Tag Archives: lawns

Has anyone seen Jinx?

Have you seen Jinx?
This lawn was nearly 8 inches tall in some places. Poor Jinx could hardly navigate the vegetation!

How many of you can relate to the picture above? Summer has arrived and along with it came warmer temperatures and higher humidity. By now, you are probably losing your ambition to get outside and mow your yard. As a result, your lawn which was once a peaceful oasis has become a jungle that is tall enough to lose your dog.

While it is not alway necessary to mow your lawn weekly, we are in the peak growing season for warm-season grasses. As a result, it may be necessary to mow more frequently to maintain the visual quality and ensure optimum disease and insect resistance. The rule of thumb when it comes to mowing your is to avoid removing more than 1/3 of the leaf tissue with each mowing. For instance, if you prefer to mow your yard at a 4” height (which is ideal for most St. Augustinegrass home lawns), you would need to mow again once the grass is approximately 5.5” tall. Removing more than 1/3 of the tissue stresses the plant and results in reduced root growth due to the loss of photosynthetic capacity. As root growth declines, the plants are unable to use the moisture and nutrient reserves in the soil efficiently. This is particularly important in areas with sporadic rainfall conditions.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have to remove an excessive amount of clippings (like those times when you seem to lose your dog in the yard), be sure to spread the clippings out evenly to avoid piles accumulating in localized areas. This can be achieved by raking or by mowing again to cut the clippings into smaller pieces and spread them out some more. Otherwise, the piles will limit access of the underlying plants to sunlight, which will result in yellowing of the turfgrass tissue that is trying to grow under the pile.

As always, take a few extra minutes to clean off the street, sidewalks, and driveway to limit or prevent the movement of clippings into the storm water drainage system. Turfgrass clippings are an excellent source of nutrients that, when mulched during mowing provide up to 1/3 of the nitrogen requirements of your lawn. However, if the clippings are allowed to reach the storm water system they can contribute significantly to the contamination of water bodies.

Comparing surface temperatures of synthetic (artificial) turf with natural turf

There has been an increased interest in replacing natural lawns with artificial or synthetic turf.  While there are a number of reasons why this is NOT a good idea, the video above should provide some insight into what to expect the environment to feel like when one of these synthetic systems is installed.  Let me know what you think!

Hillsborough County Commissioners Vote Against a Fertilizer Ban

Yesterday Hillsborough Count Commissioners voted against approval of a fertilizer ban that would have halted the sale of lawn fertilizers during the summer months.  Instead of the ban, the commissioners voted to restrict homeowners from fertilizing their lawns immediately prior to a heavy rainfall event and to prevent fertilizer applications within 10 feet of a water body.  I personally feel this is one of the first signs of hope with regard to thwarting the efforts of political activists who have been pushing local governments to put these laws in place.  Finally, someone is listening to the SCIENCE.

New fertilizer law in Wisconsin

Beginning April 1, 2010 retailers will no longer be displaying lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus fertilizer in Wisconsin under a new law that is designed  “to provide protection to Wisconsin’s lakes, rivers, streams and other water resources from phosphorus run-off.”  Phosphorous-containing fertilizers will still be available to individuals establishing/renovating turfgrass areas who are able to demonstrate a phosphorous deficiency in the soil through a soil test report.


It is interesting for me to follow these new developments.  Having lived in Wisconsin for nearly three years while working with the commercial horticulture industry in the Winnebago County  UW Extension office I had the opportunity to see the early stages of change that lead to this new law.  Comparing the changes that occurred in Wisconsin to the movement in Florida I see many similarities.  It will be interesting to see where the State of Florida is at in a couple years with regard to local/statewide laws controlling fertilization of turfgrass areas.

Pinellas County passes fertilizer ban

During my recent speaking engagements with industry I have been asking for a show of hands to see how many people are doing business in areas that are currently impacted by fertilizer restrictions of some sort.  Only 30 percent or so raised their hands.  My response was “Just wait.”

Pinellas County passed a ban on fertilizer applications during the “summer rainy season” which has been identified as anytime from the beginning of June through the end of September.

I have long been an advocate of responsible fertilizer application and would argue that you can not find a more environmentally responsible set of people than those that work in the landscape industry.  I respect the goal of ordinances like this, but feel that they missed the mark.  The ban effectively limits application of fertilizers to turf during the warmest months of the year – the time of year when the warm-season grasses are actively growing and need nutrition to produce a healthy stand of turfgrass.

Turfgrasses play a VERY important role in the landscape.  No, I am not talking about aesthetics.  Turf plays a critical role in the landscape by stabilizing slopes, preventing soil erosion, and providing an evaporative cooling effect that reduces the temperature of the surrounding environment.  There are no better plants in the landscape to prevent soil erosion than healthy grasses.  They have a dense, finely textured root system and a dense canopy, all characteristics that encourage water infiltration and limit runoff.

Some argue that native plants can do the same job without the need for fertilizers.  Unfortunately, the urban landscape is not a native landscape.  Every time a new neighborhood is planned, the first step is to come in with large equipment and remove all of the topsoil, which is often sold to the highest bidder.  After completing construction, the builders will grade the property, and if you are lucky, they will move in two to three inches of topsoil on top of the compacted subsoil and sand that surrounds the new homes.  It is no surprise that many plants that are native to Florida are not able to survive in the harsh soil environment that we have in urban areas.

If turfgrasses are NOT fertilized, they begin to decline in health.  The canopy density begins to thin out increasing the risk of soil erosion while also increasing weed pressure.  From the perspective of protecting the environment, this is not a good situation.  By not maintaining the health of the turf we have increased the risk of water pollution during rainfall/runoff events and have indirectly increased the potential use of herbicides which will be used to control the weeds which may have otherwise not been able to take hold in the dense, healthy stand of turf.

That brings us back to the ban which prevents the application of fertilizers to warm-season grasses during the summer.  As a result of the ban, fertilizers will have to be applied during the spring/fall/winter months.  The grasses will not be actively growing and will not have the same extensive root system that would be present during the summer.  This is going to increase the risk of nutrient leaching. If we simply managed the turf the way numerous researchers have suggested we would reduce the risk of runoff AND leaching.

You probably can guess that I do not agree with banning fertilizer applications on warm-season turfgrasses during the summer months.  The fact remains that much of the nutrient leaching and runoff pollution is thought to come from non-point sources.  This means that we do not know where exactly it is coming from, only that it is there.  I am not saying that fertilizer applications in the urban environment are never a problem.  Irresponsible applications are definitely a problem.  If you are applying fertilizer to the lawn, sidewalk, street, and driveway without cleaning it up, you should be banned from ever purchasing/applying another ounce of fertilizer.  If you have such a complete disregard for the environment you should not be allowed to manage any portion of the landscape, regardless of whether or not you own it.