Covering acres upon acres of lawns, golf courses, sports fields, parks and the banks along highways, turfgrasses are common landscaping features. Turfgrasses--some native and some naturalized--form beds of natural carpet that prevent soil erosion, improve the air quality, reduce the ground's temperature and provide a safe and comfortable surface for outdoor sports and recreation.
Turfgrass becomes compacted over time, through heavy surface use and through its proliferation from seeds, roots, rhizomes and stolons. Aeration with a rototiller or larger equipment for huge properties breaks up dense turfgrass areas, allowing more oxygen to reach the roots and soil of the turfgrass.
Turfgrasses perform well in properly balanced soil pH--not too acidic and not too alkaline. Adding limestone increases the soil's alkalinity from an acidic state, while adding gypsum or sulfur increases the soil's acidity from an alkaline state. According to Richard L. Duble, Turfgrass specialist of Texas A&M University, soils prepared for turfgrass benefit from the addition of organic matter as well. All types of turfgrasses need well-drained soil conditions, as water log destroys its roots and causes the turfgrass to die.
The first grasses designated for turf were native grasses that stood up to heavy traffic and frequent grazing by animals. Some turfgrasses are native to the United States, while others were introduced from other parts of the world.
Common Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) first entered the United States from South Africa in the 18th century. Zoysia grass comes from Southeast Asia and first appeared in the United States in 1911, and in 1916, centipede grass was introduced to the United States from China and Southeast Asia. Grasses from the regions south of the United States include carpet grass introduced in the 19th century from the Caribbean and Bahia grass introduced in 1914 from Brazil.
Hybridization of turfgrass species has produced turfgrass varieties that combine the best quality features of the original grasses into new grasses. Hybrid turfgrasses have more tolerant features than the original grasses including disease resistance and cold temperature tolerance. The benefits of hybrid turfgrasses are enhanced when the several grass types--originals and hybrids--are mixed together to cover the same lawn or area.
Turfgrass varieties perform well in different sunlight exposures. Some do well in full sun, while others thrive in partial shade. Most turfgrasses do not grow in full shade areas that receive little to no sunlight exposure.
Establishment by Seed
Some turfgrasses are established by the seeds produced from the grass's seed heads. Choose fresh, high-quality grass seeds to ensure a good yield once planted. Some turfgrasses established by seed include cool-season grasses such as perennial ryegrass and tall fescue, as well as warm-climate grasses such as Bahia grass and common Bermuda grass.
Establishment by Sod or Sprigs
Turfgrasses are also planted as sod. Sectioned pieces of turfgrass are rolled out onto its new surface and once the roots become established, they continue to spread and grow. Sprigging is the method of recycling cut pieces of sprigs--nodular grass rhizomes or stems--harvested from cultivated sod. Once the sprigs are planted and kept moist in the new soil, they continue to grow and spread through their rhizomes and stolons.