My winters are normally revolved around going to my daughter’s basketball games and feeding cows in my free time, but as we get closer to spring, it is time to get outdoors more.
Today, I am going to share information about steps for lawn health. I will share information from a revised UGA publication by Dr. Clint Waltz, UGA Turfgrass Specialist and Dr. Alfredo Martinez, UGA Turf Pathologist. Both Waltz and Martinez help me a lot with turf issues in our county.
First, if you are going to start from scratch, please take a soil sample. This point is greatly missed by many folks. How do you lime and fertilizer if you don’t know if you are going with the right rate or fertilizer?
We have publications with generalized recommendations, but a soil test is better. When preparing for the new lawn, try to remove any stumps, rocks other debris. This is beneficial because turf issues such as fairy ring is connected to decomposing organic matter.
When getting the soil ready, it is a great time to fix drainage issues such as low-lying areas that may collect water. If you are wanting to do some research on the different types of grasses and get some pointers, our UGA Turfgrass website is www.GeorgiaTurf.com. I go there myself to study up on new varieties or recommendations.
If purchasing sod or sprigs, do so from a certified producer. Also, make sure you are planting that particular grass at the right time of year too. A lot of folks like to plant varieties that can be done by seed so use seed that is fungicide treated. This will help on some of the disease issues. If going with sod or sprigs, try to inspect the items for health issues prior to planting.
One thing people forget about is mowing heights and equipment. Before the mowing season starts, you need to get blades sharpened and make sure the blades are in good working order. Dull blades will not cut clean and will shred more of the grass. Grass with shred tips will need more water so will not handle drought as well and just will not look as nice as grass clipped with sharp blades.
One tip to keep in mind is raising the mowing height during times of drought. I know that we have our fair share of moisture now, but you do remember the extreme heat we had in June of last year plus how warm our spring was in 2012.
Again, we know the drought times will come and you should resort to supplemental water. Look for the signs of moisture stress. One simple thing to do is to walk over the lawn. If you turn around and see your footprints in the grass then you may have lack of moisture issues. Also a wilted grass from moisture loss can even have a bluish-green color and even show signs of leaf rolling or folding. We will talk more about proper irrigation in a future article.
I am going to talk just a little about thatch. Thatch problems can cause big problems in the lawn. Thatch will accumulate for several reasons. Over fertilization with nitrogen can lead to thatch building up. Also, if you miss mowing the lawn and do not irrigate correctly, it can lead to problems.
A rule of thumb is that if the lawn feels soft and spongy according to Waltz and Martinez, you may have excessive thatch. The recommendation for dethaching is if you have a thatch layer thicker than one half inch.
One thing to keep in mind that if you manage your lawn correctly, you should stay ahead of problems. If you do think you have problems with disease, weeds or insects, get that issue identified and use proper means of control.
Our office not only offers soil testing, but we I send a lot of samples in digitally to the lab and we have sent in physical samples for our UGA specialists to give identifications and recommendations. Just keep in mind that there are many pieces of the puzzle for a healthy lawn.
For more information contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.