Posts Tagged: turf
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers in Southern California have raised concerns about the trend in California to remove lawns to cope with the drought, reported Janet Zimmerman in the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
They believe living lawns need not be sacrificed to meet mandatory water-conservation goals set by Gov. Jerry Brown. Turf simply needs to be managed better, said Dennis Pittenger, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor based at UC Riverside. Pittenger co-wrote a white paper with UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor Don Hodel in which they contend the push to remove grass is a knee-jerk reaction to the drought, the article said.
Pittenger provided five ways to reduce the amount of water needed for grass maintenance:
- Switching from fescue and other cool-season grasses to warm-season varieties such as Bermuda and St. Augustine, which go dormant in the winter. Warm-season grasses use 20 percent less water, when irrigated properly, than cool-season varieties.
- Ensuring sprinklers are working correctly, with overlap and good distribution.
- Using the appropriate amount of water. Lawns can survive on much less water than most people give them.
- Reducing or stopping fertilizer use, which prompts growth and increases water demands.
- Raising the mowing height to at least 3 inches to encourage grass to develop deeper roots.
“Do all those things before you consider taking out turf,” Pittenger said. “That will save quite a bit of water and maybe enough to get the savings necessary to meet goals.”
Jim Baird, UC ANR Cooperative Extension turfgrass specialist based at UC Riverside, said grass' contribution to increased property values and psychological well-being cannot be overstated, and it can be maintained with little water. Both Pittenger and Baird told the reporter they maintain living lawns at their own homes with minimal irrigation.
In an article on The Confluence blog, a team of UC ANR academics outlined "Practical advice on drought-tolerant landscaping in California."
They wrote that, "Trading in your turf for concrete, rock, or artificial turf are options. However, none of these selections promote healthy soils and other ecosystem services. In fact, all of these options can be problematic because they create a heat island effect and may have water infiltration or runoff issues."
I am a turf gardener so I get a sense of satisfaction when my grass is full, dark green and lush on hot summer days. It takes proper year round care to make it through an entire Northern California summer unscathed by the changing conditions. The summer season introduces heat, wind, pests, and uneven watering patterns that turf gardeners in our region need to prepare for to ensure summer success. I want to provide a few tips on how to better prepare your turf for this season. It is important to mow turf regularly and to mow at the correct length for the conditions. It is critical to cut the lawn at a longer, higher length during the summer than you might the rest of the year. Turf that is cut at a longer length protects the roots from the midday heat and maintains moisture by slowing evaporation. Longer blades of grass also help prevent wind from drying out the topsoil. An important decision for turf a gardener is how often to water the grass when it is hot outside. Research shows that it is most effective to water deeply only a couple times a week rather than watering shallow and more frequently. An irrigation survey can be helpful in determining your ideal watering needs but a good rule of thumb if you don’t have time for a survey is to water at least twice a week until the soil is thoroughly saturated. In other words, a good deep drenching twice a week is better than 10 minutes every day. A quarterly fertilizer regiment should be implemented before the summer is in full swing to keep the roots well fed. Fertilizers should not be applied during warm summer days. Other treatments that you might consider are dethatching and aerating your turf to improve air flow to the roots and prevent disease. The most important tip to take from this blog is to raise the blade on your mower now through October to increase the length of the cut during the summer months. That tip alone should keep your turf healthier than it normally would if you were mowing at lower golf course levels. I attached a couple photos of grass being cut too short and not being watered deeply enough for reference.
Examples of unhealthy turf. (photos by Ed Walbolt)
March is a great time to rehabilitate your lawn by filling in bare patches with seed. The spring season offers temperatures moderate enough to foster new growth through germination of turf seeds, but it remains cool enough not to stress new grass once it begins growing and allows it time to mature and take root.
