In the 25 years of building bocce courts, the #1 question always asked is, "How do we take care of it." I will explain the different factors in keeping your court healthy and rolling well for years to come. These can also be applied to other stone, oyster shell, clay courts.
1) Watering your bocce court.
So everyone asks, "How often do I water my bocce court?" There are different factors to take into consideration here. Watering frequency will be different for every location and time of year. Factors to consider are - How much shade is over your court, does the court have drainage under it, time of year, amount of rainfall that week, age of court, and of course, the most important, is the court properly built.
- How much shade is over your court?
The sun will dry out your court rapidly, and it will seem sandy and slow rolling. Shady courts will stay moist longer but also bring on more moss and weeds.
- Does the court have drainage under it?
Properly built courts are well-drained. Since the bocce court must be perfectly level with a border around it, the water needs to go somewhere. I have seen many bocce swimming pools built. The drains are essential during rainy seasons and that morning thunderstorm before your tournament.
- What time of year is it?
Here on the East coast, we usually start playing bocce in March or April, depending on winter severity. Spring is still cool, and it rains every few days, so courts are wet.
- How much did it rain that week?
This one is obvious. If you get a lot of rain, chances are you don't need water it. You will get accustomed to just looking at the court's color and knowing if it needs water. The darker it is, the wetter, the lighter, the drier. In the above picture, you can see that Nickolas is watering the court and changing to a dark green color. The second court in the background has not been watered yet and is very dry with a more light gray-green color.
- How old is your court?
Besides us bocce players, Har-Tru is one of the few things today that gets better with age. Now, this depends on how well the court has been maintained over the years. A well maintained older court will drain quickly and still stay firm after a rainstorm; that is how the surface is designed. Newer courts need time to achieve the same rate, also more frequent rolling to maintain consistency. Some older unmaintained courts with 1" of sandy material on top make it hard to tell if the court needs water of not. I will discuss this "sandy material" in another article.
- Is your court properly built?
Many people have asked us to eliminate certain aspects of construction to reduce costs. Example: "We don't need all that drainage; we are not professionals." Ok, so your big party is planned for Saturday including lots of bocce playing. It rains all night, and your court floods; guess what that court will be during your party. A SWAMP!! Now when guests see the unplayable court and ask who built it? Chances are the client will not admit to cutting corners and directly blame the contractor. These surfaces need to be installed as the manufacturer intended. Following the guidelines, the moisture content will be very predictable and consistent. This can also work the opposite; a contractor eliminates materials and proper procedures to "GET THE JOB," and you're stuck with a bocce swimming pool.
- Watering methods.
The simplest easiest way to water the court is with a garden hose. I typically recommend a hose spigot or yard hydrant close by. If possible, run a line to the court and have your hose next to the court. Listen, we all get tired sometimes, and if you have to pull out 100' of hose every time the court needs water, chances are it's not getting done. Also, spend the extra money on a good hose. The cheap hoses kink, leak and fight you when rolling up. We want this to be fun, right? I have seen many plastic hose reels falling apart with cracked cheap hoses jammed inside, leaking at the spigot, and sure enough, the court never gets watered. I like the Zero-G Premium Duty kink-free woven 5/8 x 50' for a standard 60'x12'single court. These are like little fire hoses and are very durable. We have been using them for years commercially; they take a lot of abuse and are lightweight. A 50' hose can be used for a double court if the water spigot is in the center, but a 100' would be better. With this hose, a basic hose bib is all you need. If you want a reel, get something metal, the Zero-G hose will need to be completely rolled out before use as it can flatten when rolled on a reel restricting flow. Don't forget the nozzle and extra hose washers. If water is constantly leaking out of the connections, hand tighten or check the hose washer is not damaged or missing. The water wants to hit the court like a light rainstorm so as not to disturb the surface. Water until you start to see it puddle, then move on, don't oversaturate as it will just run down in the drainage.
You can also install an automatic sprinkler system. Just make sure it is on its own separate valve. Many times irrigation companies add extra pop-up sprinklers run from the existing lawn system. The problem is lawns and bocce courts have very different requirements for water. You want to be able to have the bocce court on its own timer.
Why is water even necessary?
Water is an essential component of Har-Tru or clay bocce courts. It acts as a flexible adhesive that holds everything together. Bocce courts that are very wet or dry are weak, incohesive, and quickly loosened by play. Water must be present in a court in moderate amounts to create maximum strength. The more you play on the court, you will begin to understand if the bocce court needs more water or more sun before play.
One thing to note: Try not to let the Har-Tru court get so dry that it basically turns into powder. You can bring it back by watering, but it may need to be rolled to get the consistent playback.
These guidelines can help wherever you live, but here in PA and NJ, we usually see the following.
March, April - After Spring opening, water 2 times a week early evening
May, June - 3 times a week early evening May, June
July, Aug, Sept - Usually hotter and drier, I would water every early evening, and if you have an afternoon game, you maybe want to give it quick water to keep down the dust.
Everything is weather dependent some years; we have lots of rain, and clients hardly ever water the courts. Other years we have a drought, and watering is necessary every day. This all sounds like a lot of work for some people, but it really is quite easy. For the most part, the courts are self-sufficient. I want to give you all the info you need.
If we can help in any way, please email us your questions.