How to deal with some unusual turfgrass problems

Turf grass differ in their ability to tolerant wear. The most tolerant warm-season turf grass is Bermuda grass.

Occasionally, homeowners will encounter unusual turf grass situations that do not easily fit into the typical turf grass management situation. Although these problems can exist in any lawn, most homeowners will only encounter them every third or fourth year or never at all.

Excessive traffic on turf grass causes physical injury to the upper portion of the plant by trampling or crushing of the leaf tissue. Also, the turf grass may be injured through the indirect effects of soil compaction. These effects can occur separately or simultaneously.

turf grass differ in their ability to tolerant wear. The most tolerant warm-season turf grass is Bermuda grass. Tall fescue and perennial ryegrass have the best wear tolerance of the cool-season turf grass, but none are as hardy as Bermuda grass.

Other management practices that can increase tolerance to compaction is to mow the turf grass a little higher. Turf mowed higher tends to withstand traffic better. Also aerating the soil with a core aerator will open up pore spaces needed for the movement of air and water into the soil.

Thatch is a partially decomposed organic layer of living and dead stems, roots, crowns and sheaths. A thatch layer thicker than 0.5 inches may cause a decline in turf grass quality. It can encourage increased diseases and insect problems, restrict movement of fertilizers and insecticides into the soil and reduce heat, cold and drought tolerance.

Thatch should be controlled with a mechanical dethatcher. Dethatching is a harsh practice that should be done when there is at least 30 days of favorable growing conditions.

Heat stress is usually considered more of a problem with cool-season turf grass than warm-seasoned turf grasses. In non-irrigated situations, heat stress and drought stress occur together. Anytime temperatures rise above 60 to 70 degrees in cool-season turf grass, the turf grass plant can be affected negatively. Unfortunately, few management practices are available to improve the tolerance of turf grass to high-temperature stress. The most obvious consideration for heat stress is to use well-adapted varieties of Bermuda grass and tall fescue. In addition, it is also important to ensure adequate soil moisture and to maximize air movement over the turf by avoiding densely planted trees and shrubs around the turf grass area.

It has been estimated that up to 25% of all existing turf is growing under some degree of shade. Therefore, the chances are quite good that many homeowners will face the challenge of managing turf grass under shaded conditions.

The first step in developing a management program for turf growing under shade conditions is to select the most shade-tolerant turf grass possible. In Southwest Oklahoma tall fescue is the best grass.

Another management practice includes raising the cutting height to 2.5 to 3 inches or more for both cool-season and warm-season turf grass. Also, avoid using high nitrogen fertilization. Use about half of the amount that would be normally applied to turf growing in full sun.

Before treating lawns for grubs, homeowners must determine if grubs are the cause of the brown patches and the extent of the infestation. Grub damage is usually minimal but might be serious under city lights. Above ground symptoms of white grub damage are a browning and dying of grass in localized spots or in large irregular-shaped areas.

White grubs are one phase in the life of various beetles such as May or June beetles and masked chafers. There are many species in Oklahoma but most are shiny, reddish brown or dark brown, and 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches in length. They are often incorrectly referred to as “June bugs”.

And as far as watering is concern, apply enough water to wet the soil to a depth of 5 to 8 inches. Avoid light, frequent watering, which will encourage diseases and shallow rooting. Avoiding watering during hot weather (over 90 degrees) to save water loss due to evaporation.

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