The issues to consider before you start your lawn rehabilitation job are to note the type of turf that already exists in your space so that you can get a matching blend, the amount of sun and shade the particular area might get, and the amount of water the area gets so that you get the proper seeds for your needs The materials you will want to have for the tasks are a rake, a shovel, a bag or two of topsoil made from organic matter, high quality turf seed, starter fertilizer, and a hand-watering container.
The first order of business is to isolate the area you are working on from any pets or foot traffic because turf seeds and seedlings are delicate and will be ruined by even light trampling. Secondly, you want to clear the area of any old dead turf or other dead or dying matter covering the ground you are going to work on. Once the area is cleared up and ready, you will want to dig down about 4 to 6 inches and till the soil until it is soft and workable and all of the large clods have been broken up. You will rake the area so that the ground is even with the other areas where grass is already growing and all of the dirt is uniform in size and texture and elevation. Next, generously spread the turf seed in the area you have prepared making sure to slightly overspread seed on the edges as evenly as possible. Finally, you will cover the seed with about an inch of topsoil which will thin out once you add water. You should not be able to see any seeds through the topsoil; at the same time you are not trying to bury the seeds any deeper than just under the surface of the soil. Once all of the topsoil has been uniformly applied and the seeds are completely covered you will very gently water the area trying to apply the watering as delicately as possible to prevent erosion of the work you just did.
You will want to inspect the area twice a day for 2 weeks to make sure that the seeds continue to maintain minimal moisture content. You want to keep the topsoil slightly moist constantly until you notice baby turf emerging. Once the new grass begins to grow you will want to scale the watering back to allow the new turf to establish its roots. A watering balance is needed at this point, you want to water thoroughly and then allow the grass to dry out almost completely before the next application of water. A starter fertilizer should be applied at this time also to encourage mature rooting and growth. You will want to closely consult the directions on the seed packaging to check for varying details. (NOTE: the Master Gardener program does not endorse the Kellogg's or Scott's products, these photos are for demonstration purposes only)
Turf that needs rehab. (photos by Ed Walbolt)
Top soil bag.
Want to reduce the amount of water you use in your garden, and help reduce your water bill next summer? There are two rebate programs offered by Solano County Water Agency (SCWA), the Turf Replacement Program and the Smart Irrigation Rebate Program. These rebates are while funding lasts, first come, first serve and this cycle runs through June 30, 2012. You must live in Solano County to qualify.
The Turf Replacement Program offers Solano County homeowners rebates of .60 ? per square foot or up to $600 dollars towards a beautiful new water-wise garden. You must get approval from SCWA before you begin your project, and lawns that are already dead or dying will not qualify. For more information or schedule a pre-inspection call SCWA at 707.455.1113.
Another option is to replace your existing irrigation controller with a Smart Irrigation controller. You can use it with your existing irrigation system and still qualify for $300, $700 or up to $1,000 rebate depending on the size of your station. For more information or to make an appointment for a free landscape survey, call 800-366-6995.
SCWA has other rebate programs for more information: http://solanosaveswater.org/Rebates.html .
This year as summer transitioned to fall, we were blessed with a few days of unusually early fall rain. In some areas of Solano County almost two inches of precipitation fell after only a few days in late September and early October. A benefit of the rain was that Solano’s turf and native grasses were transformed from being burned out, parched, and dangerously flammable to being lush, spring-like, and full of new light green growth hues and vigor. The areas in my turf garden that were worn down quickly filled in with new growth now covering the previously bare patches caused by the late summer’s heat. The timing on the rains could not have come at a better time for a lot of us, most specifically me. My office was recently moved 50 miles farther from home and with the long hours commuting between there and Fairfield I had been neglecting my turf garden. I intended to find some time to water and fertilize my Fescue/Bluegrass blend to prepare for the fall, but I had not gotten around to it before the rains came. Needless to say, I think I can put off my fertilizer regiment until the end of November without worry. Solano County doesn’t often get nature’s showers until November or December so it was a unique nitrogen-rich phenomenon this year that many of our gardens benefitted from.