Feature Article - February 2007
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Turf Wars

How to win the battle against overuse and other enemies

By Kyle Ryan

The Green Grass Grows All Around

A look at the different types of natural turfgrass

BERMUDAGRASS Warm-season grass with an innate resistance to droughts. Grows dense with a dark green color and deep root system. Can tolerate heavy traffic and recover from it quickly, but it requires lots of sun.

CENTIPEDEGRASS Warm-season grass generally used for lawns. Works well in hot, humid, tropical climates and requires little maintenance. It's not good for athletics or high-traffic areas because it grows slowly and can't stand heavy wear.

FINE FESCUE Cool-season grass with deep green color that works well in cool areas and high altitudes. More of a lawn grass, it doesn't respond well to lots of traffic and has difficulty recovering from severe injury.

KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS Cool-season grass that grows densely with a rich green color. Although it tolerates cold, it requires a lot of water in stressful, hot weather. (It goes into dormancy during droughts.) Thrives in sunny areas.

RYEGRASS Cool-season grass with solid density and fine leaves that's known for its quick growth rate. Produces tough turf and grows low. Responds relatively well to wear.

SEASHORE PASPALUM Warm-season grass native to coastal regions. (Consequently, it thrives in salty soils.) Known for its uniformity and toughness.

ST. AUGUSTINEGRASS Warm-season grass of a light-green color that works well in coastal regions. Responds well to wear, thanks to its rapid and resilient growth habits.

TALL FESCUE Cool-season grass with dark color and moderate density. Responds well to wear and recovers quickly, particularly during rapid-growth periods in the spring and fall.

ZOYSIAGRASS Tough, coarse warm-season grass that is known for its dense growth. Works well in hot, humid climates and tolerates heavy traffic.

Pest control

Even with all the advanced research, the Winter Springs parks and recreation department still encountered one completely unexpected problem when the much-vaunted paspalum finally arrived: mysterious straight brown lines.

"You'd swear it was an irrigation problem or somebody had sprayed some Roundup there or something," Pula said. The crew chief blamed the irrigation guy, the irrigation guy blamed the pesticide person, and no one really knew for sure. Turns out none of them were right. An entomologist found the real culprit: cutworms. They've since become repeat offenders at Central Winds Park.

"From what we understand, if you're getting any paspalum, you're probably good to treat for it right after you put it in with sod," Pula said. "It may be coming in from the sod fields that way."

Diligence is paramount on just about very level when it comes to natural turf, and that goes double for pest control. The key is simple, according to Chalmers: Maintain a uniform surface, control recovery time and avoid any additive stress.

Pests, be they weeds, insects or disease, cause breakdowns in turf performance, which in turn makes it easier for injuries to occur. Weeds themselves aren't as tolerant of traffic and make it easier for players to slip. To prevent them, Chalmers suggests maintaining a healthy, thick canopy of turf. When the canopy wears down, so does its resistance to weedy invaders.