Dealing with your Dirt: Turfgrass

By Wayne Hobbs Environmental Horticulture Agent
Posted 4/4/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – As discussed in last week’s column, due to construction practices the soil around your home likely is not the best to support your lawn, landscape and garden. So, …

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Dealing with your Dirt: Turfgrass

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – As discussed in last week’s column, due to construction practices the soil around your home likely is not the best to support your lawn, landscape and garden. So, what can you do to fix this issue in your turf?

Is the Soil the Issue?

First of all, make sure your soil is the true issue limiting your turf. Look for areas that are heavily compacted and hard to dig, places that flood, sections of your lawn that never fill in, or places where you have a sandy, silty black soil. All of these can be signs of soil issues that can be improved. Another essential step is to get a pH test completed to see what you may need to add or change in your lawn management to keep the nutrients in the soil available to your turf.
Insects, disease, drought, flooding or even shade can cause issues in the lawn as well so if you have questions, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

Changing the Soil

It is very difficult to change the nature of soil without harming the existing turf other than possibly using an aerator to pull plugs of soil which can help with compaction. Topdressing, the act of broadcasting sand or topsoil over a lawn, is not usually recommended as it can cause more harm than good.
The best time to make a difference in your soil is when you are about to re-establish the entire yard with seed, plugs or sod. At this time, you could potentially install French drains to fix drainage issues, revitalize your irrigation system, or bring in new soil amendments to attempt to correct issues.
One common amendment is to add organic matter, such as compost, to the soil and till it in to increase moisture holding capacity, beneficial interactions between soil and microorganisms and will break down over time releasing nutrients. A good rule of thumb is to add about 3-6 cubic yards of organic matter for every 1,000 square feet of lawn area. Do not exceed this rate and only use highly composted materials that are sterile.
Some may also consider utilizing inorganic amendments like sand or topsoil. These additions can help with drainage issues but will not usually increase water holding capacity or provide nutrients to the soil. Like organic material, your additions should be sterile and weed free. Also, make sure the top soil you are utilizing is truly topsoil and not more the dredgings and lower layers of soil that is commonly used in development. These should be incorporated at a rate of 4.5 to 6.5 cubic yards per 1,000 square feet and the deeper the tillage, the better.
For more information on amending your soil for your turfgrass, visit: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/LH/LH01200.pdf .
If you have any horticultural, agricultural, 4-H, or family and consumer science questions, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Clay County Extension Office online at http://www.clay.ifas.ufl.edu or call by phone at (904) 284-6355.

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