Turf Talk …. From Bill & Brandon fall edition – 2017
Hi’s response to Lois makes us think that they live in the Piedmont.
We are all too familiar with this frustration. Every year in early to mid-spring, our excitement rises as we see our lawns turn lush, thick, and deep green. Then the reality sets in by late July or August as it begins to look sparse, patchy, and filled with brown spots. While this can happen to any of our yards, it’s especially true with those without irrigation systems or with freshly sown yards.
As a landscape company, we wanted to examine this issue a little more closely. And what we found proves that the cartoon is correct! In March of 2017, LLA created three test plots at our office.
- In the 1st one we installed a fescue sod with a well-established root system
- The 2nd area was sowed with a blend of three fescue types.
- In the 3rd area we planted Zoysia sod.
We watered the 3 plots regularly and all beds received the same treatments during the year. From mid-spring through mid-July, all 3 beds looks great – lush, healthy and deep green. But then the lingering effects of summer’s heat and humidity started to take its toll. And by now, late August, the proof is in the pictures.
When the heat of July and August hit us, the sod was able to establish a root system strong enough to get through the stress of high heat and humidity. Unfortunately, the plot sowed with fescue seeds was suffering by late summer. It simply had not been able to establish a deep rooting system to help sustain it. We’ll comment on the Zoysia below.
As you know, “Turf Grass” is a 4-year degree at most state universities. It may not be rocket science, but it is tricky. We have learned a lot about it ourselves in our long careers dealing with turf grass and Mother Nature. Some key thoughts:
- In the Piedmont region of NC, we primarily use blended fescue – a cool season That means it does well in the cool seasons of fall, winter, and spring but it loses its vitality in the heat and humidity of summer.
- When fescue grass seeds are sowed in the fall, it has 3 seasons to (fall, winter, and spring) to become established – greatly improving its chances for survival. When it’s sowed in the spring, it’s much more difficult to get the root system established before going through the rigors of summer; some of it will survive certainly, but not all – even with an irrigation system. Installing sod definitely helps, but its costs are not for everyone.
- You cannot grow grass under trees that have top feeding root systems. These suck up too much of the available water – which is even less available in the summer. Examples are Maples, River Birch, Dogwoods, Beech trees
- As trees grow and expand their canopies, the root system expands – you’ll need to also expand the mowing ring.
- Shade is great for your home, but not for your turf. While there are decent seed blends that will handle partial shade, no grass does well in deep shade. If you see lots of moss, don’t think you’re going to get grass to grow.
- Air circulation is critical to the health of turf. That is why you see fans on golf courses to move air to prevent fungus from attacking turf greens.
That brings us to the 3rd test plot, planted with Zoysia sod. Zoysia, Bermuda and others are considered warm season grasses and are well adapted to hot humid weather. However, since everything has a “catch” the big drawback of warm season grasses is that they turn brown soon after the first hard frost in the fall and remain that way until early spring.
As our long-term temperatures continue to rise and our seasons become less pronounced, we may have to alter the turf we have here in the Piedmont and use more of the “warm season grasses.”
Please call upon us to discuss the turf issues and options for your property. We want to help your grass thrive.