Kansas State University


K-State Turf and Landscape Blog

Tag: establishment

Spring cool-season turfgrass seedings – Why they fail

(By Jared Hoyle and Ward Upham, KSU Research and Extension)

When we talk about cool-season turfgrass seeding timing I always think the fall.  Well all around town I keep seeing more and more people seeding their lawn this spring.  I don’t want to say you are wasting your time because there are a couple reasons that you might need or have to seed in the spring but most success is achieved if seeding cool-season turfgrass in the fall.

There are several reasons Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue lawns are better seeded in the fall than in the spring.

These include:

  • Some of the most serious lawn weeds such as crabgrass and foxtail emerge in the spring. Since they are warm-season weeds, they will compete and often crowd out young, tender cool-season grasses during the heat of summer.
  • The most stressful time of year for cool-season grasses is summer, not winter. Poorly established lawns may die out during the summer due to heat and drought stress.
  • A lawn often gets more use during the summer, leading to increased compaction and traffic stress. Young plants have a hard time surviving the high traffic during the summer.
Weed competition when establishing cool-season from seed in the spring.

If an area needs to be established in the spring, sodding is much more likely to be successful than seeding. Sodding provides stronger, more mature plants that are better able to withstand stress and prevent weed invasion.

Establishing buffalograss in golf course roughs

(By Jake Reeves and Jared Hoyle, KSU Turfgrass Research and Extension)

Water restrictions and increased interest in sustainability are driving many golf course superintendents to consider new ways to save.  Ironically, one of the best new fits for saving in Kansas is one of the oldest ways around: buffalograss.  Buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides) is actually the only widely used turfgrass native to North America. Many of the recent cultivars (Sharp’s Improved II, Bowie) grow denser and greener than their predecessors while not sacrificing their drought/cold tolerance, disease resistance, and other great characteristics. Traffic intolerance is one of the largest concerns for many superintendents, but a little traffic management can go a long way especially if coupled with cart paths. While not a perfect fit for every situation, buffalograss requires very little water, less mowing, and minimal nitrogen input to achieve an acceptable stand.

It is these characteristics that have many courses considering replacing their tall fescue roughs with buffalograss.  Once established, the courses could divert the money and time previously spent on their roughs to tees, fairways, and greens, ultimately rewarding a well-played round.

The end product is exciting for many superintendents, as their water bills would shrink. However, going through long periods of closing the course for renovations isn’t appealing to already cash-strapped courses.  Minimizing downtime and maximizing germination success with buffalograss seeding is a must if a course wanted to reduce the financial impact of the process.

We wanted to look at the most effective form of renovation from tall fescue roughs to buffalograss roughs without tilling the soil. This was to allow play to continue as long as possible on the course and keeping the renovation process very feasible for most courses.  Examining 3 different mowing heights and 4 different cultivation practices, our results will provide the most time and cost effective method for end users.

We are comparing a zero cultivation practice, aerification(2x), verticutting(2x), and slit seeding(2x @ 2lbs/M each pass)  against the 3 mowing heights (2.5”, 1.75”, 1.25”).  All cultivation practices except for slit-seeding were broadcast with Sharp’s Improved II buffalograss seed at 4 lbs/1000 ft2.  Traditionally, it is recommended that buffalograss seed be soaked for 3 days, changing the water every day, to encourage a quick germination upon seeding.  However, we did not soak the seed, believing the process not to be practical if a course was truly reseeding all of their rough.

Our results to date have shown that slit-seeding was the most successful method by far with aerification, verticutting, and zero cultivation decreasing in effectiveness in that order.  Slit-seeding mowed at 1.25” and 1.75” reached 100% cover 6 weeks after seeding (WAS) with minimal weed encroachment.  Ultimately, mowing height has had no effect except for a very slight lag in plots mowed at 2.5” compared to the two lowers heights. We hope to continue looking at fescue removal and buffalograss seeding in order to shorten the green cover loss experienced in the renovation process.