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Reestablish old, declining lawn

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NICEVILLE, Fla — Sometimes the best option is to reestablish an older, thinning, declining lawn. There are many factors that may result in a once nice lawn deteriorating. In most cases, a complex of factors is involved.

NICEVILLE, Fla — Sometimes the best option is to reestablish an older, thinning, declining lawn.

There are many factors that may result in a once nice lawn deteriorating. In most cases, a complex of factors is involved.

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Here are some common causes for lawn decline.

Soil compaction – Mowing equipment, vehicles and foot traffic (from people and pets) all result in the soil becoming compacted within a lawn. Compacted soil results in less water and oxygen getting to the lawn roots and less than favorable growing conditions for the roots.

Nutrient imbalances – Routine fertilization can result in some fertilizer elements building up to excessive levels while other elements may be lacking. It’s common to find high levels of phosphorus in older lawns. Phosphorus does not leach readily, even in sandy soils. Other elements such as potassium leach readily. Nutrient imbalances contribute to growth difficulties and possible decline in lawns.

Tree competition – Roots and shade from trees and larger shrubs can compete with a lawn. Lawn grasses usually thin significantly in association with older, large trees and shrubs.

Root pests – Over a period of years turf root pests’ numbers may slowly build to damaging levels. This includes nematodes (microscopic roundworms), soil inhabiting fungi such as Gaeumannomyces (Take-all root rot) and ground pearls (soil dwelling scale insect).

Improper lawn maintenance practices – This includes improper mowing height or frequency as well as excessive or insufficient fertilization, irrigation and/or pest control regimes.

When a lawn reaches the point where there is less than sixty percent desirable cover, reestablishment should be considered. Attempt to determine why the lawn declined and correct mismanagement practices that contributed to the lawn’s demise.

It’s unwise to renovate a lawn and then continue to follow poor lawn care practices that will again result in a short-lived lawn.

Professional or expert assistance may be required to diagnose some lawn problems such as nutrient imbalances or nematode and disease issues.

In the process of starting over, decide where lawn grass is needed or where it serves a purpose and consider other options in areas where grass may not be needed or where grass does not grow well.

Mulch or a shade tolerate groundcover may be a better choice where there are large trees. As grass declines in high traffic areas, consider pavement or mulch. In naturally wet areas, consider plants that do well on wet sites.

For more information on diagnostic sampling and testing or lawn renovation and care, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County or visit the below link. http://hort.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn

You also may call the Okaloosa County Extension Office at (850) 689-5850 to request a copy of a publication titled Alternatives to Turfgrass Lawns.

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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