Power Equipment Australasia

TURF CARE PRACTICAL HINTS & TIPS After selecting and rolling out new turf (warm-season turf is typically applied via rolls; fertile seed is not produced during propagation), or taking steps to rejuvenate existing layouts, there are plenty of ongoing maintenance actions that managers can perform to keep surfaces in the best possible condition: • D rainage: Joe advises curators and grounds managers to be very mindful of the importance of good drainage. “Ensuring you have adequate drainage is everything when it comes to turf craft. Turf hates wet feet, and the bulk of your issues – whether its weed infestation, disease, insect infestation, etc – they normally come back to a lack of drainage.” At a structural level, he recommends that managers ensure drains are clear and include strip drains, if necessary, to combat pooling. • A eration: Always make sure turf surfaces are well aerated, especially if wet periods are forecast. This can be achieved through coring, which will aid water absorption, promote faster drying out, and mitigate the onset of disease. • M owing: Many grounds managers fear close and regular mowing, particularly before wet weather, because they assume this will stress the turf and make it more vulnerable to water damage. The opposite is true: regular mowing is crucial. “Always keep turf as low as you possibly can during wet periods, the reason being that the longer the grass is the longer it takes to dry out. It’s an issue when you leave too much leaf on surfaces. It’s actually shading out the soil and stopping the water from evaporating. Keeping sports fields as short as possible over the growing season – whether there’s rain or not, but more importantly when rain is coming – is super important.” As a mantra, Joe adds: “The more you mow the better the surface will be in general.” Not only will regular mowing create a ‘tighter’ turf surface, i.e., a denser leaf canopy, but it will also minimise space for weed generation and allow for swifter repair from wear and tear. • T op dressing: If you’ve got adequate draining but you’re still worried about your soil profile, open it right up with coring and then add a washed sandy top dressing. This will aid aeration, prolong the beneficial effects of coring, and help to break up clayey soil profiles. Top dressing is always highly desirable in early spring. • Oversowing: Many managers assume the secret to a premium year-round turf is frequent oversowing, mainly in a bid to enhance winter colour and fill in worn-out patches. “What we’re trying to do by improving the winter colour of our new cultivars is to negate the need to oversow, because the main reason you oversow is to improve colour,” Joe says. Managers may also oversow in order to achieve different turf effects. For example, at a golf course a superintendent might oversow roughs to increase grass density. Again, Joe says the beauty of zoysias, in particular, is that a single cultivar can satisfy multiple applications, including clearly demarcated roughs on a golf course, simply by varying turf height. “We think these new cultivars will reduce the need to use more than one kind of turf in any particular instance.” • I rrigation: Fixed underground sprinkler systems with pop-up heads are great for applying water to grass leaf surfaces. However, managers should be aware of the tremendous drought tolerance of the latest turfgrasses, which, in some cases, might remove the need for permanent sprinkler systems. • F ertilising: “Fertilising is also very important, but you can’t beat regular mowing,” Joe notes. “The more you mow the more you train your grass to grow laterally. So that’s super important no matter what application you’re dealing with.” YEARS OF SERVICE Most new turf varieties are only released to market once they demonstrate clear, significant improvements over existing cultivars. Therefore, it pays to assess new releases regularly to make the most of genuinely enhanced performance. A popular turfgrasses like TifTuf Bermuda grass, bred 15 years ago, remains the cultivar of choice in the southern US; prior to that, Tifway 419 was the preferred Bermuda for almost half a century. However, in general terms, Joe suggests that a typical cultivar will have a functional lifespan of 10-15 years before science replaces it with a better solution. With such timeframes in mind, it is important to consult closely with your local turfgrass provider before finalising turf selections. The Lawn Solutions Australia research facility in Berry, NSW. 12 | POWER EQUIPMENT AUSTRALASIA | JULY - AUGUST 2023