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Solutions for Turning Turf Loss Around

The two worst words you can ever say to professional turf managers are “turf loss.” The notion haunts many on a daily basis.

Though the stress is the same for cool season turf, picking up the pieces can be a little easier. There are many seed varieties out there and the process is somewhat less costly in terms of products needed and labor.

For warm season turfgrasses, repair means vegetative means or sod and sprigs. While the efforts are more immediate, the cost and labor can represent a larger hit to the budget. Not to mention, as the season wears on, warm season turfgrasses begin to slow down in terms of growth with shorter days and cooler temperatures. Conversely, cool season grasses are now entering what has sometimes been called “the second growing season.”   


The Culprits Behind Turfgrass Thinning and Loss

The thinning or loss of turfgrasses can happen for a number of reasons but they tend to fall into two buckets. There are the biotic factors such as pathogens (fungi), insects, weed competition, nematodes and other living factors. These can arise for a number of reasons. We all remember army worms; however, there are a litany of products on the market to manage most of them.

The second bucket contains those stressors brought on by non-living or abiotic factors. They include things like drought, excess moisture, traffic, heat, saltwater intrusion, compaction and many other non-living factors most of which do not have product application protocols, so they are tougher to prevent. Often these problems will require a physical approach to management and may take more time to show signs of success.

However the problem occurred, it is important to remedy the issue quickly as the calendar is working against you. Not only is fall not the best time for warm season turf growth, the window for fall preemergent applications is fast approaching and reestablishing turf then becomes a much bigger dilemma.

Not only is a thin, weak stand unsightly, it leads to much greater problems. Insufficient cover leads to weeds, particularly difficult grassy weeds. Additionally, if the sun is able to reach the surface where preemergents have been applied, you risk more rapid degradation of the weed control barrier. This makes the battle against Poa a much more difficult task.  

Options for Turning Turfgrass Around

Aside from the obvious approach and expense of re-sodding or sprigging, there are some options. Fertilizer, particularly nitrogenous based ones are risky for bermudagrass. Readily available nitrogen sources can lead to lush growth that is much more sensitive to cold temperatures— a particular problem in the northern reaches where bermudagrass is used.

Applications of potassium can help with cold tolerance, so consider a granular 5-0-31 or a sprayable 0-0-62. It is also important to maintain mowing until the lawn goes dormant.

Also, proper irrigation will speed recovery and reduce environmental stresses on the existing stand. Remember to maintain deep and infrequent irrigation cycles. Raising the mowing height on St. Augustinegrass specifically might also help with turf density.

If the situation requires a more direct approach, there are some specialty products that will greatly help in the self-repairing ability. Within the EMPRO Turf Wellness line you will find products like the Kelp Complex. Seaweed/kelp materials are very beneficial to overall turf and plant health. Many of these materials will initiate more root growth and density which will promote more rapid lateral growth. This will give bermudagrass a big advantage in terms of filling in areas that became thin. Seaweed materials will also help in terms of stress especially if the late summer or early fall is dryer or hotter than normal and the plant needs some help.

Another product that will promote healthier and more vigorous turf is the EMPRO AER8TION 0-0-5. Along with humic acid to initiate root development and support the soil’s nutrient holding capacity, AER8TION also contains potassium, seaweed and amino acids to jump start weak turf and accelerate its ability to fill in.

For a granular option, EMPRO Soil Enhancer is available. This is a biochar material with humates, sunflower hull ash and silica. Particularly following solid tine or core aerification, Soil Enhancer will help develop a stronger root system while improving soil nutrient holding capacity and soil texture.  

As mentioned earlier, managing available soil moisture is crucial in promoting turf spread or lateral growth. Although irrigation may be well planned out, there can be periods where low soil moisture availability can impede the late-season race to fill in. Hydretain can alleviate this issue by attracting water vapor in the soil before it is lost to evaporation and condensing it into usable micro-droplets on plant roots. Hydretain is available as a granular or sprayable material.  

Following spring green-up, adding one or more of the EMPRO Turf Wellness products can reduce stress, provide for a top-notch lawn and help mitigate turf loss. 

As mentioned above, fall overseeding time is here and Ewing can help with that as well. A more rapid, budget-friendly option is annual ryegrass, typically used for more native and pasture areas, as well as soil erosion areas. For those who prefer a darker, more resilient lawn during the winter, 3-way ryegrass blends are available—namely EMPRO Ace, EMPRO Birdie and EMPRO Par.  

Lean on Ewing for More Turf-Care Solutions

Feel free to contact myself or Pat Gross, Ewing’s Tech Team, with your turfgrass questions.  Email me at klewis@ewingos.com or call/text 480-669-8791. Email Pat at pgross@ewingos.com or call/text 714-321-6101.

TAGS: Soil Health, Turf, EMPRO, Turf Damage