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If you haven’t already figured it out, Southeastern North Carolina is one of the worst places in the world to grow turfgrasses. We sometimes have winter temperatures that cause injury to warm-season grasses like centipede and St. Augustine. It’s just too blasted hot in the summer for even the most heat-tolerant, cool-season grasses like tall fescue to survive. Throw in weeds, ground pearls, high pH, large patch, dollar spot, chinch bugs and all of the other issues and you have tough turf growing conditions.
In the face of all of these problems, I offer my humble suggestions for having a good lawn in our challenging climate.
If you have just moved from cooler climes, hit the delete key on your brain’s computer when it comes to lawncare. Most of the cultural practices—mowing, fertilizing, aerating—are different or at least done at different times of the year for Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue. That weed-and-feed that worked so well before may be just the wrong thing to do now.
Not sure what to do? We have lawn maintenance calendars for all of the popular lawn grasses and lots of other great information at the Cooperative Extension. Give us a call at 253-2610 during the week or visit its website at http://brunswick.ces.ncsu.edu. If you’re looking for a wealth of information, specifically about turf, check N.C. State’s turf files website at www.turffiles.ncsu.edu.
The only good thing about beating your head against a wall is it feels so good to stop. I see lots of folks doing the lawn equivalent of this by attempting to grow turf where it has no chance.
Even our most shade-tolerant grass, St. Augustine, needs at least six hours of sun per day. If your place has lots of dense tree canopy, you have two choices. Grow more shade-tolerant ground covers and shrubs or cut some of the trees down. I’d lean toward the former rather than the latter.
Coming from a background of working on golf courses and being involved with landscaping and irrigation, my personal expectations have always been pretty high, but as I have grown older, I have realized one weed does not ruin the whole lawn. Turf perfection is illusive and expensive. Dial your expectations back a notch and learn to accept the imperfect.
Choose the right grass for your particular situation. If you really don’t care about lawns and lawncare, centipede is probably your best choice. You’ll need fairly acid soils (pH 5.5 or so), plenty of sun and little wear and tear for it to work, though. And, you’ll have to accept the apple-green color and coarse texture.
Some of the newer zoysias like Crowne, Zorro, Zeon, Empire and JaMur look promising for slightly better shade and wear-tolerance than centipede. Crowne, Empire and JaMur have a medium texture and can be mowed with a standard rotary mower. Zorro and Zeon are finer textured and look best when cut with a reel mower.
Where the kids and dogs play requires Bermuda grass. Just remember that Bermudas need lots of sun to grow well. A selection called Celebration works well under less intense management.
Having an acceptable lawn isn’t impossible in our heat, humidity and poor soils, but you may have to recalibrate your expectations.
Al Hight is the county extension director and horticulturist with the Brunswick County Cooperative Extension Service. Call 253-2610 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.