BEYOND APPEARANCEThe Benefits of a Healthy Lawn
If you have a lawn, you are not alone. In the United States, homes, golf courses and parks now grow more acres of turf grass than farmers devote to corn, wheat and fruit trees — combined. In a study published in Environmental Management, researchers estimated there are 40 million acres of turf grass in the U.S., covering 1.9 percent of the land.
Is all of this turf good for us? Is it beneficial to our health and lives? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding “yes.” A healthy lawn provides a number of benefits to you, your family and the environment:
- A thick lawn functions as an air conditioner. In fact, one acre of grass has the cooling effect of a 70-ton air conditioner, the equivalent of what is needed for eight houses.
- A recent survey performed by the Gallup organization states that a well-maintained lawn can increase the value of your home by 15%. In fact, the recovery value (the amount you will receive in the value of your home for every dollar invested in your lawn) is 100 – 200%; significantly higher than – for example – the investment made in a patio or deck (40 – 70%).
- The plants in your lawn, including your turf, help muffle noises from the street, helping to create restful areas to enjoy the out of doors.
- Natural turf provides for good traction between the ground and your feet, especially when barefoot!
- A well maintained and healthy lawn helps control populations of chiggers, ticks, ants, snakes, rodents and other small, unwanted varmints. These pests become more troublesome in the absence of fine lawns and can more easily find a way to your home.
- Roadside rest stops, parks, cemeteries and home lawns are all conducive to good health because they provide settings that help to reduce stress.
- Finally, tending or enjoying your lawn provides you with an opportunity to walk, lift, bend and otherwise exercise, creating a more enjoyable routine and an indoor workout.
As Living Water begins its 24th season, we are mindful of the positive impact a healthy lawn brings to all of our customers and to our community. As always, we are thankful that you have given us an opportunity to help you create and enjoy the benefits of your healthy lawn.
Spring Turf Advice
Somebody asked me if you could do just one thing early in the season what would you do to your lawn. So I thought about that one for like about 20 seconds and I came up with an answer. These days the way my mind works 20 seconds is really rare and impressive but it indicates how much this one thing can do for YOUR turf early on. So what was it? I kinda want to keep you in suspense but since I know attention spans are getting shorter I won't.
Ok as soon as it was mostly dry I would mow my lawn real short. Yup that is it. Doing that one thing can really do a lot to get your turf healthier, happier and greener earlier than anything I can think of. Now for almost 30 years turf, trees and landscapes have been my vocational passion. Truth is I have forgotten more after all these years than most people know. I am not bragging because the forget part is real embarrassing...where did I put those keys? But if you or someone you love or... pay will mow your lawn real short in Mid- late March through mid April everything else you do will be enhanced. Why? Well there is this thing called photosynthesis, you remember science class 5th grade, photosynthesis is really enhanced and promoted by cutting turf short early in the growing season.
Did you notice I didn't mention power raking? Well I didn't because in most cases all the benefits of power raking aren't that hot. The damage though to turf can be real from power raking. Power raking often weakens desirable turf species and promotes undesirables like crab grass and broad leaf weeds. People power rake to get rid of thatch but every study I know of and there are plenty come up with the same number. Power raking never removes more than 17% of thatch and usually a lot less. Aeration controls thatch much better, organic thatch reducer controls thatch much better but people can't see that with the naked eye. Now power raking looks impressive...why cause someone just knocked the snot out of their lawn but that doesn't make it a good thing...most beatings aren't.
So if you take my advice, and you don't have to, and mow your lawn real short the first mowing; and just the first mowing, here is what I recommend unless you have an amazing commercial mower...you know the kind that cut down trees and do the quarter mile in less than 8 seconds, cut twice. First time mow at about 1 and 3/4 to 2 inches and then drop your mower one more notch to as low as 1and 1/4 inches. Bag it both times and change direction each time. So if you go north south the first mowing go east west the second time and that's it. You can fertilize before or after, treat the lawn for weeds before or after, aerate before or after you mow short and it wont matter but you better believe that short first mow will enhance the benefits of all those very good practices. Ok it's spring I got go...now where was I going?
Snow Mold and Other Spring Turf Diseases
Spring Dead Spot
Spring Dead spot is one of the most damaging disease of bermudagrass. There are a number of fungi that may cause the disease, but in the U.S. it is Leptosphaeria Korrae and Ophiospharella herpotricha. The disease generally attacks mature bermudagrass lawns that have been established for over three years.
Healthy vigorous turfgrass better resist diseases than unhealthy grass. The most susceptible grasses are those that are stressed and weakened from growing in poor soil, has been poorly maintained, or when growing outside it climate zone.
