All Eyes On You

Summertime can present a unique set of obstacles for turf and playing fields. Particularly for public parks and recreational areas, summer is the time when these fields experience the most wear, use and stress. If you’ve waited until now to do field maintenance, I’m sorry to inform you that the best defense is a good offense.

The best way to combat summer stress is proper maintenance year-round. The summer months should be a time to step back and analyze your practices–determine what’s working, what’s not, and what impact those practices are having on the environment.

Environmental impact is a huge aspect of my job, especially since I work for Virginia Tech University, a state-funded organization. Oftentimes government officials, boards, committees and concerned citizens are watching my practices to ensure they are in the best interest of the institution and the environment. There is an added level of scrutiny that goes into what I do, and I am sure a similar level of oversight plays on your work as well. All eyes are on you–not only to consider environmental issues in the area, but to serve as a model for the rest of the community.

Let me give you two examples.

Water Restrictions

Last summer was similar to others in terms of temperature here in Virginia, but the uncharacteristic lack of rainfall created drought-like conditions. In areas across the Southeast, mandatory water restrictions were put in place for turf and lawns. At Virginia Tech in Montgomery County, we were lucky not to have such formal water restrictions, but as a state institution, we still needed to be conscious to conserve as much as possible.

During the heat of summer and especially during a drought, there are several ways to produce top-notch turf, and to conserve and help the environment at the same time. To start, controlling the amount of watering is a great offensive maneuver.

Monitoring watering schedules is probably one of the quickest and easiest ways to conserve water. Several different gauges can be purchased to help determine how much moisture is in the soil and the amount and frequency of water to provide. Selecting the ideal time of day–generally morning and evening to reduce evaporation–and watering based on grass and soil type are also key tips to saving water.

Since my cool-season turfgrass is in sand-based soil that drains more quickly, I usually water it a little every morning. Conversely, I water my bluegrass every other morning since it is in a native soil that tends to drain more slowly. Deep watering with an irrigation system is best since the water can easily soak into the roots while minimizing the risk of evaporating or drying out too quickly. In addition to scheduled watering, I occasionally water dry spots by hand.

It is important to remember that shallow watering or watering too often is not only ineffective, but minimizes the ability for turf to develop a deep root system, which compounds the risk of wasting water in the future.

If you consistently find dry spots on the turf, apply a wetting agent to the dry area. In some dry spots, there is a soil-born microbial fungus that attaches to the soil and causes it to have a waxy texture. When you water the soil in these dry areas, the fungus causes the water to bead off instead of soaking in. By applying wetting agents, the soil is able to absorb and hold the water, minimizing the need to continually water.

If you’re expecting a particularly stressful season, ramp up the offense by adding a mycorrhizae product such as ROOTS endoRoots. Mycorrhizae are microbes that increase root health and help roots better absorb nutrients and water, while providing resistance to stress. Roots stay healthier and stronger so they have a better chance of making it through the hot, dry summer, and they hold up better through the increased use.

Environmental Safety

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