I have a son that lives in west Eagle Mt. We Put in sod for a lawn about two years ago and for two seasons it did great. Half of it is now dead and the other half is struggling. Prior to putting down sod, the ground was thoroughly tilled and lots of compost material was added (the kind that is made available in some green recycling yards and mixed with treated effluent from the sewage treatment plant.) Nitrogen was also added to the soil and the lawn was watered regularly. What has happened and what can I do to get a good lawn here?



I cannot say for sure, but here are some things to check:

Are you irrigating properly? Ideally, turf should be irrigated when stress symptoms appear (when the grass blades look slightly darker in color and thinner in blade). Then, apply enough water to wet the soil 8 to 10 inches deep. (You'll need to figure out how long to leave the sprinklers on at each station to catch the 3/4 to 1 inch of water that this requires). Don't water again until the grass looks slightly stressed again and the soil is fairly dry in the top inch or two.

Is there a thatch layer thicker than 3/4 inch? This is the spongy layer above the soil and below the grass blades. If it is too thick, it may be holding moisture rather than allowing it to penetrate the soil. Core aerate thoroughly twice per year (once in spring and once in fall).

Is the irrigation water good quality? Salty irrigation water may add stress to the lawn. You can have the irrigation water tested - consult the USU Analytical Lab website at www.usual.usu.edu You should also send in a soil sample to be sure the soil is not salty.

Is the sprinkler system performing as it should? Check the distribution of water by placing catch cups in a grid pattern in the lawn area, turn on the system for 10 minutes, then measure the amount of water in each cup (use straight-sided cans or rain gauges). Test this at the regular watering time. Water pressure drop might be a problem if everyone is irrigating during the night, and you won't be able to see that the sprinklers aren't throwing water as far as they should.

Besides all that, note that lots of lawns have been "fried" with the early and sudden heat. Early, tender grass blades were not acclimated to the heat and intense sunshine, so the blades simply dessicated. Many people thought their lawn was dying, but new growth is visible at the ground level.


Posted on 16 May 2007

Maggie Wolf
Horticulture Agent, Salt Lake County

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