Storms may damage turf directly by flooding or indirectly by wind debris. "In either case, this is not a good time to regrow grass," says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
"Our warm-season grasses are very sluggish in the fall and become increasingly so as temperatures drop," the horticulturist explains, adding, "The sod slows down its growth and builds food reserves to last through dormancy." He cautions that whenever we push growth, the grass suffers from lost food reserves and softer blades that are more prone to many pest problems.
Grass in storm areas covered by silt should be emerging if still alive. Mow it taller to allow for extra turf growth. It takes only a couple of days under warm water for grass to die. If the water was salty, only time and rain will take care of the salinity.
The AgCenter Web site has publications online called "Salinity and Turfgrasses After a Hurricane" and "Dealing with Salinity." Koske says to put these titles in the search box to find them.
Once brush and trash piles are finally picked up there will be dead spots. "Dead means ‘dead,’"Koske emphasizes, "The turfgrass won't come back." It must be re-established or weeds will take over the spots.
If you try to re-establish permanent turf now, use sod, plant a solid cover and till lightly before laying. If exposed soil erodes, plant some rye to hold it in place. In spring, kill off weed vegetation with one or two applications of a glyphosate herbicide like Roundup. About two weeks after spraying, till or harrow the area and plant seed, sprigs, plugs or sod.
A simpler plan is to plant ryegrass seed now to serve as a winter-spring cover. Plant at 5 to 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. When the rye dies in late spring, then proceed to re-establish your warm-season turf.
"If planting sod, do yourself a big favor and don't plant a checkerboard-skip style," the horticulturist advises, explaining, "Plant solid with a tight fit. Align seams like bricks on a wall."
If planting plugs or thin strips, make the rows about 3 inches to 4 inches wide. Plant plugs about a foot apart. If 4-inch plugs are spaced a foot apart, you will use about 7 square yards of sod to plant 1,000 square feet.
More information on lawn care is available at your local LSU AgCenter office. In addition, look for lawn & gardening and Get It Growing links in the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture