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Phil Sell - Shawnee County Extension Horticulture Agent. Environmentally Responsible Turfgrass Management. If you do it - sell it! . Environmentally Responsible Turfgrass Management.

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Environmentally Responsible Turfgrass Management

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environmentally responsible turfgrass management3
Realize (acknowledge and accept) that it is environmentally responsible (sensible, sensitive, “friendly”) to perform cultural practices that help to maintain a dense stand of grass - because a good stand of grass is an effective bio-filter that helps to keep water, chemicals, and soil (sediment) on the intended site. Environmentally Responsible Turfgrass Management
environmentally responsible turfgrass management4
Cultural practices that reduce inputs, waste, or collateral damage are Environmentally Responsible

BMP’s - Best Management Practices

IPM - Integrated Pest Management


Environmentally Responsible Turfgrass Management
type of grass
Select Adapted Species and Resistant Varieties

To have as much going for us as possible

To reduce inputs (water, fertilizer, pesticides)

Perennial ryegrass poor choice for pure stands of general use turf

Intolerant of heat/drought stress

Subject to disease (gray leaf spot)

Transition Zone (”Crabgrass Belt”)

Can grow many species but none are ideally adapted

Environment isn’t as forgiving

Must do a better job of management

Should we be planting more warm season species?

Seeded bermudas (Riviera/Yukon) and zoysia (Zenith)?


Type of Grass
blends vs mixes
Mixes - a combination of two or more species

Blends - a combination of several cultivars (cultivated varieties) of the same species

Blends capitalize on individual attributes of the component varieties while diluting their deficiencies.

To spread out the genetic base hoping to create a wider range of disease resistance and environmental adaptation.

Even if we don’t have control over initial selection, we can introduce new varieties when over-seeding.

Blends vs Mixes

“Hedging” - to protect oneself from losing by a counterbalancing transaction - Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary

seed quality
Don’t Plant a Problem

Purity - Weeds and “Other Crop”

Orchard grass will appear under “other crop”

Rough bluegrass - Poa trivialis


Pure Live Seed - Germ x Purity

Seed Quality
establishment procedures
Use “silt fences” to keep disturbed soil on site

Sediment contributes to turbidity and phosphate pollution

Improve the rooting environment

Deeply till - Work soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches

Mix in 2 to 3 inches of organic matter (compost, etc.)

No sand in most situations - “specced” greens are exception

Adjust pH and apply fertilizer based on soil test results

Off-site topsoil can be beneficial

Avoid stratification/interfacing by blending layers together

Sod - After seeding window has passed

Repair and new establishment (esp. Critical areas)

Can’t skimp on soil prep just because it will be covered

Establishment Procedures
seeding rate seed count per inch
Seeding Rate - Seed Count per Inch

Seeding rates - Enough seed but not too much

Small irregular areas - seed count per square inch

Fescue at 6 to 8

pounds per 1000

square feet equals

12 to 16 seeds per square inch

establishment procedures planting time
Planting time - During optimum window

To reduce required inputs

Fall preferred for cool season grasses

September is ideal - Late seedings may suffer from heaving

Dormant seeding is an option

After little chance of germination until spring

After several hard freezes - “honey comb” surface

Light snow?

Surface preparation - aerate/slice

Establishment Procedures - Planting Time
planting time fall seeding
Less weed competition - unless wait too long

Warm soil contributes to rapid germination

Dependable moderate moisture

Prospect of cool, favorable growing conditions

Better chance of establishment under trees

Consider ground covers as an alternative in heavy shade

Planting Time - Fall Seeding

Cool Season Grasses

planting time spring seeding
Crabgrass competition

Cold soil - slower germination

Excessive moisture

Wet soil may interfere with planting

Possibility of thunderstorms - seed washing

Hot, dry weather is imminent

Will require irrigation throughout the summer

Shade and root competition

Planting Time - Spring Seeding

Cool Season Grasses

turfgrass fertilization
Timing depends on species of grass

Cool season grasses - fall emphasis

Warm season grasses - summer emphasis

Frequency based on maintenance regime

Quality expectations

Mowing frequency

Clipping management

Turfgrass Fertilization
turfgrass fertilization17
Soil test to establish basic nutrient levels

Adjust Phosphate and Potash as indicated

Potash is adequate in most of Kansas

Reduced phosphate use is being targeted in many states

Use permitted only if deficiency is documented by soil test

Nitrogen is the throttle used to regulate growth

Nitrogen source

Slow release vs quick release (water soluble)

Organic alternatives (alfalfa, manure, sewerage sludge)

Turfgrass Fertilization
turf fertilization cool season grasses
Fall emphasis

September is most important

Late season - at about the time of the final mowing

Is actually the spring fertilization - will be metabolized by the grass and stored as carbohydrate reserves -Ready to suppot spring growth

Spring - After springtime “flush” of growth

Use slow-release form of nitrogen

only if turf will be watered all summer

Makes no sense to encourage growth that won’t be supported

Turf Fertilization - Cool Season Grasses
turf fertilization warm season grasses
Summer emphasis

After growth has resumed

Lean diet - Especially Zoysia

To reduce thatch accumulation

Final application by mid-August

Turf Fertilization - Warm Season Grasses
granular products



Granular Products
granular products21
Apply granules carefully

Drop spreaders along curb

Deflectors on broadcast spreaders

Either sweep up and reapply product that gets in the street - or blow it back onto the adjacent turf

