Standard ground agricultural limestone contains a minimum of 89 percent calcium carbonate equivalent [calcium carbonate plus (magnesium carbonate × 1.19)], 95 percent passing a 20 mesh sieve, 60 percent passing a 60 mesh sieve, and 50 percent passing a 100 mesh sieve.

3. Physical conditioners. Shall be material designated in Section III, 13, d, e; applied at rate specified in same section and paragraph and in manner designated in Section V, 2, b.

Physical conditioners. Conditioning materials commonly used for improving soil are organic matter and sand. The characteristics of organic matter that have the greatest effect on their value are the kind, organic matter content, and moisture absorptive capacity.

Peats are the most commonly used source of organic matter. They should contain a minimum of 90 percent organic matter and have a minimum water holding capacity of 500 percent. Peats are classified as reed-sedge, sphagnum, and sedimentary. Only the first two should be considered for use as soil conditioners. Sedimentary peats usually contain high percentages of mineral and colloidal matter which cause them to compact and harden under use. Other sources of organic matter such as rotted sawdust, manures, peat humus, spent mushroom manure, seed hulls, licorice root, and sewage sludge are sometimes used, but they generally are not as effective as good quality peat.

Sands vary widely in the size of individual particles and the percentages of each size class present. Graded, washed sands with the fines removed or coarse grades of ground rock are the most satisfactory. Specifications should define clearly the type, particle size, and particle size range.

4. Seed. Shall be commercial grades of types specified in Section III, 13, f, and shall meet requirements of (state-federal) seed laws.

a. Seed shall be delivered at site in original containers and shall not be mixed and blended except in presence of owners or their authorized representative.

b. Seed shall have been tested for germination and purity by accepted methods with a period of _____ prior to delivery. Seed tag shall show date of germination test, germination, and purity indicated in Section III, 13, f.

Seed. In tabulating seed requirements, areas that are to receive different kinds or quantities should be listed separately. If a single species or variety is to be used, it should be designated by its accepted commercial name, such as common Kentucky bluegrass or (varietal name) Kentucky bluegrass.

If mixtures are specified, the tabulation should show ingredients with the percentage by weight of each. Separate purity and germination minimums should be specified for each kind of seed in the mixture.

5. Mulch. Shall be delivered as specified in Section III, 13, g.

Mulch. Mulches are desirable to protect new seedings from washing by heavy rains and to prevent excessive dryiing of the seedbed which may delay or seriously injure germination. Many kinds of materials can be used, hay and straw being the most common. Other materials include asphalt, latex, plastics, wood fibers, paper, and cloth.

The most important items in mulching specifications are the kind, quality, and rate of application of the material used. If local supplies of an acceptable material are available, the specifications should be adapted to provide specific directions for its use.

6. Vegetative material (stolons, sprigs, plugs, crowns). Shall be of quality, species, and/or varieties designated in Section III, 13, h; vegetative material to be planted at rates specified in the same paragraph by methods specified in Section V, 4, a, b, c.

Vegetative material. Where areas are to be planted vegetatively, the materials tabulation should specify the species or variety of stolons, sprigs, plugs or crowns; their quality, and the rate of planting. One-year-old material usually is the most vigorous and will produce the best and quickest cover. Since stolons or sprigs generally are sold on a volume basis (by bushel or square feet) it is desirable that they be free from soil which would reduce the amount of viable material in a measured unit. Where plugs, sprigs, or crowns are used, the rate of setting also should be indicated, e.g., “on 12-inch centers.”

7. Sod. Shall be of species and/or varieties and quality specified in Section III, 13, i; laid in manner designated in Section V, 5, a, b, c, d.

Sod. In specifying sod the important items are the species and variety or mixture, the quality, the size and thichness of sod pieces, and the type of soil (mineral or organic) the sod is grown on.

8. Drainage blanket. Shall be material designated in Section III, 13, j; applied at rate specified in same paragraph, and in manner designated in Section V, 1, a.

Drainage blanket. Material used for the drainage blanket should be specified as to type (crushed limestone, washed gravel, cinders, etc.) and size. The preferred material is 1B or 2B crushed limestone as specified by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Washed gravel of 1- to 2-inch diameter is satisfactory.

9. Tile. Shall be of the type and size designated in Section III, 13, k; laid in accordance with the architect’s or engineer’s plans.

Tile. Type of drainage tile should be specified. Common clay farm tile, plastic, iron, or composition tile may be used. Slit or corrugated tile is very effective, readily available, and by far the easiest to install. If catch basins are supplied in sufficient quantities, solid iron, plastic, or composition pipe may be used. Drawings of the tile system and method of constructing catch basins should be included.

10. Irrigation. All pipe, fittings, sprinkler heads, etc. shall be of type and size specified in Section III, 13, l; installed according to the architect’s or engineer’s plan.

Irrigation. Type of pipe (plastic, cement, galvanized iron, cast iron, or composition) and size (diameter) must be specified. Drawings of the irrigation system, including method of constructing risers, etc., should accompany the specifications.

11. Topsoil. Shall be of the quality specified in Section III, 13, m.

Topsoil. Where additional fill is required to bring an area to grade specifications or where the existing soil is of very poor quality, it may be necessary to use topsoil. In such cases, the specific areas to be covered should be defined and the required depth of fill specified. Also, a definite statement should be made under the quality column indicating the character and quality of the soil used. Quality of topsoil is difficult to characterize. Soil tests provide information on soil reaction, basic nutrient availability, and organic matter content. Textural classification, according to the United States Department of Agriculture classification system, should be indicated. Aggregate structure and freedom from noxious weeds such as quackgrass, bentgrass, and common field weeds can be determined by an experienced agronomist prior to purchase or use. Topsoil should be natural surface soil from well-drained areas. It is desirable to have a sandy loam soil containing less than 30 percent silt and less than 10 percent clay.

12. Pesticides. Shall be type specified in Section III, 13, n.; applied at rates specified in same paragraph.

Pesticides. It is sometimes desirable to use special materials in preparing a seedbed for growing turf. These include such things as sterilants, insecticides, and other pesticides. Where these are used, the materials tabulation should list each one separately with definite statements of the required quality plus rate and method of application. The stage of construction when applying these materials should be indicated.

13. Quality and rate of application. All materials shall be of quality and shall be applies on areas at rates shown in the following tabulations under Section III, 13.

Quality and rate of application. Items under the materials section of the specification form are self-explanatory. Adherence to accepted standards provides assurances of having satisfactory materials on the job in their proper condition. Where different areas are involved, provision is made in the tabulation for specifying the quality and quantity of individual materials needed for each. This requires a seperate description (identificaiton and size) of the areas under each material specified.


Tabulations of material qualities and rates of application (Section III, 13)

Note: Examples are for illustrative purposes only and should not be construed as recommended fertilizer programs for athletic fields.

a. Basic fertilizer SAMPLE