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School IPM Grounds, Landscapes & Athletic Fields. David J. Shetlar, Ph.D. The “BugDoc”. The Ohio State University, OARDC & OSU Extension Columbus, OH. © October, 2001, D.J. Shetlar, all rights reserved. Why do we want quality grounds (lawns) and landscapes around our schools?.

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School IPM

Grounds, Landscapes

& Athletic Fields

David J. Shetlar, Ph.D.

The “BugDoc”

The Ohio State University,

OARDC & OSU Extension

Columbus, OH

© October, 2001, D.J. Shetlar, all rights reserved


Why do we want quality grounds (lawns) and landscapes around our schools?

  • Pride in school (it looks better!)
  • Safer areas to play?
  • Safer areas to get from home to school?
  • Reduces allergens?
  • Reduces “nuisance” pests?

Benefits of a quality Lawn

  • Noise reduction
  • Glare reduction
  • Surface runoff reduction
  • Injury from falls reduction
  • Reduces “nuisance” pests and airborne allergens

Why not have a prairie (wildlife area) rather than a lawn?

  • Rodents (& TICKS) prefer prairies!
  • Prairies in Ohio have tall and short plants. The tall plants may provide hiding places (e.g., mosquitoes).
  • Fire hazards?
  • Many prairie plants produce allergens?
  • Who will maintain this prairie?
  • Soil erosion and pollution problems?

Essential Components of Lawn Management

  • Grass cultivar(s) selection - different for lawns, sport fields & right-of-ways.
  • Establishment - soil preparation, sod or seed.
  • Maintenance - fertilizer, water, mowing, pest control - weeds, insects & diseases.

“Typical” Lawn Maintenance Program

  • Fertilize 4 to 6 times per year (4 to 5 pounds of Nitrogen per 1000 ft.sq./year!)
  • Preemergence herbicide annually (crab grass and other annual weeds)!
  • Broadleaf herbicide annually (dandelions and other broadleaf weeds)!
  • Mow once to twice per week!
  • Irrigate during drought!
  • Grub or surface insecticide when needed!

Low Maintenance Lawn Program

  • Select or introduce lower maintenance turf species.
  • Use slow release fertilizers, no more that 2 pounds of Nitrogen per 1000 sq.ft./year.
  • Mow high.
  • Don’t irrigate, let go dormant.
  • Use pesticides (herbicides and insecticides) only when needed (monitor/ sample pest populations before applying).

Turf Selection

  • AVOID “Contractor’s Blend”!!!!
  • Use blend of CULTIVARS of SAME species, not several species!
  • Turf-Type (dwarf) tall fescues are well adapted to Ohio, low maintenance lawns!
  • Ryegrasses establish fast, but are disease and drought prone!
  • Kentucky bluegrass establishes slow, requires extensive fertilizer & water!

Fertilizing School Lawns

  • Use fertilizers to increase root depth and density and increase stem density.
  • Return clippings to turf to recycle nutrients.
  • Use slow release fertilizers and/or urban composts.
  • Apply in late April to mid-May and again in October into November. (no more than 2 lbs Nitrogen/1000ft2/year)

Lawn Weed Control Approach

(BASIC STRATEGY - dense, tall turf tends to reduce weed invasion)

  • Mow high, 3 inches MINIMUM.
  • Promote root growth – fertilize in early spring and/or fall.
  • Reduce wear traffic – create walkways where people regularly walk. Look for the paths! Avoid turf in play areas.
  • Overseed or slit-seed when needed.
  • Use herbicides only when necessary.

Standard Control

IPM Management

Cover Spray

Monitor + Records

Determine Treatment(s)


Area Spray



Early Summer


Fall (?)

Spot Spray


Monitor & Record

Turf Weeds


Do we need preemergence herbicides for school lawns?

  • Preemergent herbicides are targeted to control crab grass and other annual grasses.
  • Annual grasses generally germinate in sparse perennial turf.
  • Long term strategy should be to produce thicker turf (mow & fertilize properly, reduce wear).

Do we need broadleaf herbicides for school lawns?

  • Broadleaf weeds are persistent once established.
  • Long term strategy should be to produce thicker turf (mow & fertilize properly, reduce wear).
  • Broadleaf herbicides can be applied from spring through fall, select a time when children are not present.
  • Use targeted applications.

Are there herbicide alternatives for lawns?

  • Corn gluten meal has demonstrated preemergent herbicide activity.
  • Rather expensive and a weak herbicide.
  • Most of action is likely nutrient value from decomposition of meal - added fertility thickens turf and reduces weed invasion!

Lawn Insect Control Approach

(BASIC STRATEGY - use resistant turf species and create deep root systems)

  • Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass w/o endophyte & fine fescues w/o endophytes are most susceptible to surface insects.
  • Ryegrasses and fescues with endophytes are resistant to surface insects.
  • Fertilize in spring & fall, reduce irrigation in summer to discourage grubs.
  • Use insecticides only when necessary.

Standard Control

IPM Management

Cover Spray

Monitor + Risk (records)

Determine Treatment(s)

Surface Insecticide

Chinch bugs

Area Treat


Chinch Bugs

Sod webworms


Sod Webworms

Grub Insecticide

White Grubs

Preventive (sold)

Rescue (not sold)

Monitor & Record

Turf Insects


Do we need insecticides for school lawns?

  • Usually at low risk from surface insects if resistant turf varieties and low fertility is followed.
  • Grub damage more common on sport fields because of irrigation.
  • Use targeted applications.
  • Use low toxicity insecticides if insect control is deemed necessary.