“If you do it - sell it”

Granular Products
turfgrass mowing
Sharp blade is essential

Dull blade can contribute to disease problems

Bruises and frays the ends - providing entry site for pathogens

Turfgrass Mowing
turfgrass mowing height of cut
Height of cut - High end of recommended range

Higher cut results in deeper rooting

Higher cut will insulate the soil surface

Reducing temperature extremes

Higher cut will reduce evaporation from the soil

Higher cut will shade out weed seedlings

Turfgrass Mowing - Height of Cut
turfgrass mowing clipping removal
Recycle clippings (”Don’t Bag It”)

Clippings don’t cause “thatch”

Can return up to 25 % of Nitrogen

Avoid unnecessary disposal

Must “buy in” to total program - management triangle

Turfgrass Mowing - Clipping Removal
turfgrass mowing clipping removal26
If you return clippings as you mow, be sure that your mowing pattern keeps them on the lawn if using a side discharge mower.

If clippings are blown into the street, and not swept up, they can contaminate surface water downstream.

If clippings are collected, they should be composted, not set out for curbside pickup.

Herbicide contamination can be an issue

Turfgrass Mowing - Clipping Removal
turfgrass irrigation time of day
Early Morning is Best (4:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.

Less wind to deflect the sprinkler pattern

Better water pressure in the system

Soil Moisture will be present during mid-afternoon heat

Less disease potential

More Efficient

Mid afternoon irrigation is wasteful and not environmentally responsible

Turfgrass Irrigation - Time of Day
turfgrass irrigation cool season species
Well-established Grass (year old, or more)

Avoid premature irrigation in the spring

Don’t spoil the grass early

Permit the grass to stress some - to develop deep roots

Deep and infrequent in spring and fall

More often during the summer?

Turfgrass Irrigation - Cool Season Species
turfgrass irrigation allow dormancy
Keep green and growing - or let go dormant?

Established tall fescue - growing on a good site and soil -can tolerate 5 to 8 weeks w/o irrigation if the crowns are hydrated every couple of weeks

This conscious decision must be made before season

Don’t fertilize in the spring if lawn won’t be regularly watered

If allowed to go dormant, wean off of moisture dependency -gradually transition into dormancy

Don’t abruptly abandon after a wet spring

Turfgrass Irrigation - Allow Dormancy?
turfgrass irrigation don t be wasteful
Keep water on the turfgrass site

Out of the street/gutter

Use sensors that over-ride the system when its raining

Turfgrass Irrigation - Don’t Be Wasteful
turf irrigation keep water on site
Turf Irrigation - Keep Water on Site

Don’t be an example of wasteful practices

weed control
Weeds are the result of a poor lawn, not the cause

A competitive stand of grass is best weed control

Herbicides can be an important tool while upgrading a thin stand of grass

Pre-emergents for germinating seeds

Post-emergents for established weeds

Weed Control
weed control herbicide use
Pre-emergence herbicides

Shouldn’t be necessary every year

Repeated use can contribute to root pruning of turf

Post-emergence herbicides

Don’t treat a whole lawn for a few scattered weeds

Spot treat scattered weed or isolated patches

Weed Control - Herbicide Use
weed control herbicide use37
Broadleaf weed control - ie. Dandelion

Fall is best - if it won’t interfere with seedling grass

Carbohydrates are being accumulated in the crown and roots

Metabolism of the plant is downward

Herbicides are translocated throughout the plant

Less chance of inadvertent damage to off-target plants

Plants not killed outright may succumb to winter-kill

Observe wind speed

Below 10 mph

Use low volatile formulations

Low pressure - large droplet size

Weed Control - Herbicide Use
turfgrass insect control
Avoid indiscriminate - arbitrary treatments

“We’ll include a free bag of insecticide”

Don't apply preventive treatments for surface insects

Avoid routine grub treatments

Merit/Mach 2 preventative for sensitive sites

Not good for “rescue” treatments

Consider “threshold populations”

Targeted treatments - treat “hot spots”

Turfgrass Insect Control

Unnecessary insecticide applications can kill beneficial insects and could lead to resistant strains of the damaging ones

turfgrass disease management
A susceptible host

A virulent pathogen

Environmental conditions that favor the disease

Turfgrass Disease Management

The “Disease Triangle”

turfgrass disease management40
Cultural practices that break the disease triangle


Adequate nitrogen to prevent dollar spot

Moderate nitrogen to reduce brown patch

Avoid spring/early summer on cool season grasses

Adjust irrigation practices - avoid evening hours

Avoid excessive plant populations (thick/dense stand)

Turfgrass Disease Management
granular products41



Granular Products
turfgrass cultivation
Core aeration - important for established turf

Improve aeration and gas exchange

Improve infiltration of water, fertilizer, and pesticides

Innoculate thatch layer with micro-organisms

Not solid tines (for general turf)

Create lateral compaction and glazing

Slit aerators - Less disruptive of the surface during periods of active use

Turfgrass Cultivation


turfgrass cultivation power raking
Vertical slicers

Thin metal blades that are securely attached

Best for preparing surface for overseeding

Best for de-thatching zoysia and bermuda grass

“Power rakes” (Lawn “combers”)

Thick, swinging (flail type) blades

Beating action can cause damage

Turfgrass Cultivation - Power Raking