2020 OPA Winter Sward

2020 A Tough Year for Turf

As 2020 comes to a conclusion, the year was one for the books. Municipal lockdowns of facilities meant a substantial loss in revenues, squeezed budgets, and staffing cutbacks. Large or small, parks departments had to grapple with far fewer seasonal staff, while trying to keep their venues up. A somewhat of a silver lining was that the public had an awakening of just how valuable parks and sports facilities are to their mental, emotional and physical well being. What was often taken for granted became so important that some parks operations had to invoke strict local regulations along with full time security to ensure that “out of towners” desperate for greenspace, didn’t overrun facilities. In addition, it was not uncommon for parks operations to get an earful from frustrated residents if a particular site was not up to snuff. Parks managers and staff deserve a big pat on the back for what they were able to accomplish with such limited resources. So let’s turn to turfgrass. July was the hottest on record in 84 years. There were 17 days above 30C, and two additional days that came within a whisker of hitting 30C. Our cool season grasses are quite simply not engineered to capably handle that kind of heat. A lack of rainfall didn’t help either. Cool season grasses can and do lose a substantial portion of their root system over the course of a hot

summer due to high soil temperatures, and levels of 80% loss have been measured, though 50-60% is relatively common. Regularly irrigated turf has the benefit of both moisture retention and soil temperature moderation. Non irrigated turf though, takes a beating. Crabgrass was absolutely nutty this season. Even golf courses who have the ability to apply pre- emergents, struggled controlling it. Yours truly saw entire swaths of turfgrass totally overrun with crabgrass. So what can be done? Cultural methods become critical, whether in trying to limit crabgrass, or to remediate after it has come up. Photos 1 & 2 show a quick, yet highly effective renovation that resulted in a much better stand of grass. Done in August of this year, a legal non selective herbicide was applied to knock the crab back, and then was followed up with a broadcast seeding a few days later. The seed used was an aggressive, quick germinating perennial ryegrass. In photo 3 (taken October 3) this area of previously 100% crabgrass was simply broadcast with the same aggressive Perennial Ryegrass, and over the course of 5 weeks showed substantial improvement. These simple demonstrations show the value of grass seed in any high cut turf situation. Additionally, the importance of fertility cannot be over emphasized. As mentioned earlier, maximizing .../13

The Green Sward - Winter 2020

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