Turf Insecticide LD50s

Organophosphates (acetylcholinesterase inhibitors)


Acephate (Orthene)


Chlorpyrifos (Dursban)



Ethoprop (Mocap)



Fonofos (Crusade)


Isofenphos (Oftanol)

Isazofos (Triumph)





Trichlorfon (Dylox/Proxol)


Turf Insecticide LD50s

Carbamates (acetylcholinesterase inhibitors)

Bendiocarb (Turcam)


Carbaryl (Sevin)


Pyrethroids (disrupt nerve sodium pump)

Bifenthrin (Talstar)


Cyfluthrin (Tempo)


Fluvalinate (Mavrik)


L-cyhalothrin (Scimitar)


Permethrin (Astro)



Turf Insecticide LD50s

Chloronicotinyl (post-synaptic block of nicotinic ACH sites)

Imidacloprid (Merit)


Spinosad (synaptic block of nicotinic ACH sites)

Spinosads (Conserve)


Diacylhydrazine (molt accelerating compound, induces molt)

Halofenozide (MACH2)


Fatty Acid Salts (membrane disruption)

Insecticidal Soaps


BT delta-endotoxins (insect gut lining disruption)

B. thuringiensis



Are there alternatives to insecticides for lawns?

  • Insect parasitic nematodes are effective, but expensive and inconsistent.
  • Milky disease of Japanese beetles does not affect other species of grubs. In Ohio, the disease is a weak pathogen that will eventually occur “naturally.” Very expensive to apply.
  • Endophytes provide long term, consistent control (of surface insects).

Simple slit seeding of endophytic ryegrass into KBG resulted in a 30 to 50% stand of endophyte - enough to control surface insects!


Landscape Plant Issues

  • Maintenance time – short & long term.
  • Avoid making hiding places!
  • Do plants attract or provide habitat for nuisance pests – wasps, ants, millipedes, etc.?
  • Define areas to visit or avoid.
  • Aesthetics – shade, color & diversity?

Landscape Plant Selection

  • Avoid “pest prone” plants.
  • Avoid ground covers (Wasps build the nests in them! Encourages people to throw cigarette butts, candy wrappers and other trash in them!)
  • Avoid rows or clusters of evergreen trees & shrubs (Can’t see behind them!)
  • Select diversity of plants.
  • Select plants “sized” for each spot.

Landscape Plant Locations

  • Avoid typical “foundation” plantings - creates “hiding” places near building and use of mulch next to building which encourages nuisance building invaders (ants, earwigs, sowbugs, etc.).
  • Plant in rows or clusters so that mowers can easily maneuver around them.
  • Use larger plant material in parking areas (shade) and entrance ways (defines entrances).

Are pesticides needed for ornamentals around schools?

  • Generally, not needed, especially if plants are “healthy”!
  • Not needed when pest-free or pest-tolerant plants are used.
  • If a plant “needs” an insecticide, miticide or fungicide, why not remove the plant and replace with a non-pest prone plant? Long term cost may be the same!!

Why do we want quality athletic fields for our schools?

  • Pride in school (it looks better!)
  • SAFETY! (It has been shown time and again that a high quality turf playing surface reduces athletic injuries!)

Most common problems with school athletic fields

  • “Manager” has little or no turf maintenance training and insufficient time and personnel to maintain the turf.
  • Poor turf varieties on native soils.
  • Lack of fertility, irrigation, proper mowing, and core aerification.
  • Too much “multi-purpose” usage!
  • Coach demands changes in mowing height!

Sport Fields are DIFFERENT from Lawns!

  • Sport fields require higher fertility amounts to maintain root and stem density.
  • Sport fields should drain rapidly.
  • Sport fields should be kept growing through summer season - irrigation.
  • Sport fields will need repair or renovation on a regular basis.

General Sport Field Maintenance

  • Needs 3 to 5 pounds Nitrogen/1000ft2/ year (twice that of school lawns).
  • Preemergent herbicides may reduce seed germination needed in reseeded areas. Avoid usage.
  • Broadleaf herbicides may be needed annually until density reduces invasion. Apply when no play is expected.
  • Mowing frequency may be double that of lawn areas (2 - 3 times per week)

General Sport Field Maintenance

  • Should be irrigated during drought months to keep turf green.
  • Core aerify at least once per year, prefer two times per year.
  • Overseed once or twice per year, especially in “wear” places.

Long Term Goals for School District’s Sport Fields

  • Separate “general use” fields from varsity fields.
  • Attempt to keep varsity field only for sport events and other special events.
  • Require most practice to take place on general use fields.
  • Design general use fields so that goals can be relocated (change wear patterns regularly).

Final Recommendations

  • Have school district develop a general management plan for school grounds (play areas, lawns and ornamental plants) and athletic fields (general use and varsity sports). Emphasize improving plant materials, define fertilizer rates, and identify what pesticides are acceptable and when.
  • Provide funding and time for maintenance personnel to receive training on turf and ornamental plant care.

Other Options

  • Many school districts have little to no funding for grounds and sport field maintenance.
  • Parent groups may assist by providing special funding or help. You will need a well defined management protocol that can be followed by such novices.
  • Many local lawn care companies will donate materials and personnel to maintain lawns and athletic fields. They will gladly follow YOUR protocols IF you have them!

Educational Opportunities

  • Ohio State University Short Courses - Lawn Care Short Course Sport Turf Short Course (contact Pam Sherratt) 614-292-7457
  • Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference & Show (second week of December)
  • OSU Nursery Short Course and CENTS Show (third week of January)