Thomas J. Koske | 4/30/2005 1:00:10 AM
May and June are critical for Louisiana athletic turf. You have to grow your Bermudagrass field in late spring and early summer to have a field for August play, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
But these months are not the time to do anything and everything that the turf may need. "Turf growing starts in late winter," Koske notes. If you must apply lime to raise soil pH and reduce soil acidity, it’s too hot. "To do so would cause more yellowing and stunting of the turf than should be tolerated." The horticulturist says acid soil (that which is below pH 5.8 for Bermuda) will limit your turf’s response to fertilizer and maintenance efforts. Check out your turf’s pH with a soil test and adjust after Halloween or in winter if needed.
"For now, you need to grow a thick playing field. That means fertilize, water as needed and mow regularly and properly," Koske says.
Fertility programs should be based on a soil test. For $7, your LSU AgCenter parish agent will send off a sample for testing. The results will be returned in three weeks. Koske advises, however, not to wait. You can’t delay any longer. Begin fertilizing ASAP if you haven’t fertilized yet.
Apply just nitrogen (N) as ammonium nitrate or urea (3 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. or 100 pounds per acre) if you think the soil is fertile. Try 13-13-13 at 7 to 8 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. or 300 pounds per acre if you feel the soil is poor. Still have the soil tested to ensure balanced fertility and best growth.
Apply fertilizer every three to four weeks until early September using mostly nitrogen, or use a blend that meets your soil’s needs.
Drought-stressed grass won’t grow, and you can’t get thick, safe turf without this growth. Water is needed to wet the soil down to 5 inches. Do not water turf every day, only when first showing some drying. Don’t be afraid to take a shovel to sample the soil profile for moisture content and irrigation penetration.
Growing grass needs proper mowing to keep it dense. You may have selected 1 1/4 inches or 1 1/2 inches as your mowing height for Bermudagrass. Mow with sharp blades whenever the turf reaches a height of 2 1/2 inches. This is usually more than once every seven days.
If you will provide post-emergence control of weeds in Bermuda, you will probably use two applications of MSMA (a herbicide) or a related product. Several other options are listed in the commercial turf section of the LSU AgCenter’s recommended weed control guide.
Koske also recommends contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about growing athletic grass. In addition, look for Lawn & Gardening and Get It Growing links in the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.