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Sustainable Lawn Care Presentation


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Presentation given at the Sustainable Landscaping Workshop on September 6th, 2014 by Tim Ohlwiler with the Virginia Extension.

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Sustainable Lawn Care Presentation

  1. 1. Some Best Management Practices for Turf Brookside Community 6 September 2014, Warrenton, VA
  2. 2. BMPs for Turf • Mow • Water • Fertilize • Over seed • Thoughts on soil health
  3. 3. Winter Early spring Spring Summer Early fall Fall Winter Shoot Growth Root Growth Carbohydrates High Med. Low Figure 1. Seasonal Growth Patterns of Cool-Season Turfgrasses Relative growth rate Window 2 Window 1
  4. 4. Mowing • Most frequent management activity • About once per week, more when growing faster, less when dormant or growing slower • Remove no more than 1/3 of leaf surface  Minimum recommended mowing heights for turf grasses  Kentucky bluegrass 1 1/2” to 2 1/2”  Tall fescue 2” to 3”  Creeping red fescue 2” to 3”  Perennial ryegrass 1 1/2” to 2 1/2”  Bermudagrass ½” to 1”  Zoysiagrass ¾” to 1” • Can I mow higher than this? Yes
  5. 5. Mowing low • Reduces tolerance for drought • Increases weed pressure • Makes turf more susceptible to stress • Reduces turf roots • On another note… return your clippings, they provide nutrients in the turf.
  6. 6. Watering • Cool season turf goes dormant in July and August • Add water consistently (or not at all) 1 inch/wk in two to three applications. • Water in very early morning • Turn off automatic systems when it rains.
  7. 7. Fertilization • Fertilizer is one of the biggest contaminants in the Chesapeake bay. • Manage it properly • If fertilizer is a contaminant of water, then I should not fertilize my turf? • This is actually found to not be true. Research at the University of Minnesota showed minimal fertilization to be the best for the environment. • Pet waste is a significant source of nutrients in our waterways.
  8. 8. How to fertilize then? • When grass is actively growing, fall is the best. • Not before a large rain event • No more than 0.7 lb of N / 1000 ft2 at a time • Use a slow release fertilizer. • Avoid fertilizing next to a pond or stream. (20 ft buffer) • Lawn and not sidewalk.
  9. 9. You only recommended Nitrogen • Why? • Because Nitrogen is mobile in the soil and often the most limiting nutrient to growth. • 24 – 6 – 12 • N – P – K • What about other nutrients? • P -Phosphorus – going to be hard to find in fertilizers in VA • K – Potassium – apply according to soil test. • Other nutrients usually not needed.
  10. 10. Changes to VA laws • Maintenance fertilizer will not contain phosphorus - 2014 • Can only apply phosphorus on established turf if a soil test shows phosphorus is deficient • Folks that apply fertilizer for hire must be certified by VDACS – 1 July 2013.
  11. 11. Compost, an alternative fertilizer • Help clay soils drain • Help sandy soils retain water • Add nutrients for turf • Reduce soil compaction • PSU research indicates ¼ inch depth 1-2 x/yr to established turfs is a GREAT treatment • Consider sources, quality, ability to spread etc.
  12. 12. Overseeding • Why? Because we grow fescue and it is a bunch grass. This fixes the holes in the turf. • When? First two weeks of September. • What kind of seed? Fescue mix, you get what you pay for.
  13. 13. • Always a good time to Soil Test take a soil test. • Soil test will tell you • Soil Probe how much lime, phosphorus and potassium you need to add. • VT recommends testing soil every 3 years. • Can add lime anytime of year as long as the ground is not frozen.
  14. 14. Why lime? • Soils in VA naturally acidic. • Turf prefers to grow between 6.3 and 6.8 pH. • Lime raises the pH of the soil. But, how much lime?
  15. 15. Improving soil health • Soil Compaction – Issue on new construction – Over time soil roots will reduce compaction – Dogs, people, cars and equipment add to compaction over time.
  16. 16. A few other thoughts on turf… • Clover is not a weed. • Moss is a great alternative to grass in the shade. • Another talk on turf diseases and insect pests. • Consider planting zoysia as a turf grass. • Participate in “Green” Grass
  17. 17. Questions? Tim Ohlwiler VCE – Fauquier 540.341.7950 ext 3 Virginia Native Flower Demonstration Garden at the extension office. VCE - Fauquier 24 Pelham St. Warrenton, VA