The warm weather is officially here, and for many that means less to do in the garden. But for those who are having issues in the yard, now is the time to replant and rejuvenate lawns that have lacked in the aesthetics you desire.
But before you decide to replant, you will first want to determine the problem. Many of the issues that can cause lawn problems develop during the fall or winter and do not present themselves until the spring. Before you start to work on fixing the lawn though, first look at what caused the problem in the first place. The first step is to address the cause of the decline before just replanting and going through the process all over again.
The first thing to do when it comes to fixing a lawn is to determine if the area is right for turf grass in the first place. A lot of times we spend money and effort trying to get something to grow that just isn’t right for the location. Most of the turf grass species we have available in the area are warm season turf grass, and unfortunately most do not tend to grow in shade or will struggle with too much foot traffic.
There are four main types of warm season turf grass in this area:
The most common is centipede, which does well in low input situations. The main issues with centipede are its poor tolerance of shade and compacted soils.
St. Augustine is the main turf for shade, as it may thrive in as little as four hours of sun.
Bermuda is one of the tougher grasses we have as it is exceptionally drought tolerant and recovers quickly from damage. The main issue with Bermuda is it is intolerant of shade. (This has been the main turf used for sports fields.)
The last one is zoysia, a gorgeous lawn grass that provides some of the best-looking lawns. Zoysia is unfortunately slower growing, meaning it tends to be more expensive. Certain varieties of zoysia are shade tolerant to an extent, but not as much as St. Augustine.
The next thing to do is determine what has caused the decline in the turf. One of the more common issues I see is with soil compaction. Walking or driving on turf will, over time, compact the soil and begin to the thin the grass itself. This is especially true with centipede.
The best methods of mitigating soil compaction are through aeration as well as through topdressing. Topdressing is the act of applying a thin layer of compost or other organic matter over the thin areas to encourage new growth as well as help further aerate the soil. Organic matter helps feed the microorganisms and arthropods in the soil which helps aerate the soil naturally.
Another issue common is the competition with tree roots. Turf grass has a fairly shallow root system, and that coupled with surface roots of many trees can create competition in which the turf is surely too lose. Many times, the simple fix is to not grow grass too close to trees and instead mulch or create garden beds around trees.
One of the main problems most people have with their lawn grass though is the spread of fungal diseases. Unfortunately, here in the Lowcountry, we tend to have a higher presence of fungal pathogens for turf as we have the ideal conditions for it.
The main causes of fungal diseases, many times, is improper care of the grass itself leading to stress and therefore dieback. The main thing to know is that turf grass is active during the warm season, May through August, when the soil is warm enough for the grass roots to thrive and grow.
When one is fertilizing their turf, always fertilize when the grass is the most active. Do not fertilize too early or too late as this can lead to stress from the excess Nitrogen. The other thing that leads to disease is improper irrigation. Turf grass, on average, needs about 1 inch of water per week.
Overwatering can lead to root rots and underwatering can lead to drought stress. If you are irrigating every day, you could be both underwatering and watering too often. Irrigating daily many times keep the turf wet, which means there is a greater chance of disease. Watering should be done once or twice a week, depending on the soil type, and should be done in the morning.
Turf grass can be challenging to grow here in the Lowcountry, and there are issues associated. For resources in identifying issues, contact your local extension agent at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to Clemson’s Home and Garden Information Center, https://hgic.clemson.edu.