Turfgrass Spring Blog #1: 2019 Edition
Clint Waltz, Ph.D., University of Georgia Turfgrass Specialist
Considering the amount of rain Georgia has received over the past 6 months it is difficult to suggest irrigating dormant warm-season grasses. But it is something worth considering, especially lawns that were dormant sodded.
Up until the past week, keeping turf moist, or hydrated, was not an issue. Mother Nature was taking care of it. While the sunshine and dry conditions of last week have been a welcome change, conditions have become favorable that could compromise turf growth and transition. The cool to moderate temperatures, low relative humidity, breeziness, and welcome sunshine this time of year can cause desiccation, drying-out, of the turf plant at the soil surface. A dry crown can compromise the health of the plant, and lead to death.
Spring transition is when the turfgrass plant is most vulnerable to desiccation. In the absence of rainfall, a light irrigation of ¼- to ½-inch every 4 to 5 days is sufficient to maintain crown hydration and nurse the grass into active growth. For grass that was sodded while dormant, the irrigation amount may need to be slightly higher because there are no roots in the soil to pull moisture to the plant. It will not take long for environmental conditions (i.e. soil temperatures) to change and become favorable for growth of turf roots. Then, the grass can stay hydrated by pulling soil moisture through the root system. Until then, pay attention to the weather patterns and consider bringing the irrigation out of its winter slumber for a light irrigation.