Turfgrass dominates Central Florida landscapes. The living green carpet provides plenty of benefits, but turf can be a thirsty bug buffet demanding time, money, and expertise. Did you know that we put more than half of our drinking water in Florida on turfgrass, and that we actually do not have enough water to meet projected needs by 2040 unless we do something about it? Truth is, turf is mostly predictable. We know how to employ the best management practices to keep it acceptably green without excessive watering. Let’s make sure turfgrass is a peaceful plant friend adding value for Floridians, not a water hogging fertilizer feeding foe.
- Know your grass to mow your grass. Different types of turf have different recommended mowing heights. The proper mowing height encourages good growth with deeper rooting. Deeper roots access more water and nutrients, which means less stress on the grass and less need for irrigation!
- Types of Turfgrass: http://hort.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn/turfgrass_selection.shtml
- Mowing Your Florida Lawn: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh028
- Calibrate irrigation systems. Too much water can lead to fungus and weed issues, and dry spots lead to pest and weed issues.
- Calibrating Your Irrigation System: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/irrigation/calibrating-your-irrigation-system.html
- Fertilize wise. Healthy turf craves balanced nutrition and requires a licensed applicator. Slow release turf fertilizers without any phosphorus and balanced potassium support healthy turf function. Too much fertilizer, especially soluble/quick release, will give a quick fix to the grass but has long term detrimental consequences causing nutrient pollution in our water. Plus, excessive nitrogen seems to attract pests.
- Fertilizer, the quick approach to following laws and feeding turf: https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/orangeco/2020/05/29/fertilizer-the-quick-approach-to-following-laws-and-feeding-turf/
- General Recommendations for Fertilization of Turfgrasses in Florida Soils: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh014#:~:text=A%20recent%20revision%20of%20the,be%20made%20during%20the%20fall.
- What about weeds? If weeds are cool with the homeowner, just keep it mowed at 3-4 inches. The pollinators thank you! If keeping weed-free turf is important to the client or HOA, start by mowing at the proper height and calibrating the irrigation system. Then apply pre-emergent herbicides in February and November. Look for other troublesome weeds through the season and use selective herbicides or spot treat if needed.
- Weed Management Guide for Florida Lawns: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep141
- $$ Consider purchasing: Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses: http://ifasbooks.ifas.ufl.edu/p-150-weeds-of-southern-turfgrasses.aspx
- $$ Consider purchasing: Weeds of the South: https://www.amazon.com/Weeds-South-Wormsloe-Foundation-Nature/dp/0820330469
- This one is next level nerdy (in the best way) because it includes pictures of seeds and seedling stage of weeds which is when to treat!
- Coolie crawlies! Not all insects are creepy or bad, but some insects will pull up to your grass like it is the golden corral buffet. Determine thresholds for pests in the landscape, scout for them, and when you find too many, identify them and use the most selective chemical treatment first and rotate modes of action. This gives you more options to kill multiple generations of the pest.
- Insect Pest Management on Turfgrass: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ig001
- Turf Insect ID from UF/IFAS Extension Baker County: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/media/sfylifasufledu/baker/docs/pdf/horticulture/TurfgrassInsectPestIdentificationGuide_000.pdf
- Disease happens with this party of three: susceptible host, right environment, and pathogen present. Work with clean plants, disease resistant cultivars, and manage the environment so it is not favorable to disease. Sometimes Florida’s weather is just soggy and favorable to disease development. For persistent problem areas, change out the plant to something sog-tolerant. If that is not an option, get proper disease ID, keep records, and create a strong program focused on pre-season prevention. While some commercial fungicides have a curative effect, they are best used to prevent disease.
- Turfgrass Disease Management: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh040
- Turf Disease ID from UF/IFAS Extension Baker County: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/media/sfylifasufledu/baker/docs/pdf/horticulture/DiagnosingInsectandDiseaseProblemsinFloridaTurfgrass_000.pdf
- Turf travesties? Use the UF Rapid Turfgrass Diagnostic Service. Ok, so turf has diva moments. If something is wrong with your turf and you need to call in the expert diagnosticians, the UF-RTDS is next level! They provide the excellent service you would expect for $75 per sample with a quick turnaround time. They have tools your local Extension office lacks. Use your resources!
- UF/IFAS Rapid Turfgrass Diagnostic Service: https://turf.ifas.ufl.edu/rapiddiag_submit.shtml
- Landscapes, lawns, and beyond. Earn your green thumb by reading about all of the landscape best management practices that keep landscapes green and waters blue in Florida!
- Green Industries BMP Manual (English and Spanish): https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/ffl-and-you/gi-bmp-program/gi-bmp-manual/
Do not let turf be a pain in your grass. Use your resources and follow best practices to keep your lawn and landscape an escape!
Special thanks for great resources:
Photos: Dr. Fred Yelvington & Dr. Charles Peacock at NC State Extension https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/grasses/
Photos: Julie McConnell at UF/IFAS Extension https://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/
Information: UF/IFAS Florida Lawn Topics by Dr. Bryan Unruh and Dr. Laurie Trenholm https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/entity/topic/book_florida_lawn_handbook_3rd_ed