Turfgrass Summer Blog # 3: 2020 Edition






Author: Dr. Clint Waltz, UGA Turfgrass Specialist

It is summertime in Georgia which means we are one day closer to the next pop-up thundershower or, one day closer to the next periodic drought. Regardless, water conservation should be an ongoing effort, indoors and out.

Turfgrass enhances the environment in ways that can be particularly important in urban environments. Additionally, turfgrass is one of the most effective plant covers to reduce soil erosion and surface runoff while recharging ground water, which results in more efficient use of rainfall. In most landscapes turfgrass occupies the largest area and provides an ideal surface for outdoor activities. It begins with selecting the best adapted species and cultivar for an individual site, right plant – right place. The appropriate turf species and cultivar for your site conditions and uses, combined with good establishments and maintenance practices, can help to create a lawn that requires less water.

Choosing an appropriate turfgrass variety for your site conditions and uses will also ensure a water-wise turf. There are several turfgrass options that will require less supplemental water when given correct conditions, including bermudagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, zoysiagrass, and tall fescue. Bermudagrass may be a better choice for a site with full sun and slight slope. While bermudagrass may be best for water conservation, other species and cultivars can handle these specific sites and conditions too. Cultivars of St. Augustinegrass, tall fescue, or zoysiagrass may be suitable, water-wise choices, for a turf area with trees and shrubs that receives 5 to 6 hours or less of filtered sun.

Once a lawn is established, adjust irrigation to the needs of the turf. This is usually equivalent to 1.0 inch of water. Studies at UGA have shown TifTuf® bermudagrass to use approximately one-third less water than other bermudagrass cultivars. This makes TifTuf® well suited for use in home lawns, especially those without an in-ground irrigation system.

Likely because of its growth rate and high rhizome production, in long-term field trials TifTuf® has shown relatively good shade persistence for a bermudagrass. After six years of growth under a heavy hardwood shade, TifTuf® has maintained commercially acceptable turfgrass quality down to 5.5 hours of filtered to intermittent sunlight per day during the growing season. Like all bermudagrasses, it prefers full sun and performs its best when permitted 8+ hours of sunlight per day.

Water-use efficiency is limiting water waste and making effective use of applied water. Proper turfgrass water management begins with understanding the turfgrass species and cultivars, then selecting the grass that is best suited for a specific site. Choosing the right plant is the first step toward improved outdoor water-use efficiency, through which, water conservation occurs.

NOTE: While we are in a "Non-Drought" period, The Georgia Water Stewardship Act (which went into effect statewide on June 2, 2010) does have restrictions on outdoor water use.

It allows daily outdoor watering for purposes of planting, growing, managing, or maintaining ground cover, trees, shrubs, or other plants only between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. by anyone whose water is supplied by a water system permitted by the Environmental Protection Division. There are exemptions to the hourly rules - which includes during installation of plants and turf. Click here for details.

Source: Georgia Urban Ag Council