How the Disease Operates
This lawn disease actually begins in the fall, but the evidence of the disease doesn’t appear until spring. In the fall, when the soil cools to 80 degrees, the disease becomes active and infects the roots. The disease in not noticed because the grass will soon start to go dormant. When spring approaches, the disease progression speeds up. The roots are not able to take up nutrients or break dormancy and the grass quickly dies.
The disease is noticed in spring as the grass is breaking dormancy and greening up. You will notice patches of grass that look sunken and have a dead, whitish look. (A different look from healthy dormant grass.)
The patches of dead grass are circular ranging from 6 inches to 3 feet in diameter. They will often coalesce leaving larger, more irregular shaped patches. The patches are dead and cannot be saved.
Eventually the grass will spread into the damaged area, but it will continue to have problems.
Cultural Practices that Discourage Disease Development
If you have had problems with the disease before, it is important to maintain potash (K) levels in the soil. (K) or Potash is also referred to a Potassium, represented by the third number on a fertilizer bag. Even small deficiencies in K lowers the grass’ resistance to the disease. Even if a soil test shows the level to be adequate, you still need to apply 1 lb of potash per 1000/sq.ft. to soil. However, not more than a pound per 1000/sq.ft. should be applied at one time. You can purchase fertilizer that contains only Potassium. It will look something like 0-0-15. The last number will depend on the percentage of K in the bag.
Maintain the soil pH at 5 to 5.5. No one knows exactly why this helps, but it does. Either the grass’ resistance is raised or microorganisms that are antagonistic to spring dead spots are more active at that pH range.
Raise the mower blade. Higher mowing heights means deeper roots and more blade for carbohydrate production. It may provide enough resistance if disease pressure is low.
Keep thatch to acceptable levels of ½ inch. Use a dethatching machine if you have severe thatch problems. Annual core aeration works well to keep thatch levels within a desirable range.
This is one of the times when applications of ammonium sulfate fertilizers to help speed recovery of damaged areas. Make sure you water the fertilizer in directly after application to avoid burning the grass. Studies have shown that the grass responds better with ammonium sulfate than when using urea based nitrogen. In addition, the ammonical fertilizers do not remain in the root zone for as long as coated urea products. This is important because you want the nitrogen to be used up when fall approaches and the disease becomes active again.
Do not use fertilizer containing ammonium nitrate, however. Ammonium nitrate is not the same thing as ammonium sulfate and will will not give you the desired results.
Several fungicides are labeled for spring dead spot. However, university tests have shown that fungicides are not always successful in controlling this disease. Some products displayed no noticeable results at all. For other, results were inconsistent at best. If you do use a fungicide, it must be applied in September or when temperatures dip below 80 degrees. It must be applied as the disease activity begins.
Follow label directions completely. If you are not having good results or having difficulty applying the product, remember that commercial applicators have access to fungicides and equipment that are not always available to homeowners.
Red Thread and Pink Patch Diseases
Red thread and pink patch are lawn diseases that often occur together. A variety of grass types are affected including Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, ryegrass and bentgrass. The fine fescues and ryegrass may be the most severely affected.
This lawn disease is one of the easiest to identify. The late stages of red thread lawn disease produces a network of bright pink to reddish color fungus with a thread-like appearance. On cool, damp mornings, the lawn fungus covers the grass with a pink, gelatin like mycelium. Pink patch develops a gelatinous, pink fungus on the grass.
The lawn disease attacks grass that is low in nitrogen. Their development favors cool, wet spring and fall weather. you will often see them during extended periods of damp, drizzly, overcast conditions. This disease has also been known to appear as snow is melting in winter. Mild winters will generally see more occurrences of the disease than harsh winters.
Disease Cycle The disease over-winters in in thatch and organic lawn debris. The following spring as temperatures reach 65 degrees the disease becomes active. Moisture is important for the disease to spread. Prolonged dampness from rain, dew, or irrigating in the evening or at night accelerates the disease activity.
Once the disease starts, it can be easily spread by mowing. Collecting the grass clippings and disposing of them may slow the disease. Animals or people walking across the lawn can pick up and deposit the lawn fungus in other areas.
Cultural Practices that Discourage Disease Growth
Be sure to maintain proper nitrogen levels in the turf. The disease doesn’t usually attack healthy grass. Lawns that are low in nitrogen will be the most severely affected.
Don’t over-fertilize or you will predispose your grass to other lawn diseases, such as leaf spot.
Fungicide UseRed thread usually isn’t a serious lawn disease and fungicide use isn’t recommended. If you properly maintain your lawn with sufficient nitrogen you will have few problems.