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Turf Maintenance for the Pacific Northwest
 

Turf Maintenance for the Pacific Northwest

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An educational slide show on proper lawn/turf maintenance for the Pacific Northwest Region of the USA.

An educational slide show on proper lawn/turf maintenance for the Pacific Northwest Region of the USA.

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Turf Maintenance for the Pacific Northwest Turf Maintenance for the Pacific Northwest Presentation Transcript

  • Turf Grass Management According to Chris Sexton-Smith Horticulture Instructor Lake Washington Technical College www.lwtchort.com [email_address]
  • An Ancient History of Turf Grass
    • Natural turf grass is native to many parts of the world, growing in meadows, prairies etc. and is mowed by grazing animals.
    • European land barons wanted a more controlled look (think Louis 14 and Versailles) emphasizing man’s control over nature and cultivated turf grasses. Hordes of gardeners were “hired” to hand cut the turf with a scythe.
    • Plots of cultivated turf were a sign of prestige and wealth until the lawn mower was invented in the early 20 th century.
    • Golf is closely connected to the natural turf grasses of Scotland. Bored Scottish herders would try to hit a ball into holes made by small animals. (seems obvious right?)
  • A Modern History of Turf Grass
    • Lawns and lawn care exploded after WWII with the spread of the suburbs. Not so coincidentally, this is when the first gasoline powered rotary lawn mowers were introduced.
    • The fertilizer and pesticide industry quickly followed, feeding the growing needs of the turf grass industry. The new chemical technologies were a result of the war.
    • Since the 50’s, Kentucky Blue Grass has been the turf gold standard for most of the northern states, but it has a few disease issues around here due to our wet spring.
  • We Love Turf! Some of us are obsessed with it.
    • Annually, profits from the turf industry exceed the gross domestic product of Vietnam.
    • The Scott’s Company alone did 2.7 Billion in revenue for 2006.
    • Turf is high maintenance, requires seasonal fertilization, can require pesticides, can waste resources, requires expensive, specialized equipment and (dare I say) can be boring… so here’s a question to ask yourselves: Why do we love it so much?
  • Some Concerning Turf Facts
    • In a recent national study, it was found that nearly half of all households failed to carefully read label instructions before applying pesticides and fertilizers.
    • Lawn chemicals are commonly tracked into the home, where the build up in the carpet.
    • Turf is by far the most fertilized plant in the world requiring large amounts of nitrogen that wreck havoc on our sensitive waterways.
    • Between 1994 and 2004, an average of 75,884 people per year were injured using lawn mowers, roughly the same number as were injured by firearms.
  • Turf Grass Types
    • Cool vs. Warm Season Turf
    • Cool Season Turf:
      • Grow during spring and fall
      • Go dormant in summer without irrigation
      • Go semi-dormant and winter
    • Warm Season Turf:
      • Grow mostly during late spring and summer
      • Are dormant in fall, winter and early spring
      • Some types include Zoysia, Bermuda, St. Augustine, Buffalo and many others.
    • We grow cool season grasses in the PNW
  • Turf Grass Types
    • Cool Season Turf Types
        • Perennial Rye
          • Common grass used west of the cascades
          • Loves full sun
          • Tends to have a thick, coarse blade (new cultivars are changing this)
          • Tolerates heavy traffic
          • This is the type of grass that makes up sod
          • Medium draught tolerance
          • Used for sunny residential lawns and heavy traffic areas (i.e. sports fields)
          • Bunch grass
  • Turf Grass Types
    • Cool Season Turf Types
        • Fine Fescue
          • The common name for a group of similar fescues (hard fescue, creeping red fescue, and chewings fescue
          • Likes sun but is shade tolerant
          • Fine textured blade
          • Doesn’t tolerate heavy traffic
          • Often blended with other grasses (such as perennial rye)
          • Used in “sun and shade mix” seed
          • Medium drought tolerance
          • Bunch grass
  • Turf Grass Types
    • Cool Season Turf Types
        • Kentucky Blue Grass
          • Most common turf grass nationwide
          • Bluish cast with medium-fine blade
          • Not heavily used in Western Washington due to disease susceptibility
          • Rhizomatous grass
  • Turf Grass Types
    • Cool Season Turf Types
        • Creeping Bent Grass
          • Stoloniferous Grass
          • Can be closely mown
          • Common on putting greens but not appropriate for residential lawns
          • High maintenance requirements
          • Heavy thatch buildup
  • Turf Anatomy Ligule. A protruding structure from the upper surface of the leaf where the blade and the sheath are joined. This structure may be membranous, a fringe of hairs, or a membrane with hairs. The ligule can vary in both shape and size, and may also be absent. Auricle. A pair of appendages protruding from the side of the grass leaf at the junction of the blade and the sheath. Collar. The region on the back side of a leaf where the leaf blade and sheath are joined
  • Grass Seed Label
  • Let’s go try to match LWTC’s turf
  • Thatch
  • Thatch
    • Thatch is a layer of living and dead organic matter that occurs between the green turf blades and the soil surface.
    • Thatch is composed primarily of old turf stems and roots. These turf “pieces” accumulate when live turf grows faster than the “pieces” can decompose. Over fertilization and over water are the main contributing factors.
    • Excessive thatch (over ½ to ¾ inch thick) creates a favorable environment for pests and disease, an unfavorable growing environment for grass roots, and inhibits water penetration to the roots.
  • The Ideal Annual Turf Maintenance Schedule
    • For cool season grasses, which is what we have around here, follow this schedule:
      • In SPRING (March-May)
        • Mow frequently
          • Never mow more than 1/3 of you grass’s height at one time
          • Grow grass to a height of 3 inches and mow to no shorter than 2 inches. (heights very slightly depending upon turf type)
