Turfgrass Problems? You're not alone.
There are a number of reasons why a turf renovation project fails. Even when you think you did everything humanly possible to ensure total success, you still get disappointing results. Why? Well, in plain talk, you missed something.
Let’s go down the checklist to see what you may have missed. As you work your way down the list, you’ll know what it is when you see it. If you don’t, consult a colleague or your favorite Reinders turf expert. Another set of eyes will often pick up something that you simply did not see.
I know how anxious you are to fix things, but did you ever stop and wonder why your turf looked so bad in the first place? You see, before we blindly forge ahead to fix it, we better figure out what created the poor turf stand in the first place. I bet you can find the issue(s) in the list below.
Common Turf Problems
Probably one of the most overlooked issues. Too much moisture in the soil or occasional standing water on the surface may be creating turf quality issues. Watch for standing water as an indicator of drainage issues.
Solution: Re-grade sites to improve surface drainage. Channel water away from trouble spots via drain tile, hard surface drainage management, etc. Introduce soil amendments to create more pore space in the soil profile to facilitate drainage.
Turfgrass plants are not indestructible. They’ll succumb to overuse and rapid wear just like a cheap carpet. Even if these turf plants are performing at their peak, many times they can’t keep up with unrealistic traffic.
Solution: Manage traffic and diligently core aerate. Overseed with traffic tolerant grasses.
Typically this issue is related to overuse (see above), however, heavier soils, soils with poor structure or high pH may just inherently be compacted.
Solution: Core aerate! Introduce soil amendments such as calcined clay, sand or compost. Experiment with gypsum applications or soil acidifiers designed to loosen heavy soils.
Grass needs sunlight to manufacture food via photosynthesis (think back to 10th grade biology). Trees casting heavy shade typically act like big umbrellas, too. That means the soil under those trees is typically drier. Tree roots are also competing with the turf under them for moisture and nutrients.
Solution: Trim or remove trees. Thin out branches to improve light filtration and air circulation. Consider alternative ground vegetation more suitable for heavy shade.
Some turf stands are predisposed to disease pressure due to the presence of older varieties, soil-borne pathogens or a micro-climate conducive for disease activity.
Solution: Identify the pathogens, determine cultural control options and, as a last resort, fungicide treatments. Introduce newer, more disease-resistant turf varieties. Improve air circulation to reduce disease occurrence.
All turfgrasses have their strengths and weaknesses. Using bluegrasses in heavy shade or fine fescues in high-traffic areas are good examples of varieties that are out of place and, consequently, will not persist over time.
Solution: Pay close attention to site parameters and consult your favorite seed expert for help in matching species and cultivars to growing conditions, budgets and intended use.
Mowing too short or not often enough, fertilizing too much and making poor product choices, over- or under-watering—this sort of malpractice will create turf health issues in due time.
Solution: Assess your current turf management practices, identify areas for improvement and consult a turf extension representative or your Reinders rep for ideas and recommendations.
If you ignore turf, it will react negatively to your inaction by becoming thin, lethargic, weed infested and chlorotic, among other things. With just a little bit of attention, your turf will respond positively and show its good side.
Solution: Apply fertilizer at least one or two times annually, supplement Mother Nature’s precipitation shortfalls during drought events with irrigation and perform regular cultural practices such as proper mowing, fall clean up and core aerating (if possible).
Once you have identified the reason(s) that have caused your turf to deteriorate and have made one or more of the necessary corrections outlined above, then and ONLY then, should you invest the time, money and effort to undergo an effective and agronomically sound turf renovation. Taking action before you’ve established an effective plan can lead to further problems, money wasted and a bigger headache.