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Don’t cut corners when renovating lawn

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When redoing/renovating/replanting a lawn, it’s best to not cut corners – you’ll usually pay for it in the long run. One of the most important factors is to prepare a good planting bed when renovating a lawn. It doesn’t matter if you re-sod, re-sprig or reseed, a level, loose and well-drained planting site is needed. A level lawn is much easier to mow. The loose soil allows for quicker root and runner establishment. And a well-drained site allows excess water to drain, preventing some disease problems.

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Niceville, Fla — “I can’t control large patch fungus in my lawn.” I could hear the frustration in the caller’s voice as I listened, phone in hand.

What was the problem in this lawn? Was it some new strain of Rhizoctonia (fungus that causes large patch, formerly called brown patch)? Was it from poor application techniques when treating the fungus? A visit to the site revealed the cause.

A little digging, literally, helped uncover the problem. In an effort to renovate his lawn, the homeowner had placed new sod on top of old, declining lawn grass. He was lucky the lawn looked as good as it did. Cutting corners during lawn renovation usually results in poor turf establishment and long-term lawn problems.

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This problem could have been avoided altogether had the old, declining grass been removed. In an effort to save time and money, the homeowner created a wonderful environment for Rhizoctonia. He put a little topsoil over the old grass and then placed new sod on top of the topsoil. The dead grass beneath the topsoil was functioning as an abundant “food” source for Rhizoctonia.

In nature, this fungus decomposes dead plant material but it can also function as a pathogen, infecting living plants. The new sod didn’t have a chance.

When redoing/renovating/replanting a lawn, it’s best to not cut corners – you’ll usually pay for it in the long run. One of the most important factors is to prepare a good planting bed when renovating a lawn.

It doesn’t matter if you re-sod, re-sprig or reseed, a level, loose and well-drained planting site is needed. A level lawn is much easier to mow. The loose soil allows for quicker root and runner establishment. And a well-drained site allows excess water to drain, preventing some disease problems.

One option is to spray the existing weeds and grass with a non-selective herbicide such as glyphosate, glufosinate or diquat. Allow the proper number of days for the weeds and grass to turn yellow and/or brown (usually seven to 10 days). Always follow the label directions and precautions when using any pesticide, including herbicides.

Next, thoroughly till, rake and level/grade the area to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.

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A second option is to rent a sod cutter or remove the existing grass with a shovel before tilling and grading the site.

But whatever you do, don’t just place new sod or broadcast grass seeds over a compacted, uneven, old lawn. Doing so insures long-term and costly lawn problems.

The below UF/IFAS Extension link provides more info on renovating and establishing a lawn. http://hort.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn/renovation_establishment.shtml

Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email lwilliams@myokaloosa.com.

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