        • Fertilize
          • If you use a slow release or a good organic lawn fertilizer, you shouldn’t have to apply as frequently. Follow the directions on the bag.
  • The Ideal Annual Turf Maintenance Schedule Continued
      • In SUMMER (June-August)
        • Cool season grasses go dormant in the summer.
        • There are two schools of thought on how to manage turf in the summer.
          • Let the lawn go brown. Water only once a month to keep the lawns crown alive (turf can be dormant for at least 3 month before damage may occur).
            • This is a good option when water usage is a concern
          • Water during the summer. This keeps the turf green, and prevents weed seeds from germinating and establishing. It also looks nice. Remember, even though green, the turf is still dormant. If you fertilize, do so lightly and use a slow release fertilizer.
  • The Ideal Annual Turf Maintenance Schedule Continued
      • In FALL (September-November)
      • Cool season grasses are growing quickly.
        • Mow as often as needed, this may be more than once a week.
        • Fall is a great time for intensive turf maintenance.
        • Think about:
          • De-thatching your lawn if the thatch layer is more than ¾ inch thick. Use a thatch rake or for large lawns, a power thatcher (rent one from you local home center). Repeat every 2 years if needed.
          • Lime. If your lawn hasn’t been limed in a few years and doesn’t seem to respond to fertilization, then it’s probably time to apply lime. Repeat every 2 years if needed.
          • Aeration. Rent a power aerator and plug your lawn. Then spread ¼ inch of fine screen compost over the area. This will help to improve the soil under the lawn, which is one of the biggest lawn stress issues. Repeat annually.
  • The Ideal Annual Turf Maintenance Schedule Continued
      • In WINTER (December-February)
        • Let your lawn rest.
        • Don’t mow
        • Don’t fertilize
        • Try not to walk on it. The soil under the lawn is one of the weakest links in turf maintenance. Most turf is laid or sprayed over poor soils which can stress turf grasses, making them disease prone. When you walk on it while it’s wet, you compact the soil and can damage it further.
  • The More You Know The Better You Mow ;-)
    • Lawn mower maintenance is vital to a healthy lawn.
      • Sharpen you mower’s blades at least once a season (rotary tools like a Dremel work well).
      • Failure to do so will result in turf damage and give a lawn an overall brown/gray cast.
      • You wouldn’t cut your veggies with a butter knife, would you?
    • Don’t mow when it’s wet!
      • You’ll get an uneven cut. The mower and your lawn will become gummed up.
  • Fertilizing Your Lawn
    • More is not better!
    • A fertilizer with larger numbers isn’t necessarily better than one with lower number. i.e. 15:5:10 vs. 6:2:4. Organic fertilizer usually has lower numbers, but releases slowly and doesn’t burn lawns!!!
    • WSU recommends using a fertilizer with a ratio of 3:1:2 (N:P:K).
    • Typical timing: September, Nov/Dec, April/May, June (maybe, but use slow release fert. sparingly).
    • Don’t fertilize during hot, dry periods. It can stress the turf unless slow release is used.
  • Organic vs. Synthetic Fertilizers
    • Organic Fertilizers :
      • A typically slower release.
      • Won’t burn lawn roots
      • Inert ingredient is mostly clay.
    • Synthetic Fertilizers :
      • Are salts which when over applied can burn roots.
      • May be leached through the soil quickly if not a slow release formulation
      • Inert ingredients are unknown and may be a health hazard over the long term.
    • For example, Ironite is mined from a proposed superfund site in Arizona and contains both arsenic and lead. The are inert ingredients and are not listed on the label.
  • Beware of Over Fertilization!
    • Most fertilizer leaches through the soil faster than turf roots can absorb it. Instead it ends up in the water table and clogs our waterways with vegetative growth.
    • It means more mowing for you! Remember, don’t mow more than 1/3 of the turf’s height.
    • It causes overgrown, weak turf which is more susceptible to pests.
    • Contributes to thatch buildup.
  • Mulching Mowers
    • Many lawn mowers currently on the market are “mulching mowers”.
    • These mowers cut the grass blade twice and then blow the blade down into the soil.
    • They don’t require bagging, they cut down on fertilization and don’t contribute to thatch (which is a common misconception).
    • I highly recommend them for people who like to work less and save money ;-)
  • Mulching Mowers
  • Watering
    • Water may be needed during the growing season or during the summer. During this time water only once or twice a week and no more than 1.5 inches per week. Use an opened tuna can as a rain gauge. Water just before dawn.
    • A rain gauge sensor on your irrigation timer will keep you from watering your lawn in the rain, which besides wasting water, can injure turf roots.
    • Sprinkler head inspection is important. It can identify problem spots before it effects turf health. Check your heads on a bi-monthly basis during the growing season.
  • Turf Pests and Diseases
    • Diseases often express themselves when the lawn is already stressed out due to poor plant culture, fertilizer deficiency or excess, poor soils, bad drainage, lack of sunlight, etc.
    • Most pest problems can be solved by correcting the underlying cultural problem.
    • Use pesticides as a last resort, after you have eliminated other potential stress factors. If you don’t fix the underlying problem, you’ll be a slave to your lawn!!!
  • Tolerance
    • One of the best ways to be “OK” with your lawn is to have realistic expectations.
    • Having a few weeds in your lawn is easy to deal with if you hand pull them before them go to seed. Don’t wait until they get out of control to deal with the issue.
    • Clover is beneficial for your lawn. It actually makes fertilizer.
    • Mole hills mean you have healthy soil (yes, I know that they’re ugly!)
  • Alternatives to Turf Grass
    • Eco-Turf, Fleur de Lawn, other grass substitutes.
    • Design a garden with perennial/shrub beds and reduce the size of your lawn.
    • Convert your lawn into an outdoor living space.