Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) is the most widely planted lawn grass throughout the United States. Introduced from Europe with early settlers, this species has become naturalized and grows well throughout most of North America.
Positive Characteristics of Kentucky Bluegrass
•Creates a dense, uniform, cushioned playing surface, with attractive dark green color.
•Strong sod-former (because of underground stems, called rhizomes).
•Can recuperate from traffic injury relatively quickly (due to rhizome growth).
•Readily available as sod.
•Excellent heat and cold tolerance.
•Excellent drought resistance (although it does become brown and dormant to survive prolonged drought).
•Soft leaves allow it to be mowed without unsightly shredding seen with other turf species.
Negative Characteristics of Kentucky Bluegrass
Kentucky bluegrass should not be considered to be a low-maintenance turf.
•Forms thatch, the result of aggressive rhizome formation and shallow rooting.
•May require frequent irrigation, especially on compacted, shallow, or poor-quality soils.
•Requires more frequent nitrogen applications than most other turf species.
•Susceptible to diseases.
•May be attacked by insects like billbugs, grubs, and sod webworms.
•Will not grow well on salty soils or where salty irrigation water is used.
•Performs poorly in moderate to heavy shade.
Planting the Bluegrass Lawn
Kentucky bluegrass lawns can be established by seeding or sodding. In either case, it is ESSENTIAL that the soil be properly tilled and leveled to eliminate compaction, to remove large stones and other debris, and to ensure that the lawn drains away from the foundations of any buildings.
Mowing the Bluegrass Lawn
Kentucky bluegrass should be maintained at a height of 2 1/2 inches throughout the growing season. Whenever the grass reaches a height of 3 1/2 inches, it should be mowed back down to 2 1/2 inches. It is recommended that grass clippings be returned to the lawn because nutrients are recycled to the lawn (allowing reduced fertilizer use) and certain disease problems may occur less frequently.
Contrary to popular belief, grass clippings do not contribute significantly to thatch accumulation on a properly mowed lawn.
Fertilizing the Bluegrass Lawn
Kentucky bluegrass must be fertilized more often than most other turfgrass species in order to maintain a lawn of acceptable quality. Lawns in higher elevations, where the growing season is shorter, may only require one or two fertilizations in a year. The goal of this type of fertilization schedule is to minimize the amount of fertilizer applied in the spring when the turf is growing rapidly, and to encourage fertilization later in the growing season when the turfgrass plant can use the fertilizer more effectively. This type of fertilization schedule produces a healthier, more stress-tolerant lawn. If grass clippings are routinely returned to lawn during mowing, you may be able to fertilize less frequently or with lesser amounts.
Controlling Thatch and Compaction
Thatch formation is a common problem on bluegrass lawns. Contrary to popular belief, thatch does not result from grass clippings. Rather, it is a layer of slowly-decomposing roots and stems that accumulates at the soil surface. When the thatch
layer becomes deeper than about one-half inch it creates a situation in which the turf can not be irrigated and fertilized as efficiently. A deep thatch layer also can shelter insect pests and may result in more frequent and severe disease problems.
Dethatching in the Spring and Aeration in the Fall.
Weed Control in the Bluegrass Lawn
A healthy, vigorous, well-maintained lawn will suffer very little from weed invasion. The occasional weed can usually be hand-pulled or spot-sprayed.
Disease Problems in the Bluegrass Lawn
There are a number of diseases that can cause minor to major problems for Kentucky bluegrass, including: dollar spot, necrotic ring spot, leafspot, Ascochyta leaf blight, and fairy ring. As with weed problems, the occurrence of diseases is often an indicator of poor management, that soil was poorly prepared prior to planting, or that Kentucky bluegrass should not have been planted on the site.
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