Mayday: client lawn in trouble. Check my gameplan, please?

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Dargin
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Mayday: client lawn in trouble. Check my gameplan, please?

Post by Dargin » July 10th, 2019, 3:15 pm

Big ask here, but if any cares to read all this and has any thoughts, please lay them on me. I'm in a tough spot on a lawn I'm working on and I need to act. I'll give the details and my plan.

Primary problem/cause: We're still trying to figure out irrigation on this property, and its hitting 90's. They use oscillating sprinklers in 4 zones.


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I did a couple can tests and they're getting just shy of a 1/4" per 30 mins. 2 hrs total to get 1/4" everywhere, running each sprinkler one at a time. Some spots get a bit more, but I'm playing to the weakest link.

I've been monitoring soil moisture by working a screwdriver down about 4-5" and feeling around, bringing up a bit of soil and simply feeling it - every couple days. I thought we were doing alright just 2 days ago. Went there today expecting it to be a bit thirsty and seeing some improvement on fungus. Nope. Signs of drought stress popping up, and still fighting red thread, dollar spot, and possibly something else; looks worse. I ran their irrigation for 1/4" and had to go.

What I'm seeing:

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I did a curative azoxystrobin app about 10 days ago.

My initial suggestion was to put down a 1/2" every 3 days and monitor things. Not gonna happen. They'd have to be there for 4 hrs to run that with their current system.

So im now suggesting we run a 1/4" irrigation every 2 days, while we monitor, and while constantly reminding them that this might perpetuate problems. It's more frequent than I want (disease) and I'm worried the soil moisture will bottom out on us by not going deep. But that's the deal at the moment.
I'm working on changing that...

Other factors:

The lawn is sloped, gets crushed by sun most of the day, and has a very low TEC.

They recently cut it from 5-6" down to 2"...
Their mowing habits just stink. I've told them 4". It's back up to 3" now (they won't do 4) and they're bag mowing due to fungus.

It's been 30 days since their last milo app.


So, spreading fungal disease, probably nitrogen deficiency, and growing drought stress. I feel like I'm going down with the ship and I just want to help them.

This seems like a spot that has no great answer, but this is my plan:

Tomorrow. 5am.
Lay down the 2nd azoxy app (10 days from the 1st app). Apply SLS.

Stay for the 4 hrs to give them a solid 1/2", regardless of the pittance I gave it today. We may have some rain coming in 2 days. I'm hoping this will equate to an approximate inch, at least enough to get out of this tight spot with some deep saturation in the next few days.

I'm thinking of also doing 1/2 rate of BSF as well. Some nitro for the dollar spot and thread, and for general health. My reservations/thoughts on BSF:

1. dont think I want to force growth at these temps, but maybe 1/2 rate is a fairly safe middle ground. Better than low to no nitrogen in the soil, right? I believe I've read enough here to feel safe with this choice.

2. I'm not 100% convinced there isn't a fungus in the mix that nitrogen could exacerbate. Anything in the pics raise anyone's eyebrow? I know pics dont make for easy diagnosis.
If not maybe I just have to act on what I can actually confirm in terms of fungus and do the 1/2 rate BSF.

3. BSF on drought stressed turf should be ok, right? Like gently waking up dormant turf? Or not quite analogous because the grass isn't dormant, but teetering? Not great, right?

That's about it I suppose. Any thoughts? Am I leaving out anything important considerations?

I know long term (probably 4-5 days from now actually) I have to try to get them watering correctly, but for the situation at hand right now, does my thinking make sense?

Really agonizing over this.

Thanks.

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HoosierLawnGnome
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Re: Mayday: client lawn in trouble. Check my gameplan, please?

Post by HoosierLawnGnome » July 10th, 2019, 10:36 pm

No offense but this sounds all over the place.

They're cutting the grass? At 2" coming up on July? And they are responsible for irrigation?

You have a fundamental issue in being dependent on them for your success.

It needs watered properly and mowed right. That's the bare basics. Get control of that first.

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andy10917
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Re: Mayday: client lawn in trouble. Check my gameplan, please?

Post by andy10917 » July 10th, 2019, 11:19 pm

You're in a tug of war with your client and probably have lost the war.

The lawn is now being pulled toward dormancy, and you're doing shallow/frequent watering when the sun is at its strongest - it likely won't work and will increase the stress, which can lead to disease. I know you're trying, but the roots are near the surface most-likely because of the watering regimen. And the sun cooks off the water you apply because there isn't grass to stop it, at a 2" cut.

Smart would say let it slip into dormancy and just apply enough water to protect against damage/death. Fight the recovery battle around Labor Day. I know how that will be received (not likely well).

We say again and again that 75% of lawn care is proper watering and mowing correctly. You're fighting with only 25% of the needed control - you won't win. As a matter of fact, you may cause harm by puling it back out of dormancy.

I went on a ride tonight with my wife (in real estate). Yup, an upscale development with 2"-2.5" cuts, and all of them browning out. 90% of them brown, and she is showing 5 of the homes tomorrow. Curb appeal is shot. What were some owners doing as we drove around? Yup, shallow and frequent watering. How much time do I think disease is away? Two weeks max. With water and a 3.5" cut, I'm green as can be, and disease-free - 1/4 mile away. I'm at 1" of water every six days at the moment.

Dargin
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Re: Mayday: client lawn in trouble. Check my gameplan, please?

Post by Dargin » July 11th, 2019, 8:01 am

Thank you guys so much for your time.

There's no real surprises in anything you guys said. It all makes perfect sense. It's all the same advice I've gotten here and have been following on my 'home' lawn, and things have improved and are relatively stable. It's comforting to hear it all reconfirmed, though. Thank you.

No offense taken, Hoosier. Ever. You're completely right. I am all over the place. I'm more stressed than their turf. Basically, they're just hiring me to handle fertilization, soil amendments, and weed management. They get the KH/BLSC treatment and serenade as well. I guess I'm just advising them on irrigation as I've monitored their soil (with several unpleasant surprises along the way) and has lead us to this point.

Despite my frustration with them, I'm still taking blame here. I should have forced this issue earlier. Probably should have been one of my first questions before even accepting the job, "What's your irrigation routine?"

And you're right, Andy. Letting it go dormant isn't going to fly, even though I know we should. I'm betting they're gonna wanna fight to get it green.

I'm speaking with them tomorrow, and I guess I'll offer the following options, as imperfect as some of them are:

Make a choice TODAY.

A. Let it go dormant.

B. Try either:
Start running an 8hr sequence, giving ~1" every 5 days.
Start running a 4 hr sequence, giving ~1/2" every 2-3 days. (Not loving that option)

C. Swap out to some better temporary system to output water more quickly. I know nothing about this.

D. Continue doing what you're doing. Expect the worst. I won't be able to help much. At a loss.

And get the grass up to 3.5".


I just dont get how their lawn is still so thick if this is how they've been handling irrigation all along for the past 2 years since it was renovated. It's super thick. A few weeks ago, when it happened to be cut at 3", the density and color were making me smile.

Anyway...thanks again

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andy10917
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Re: Mayday: client lawn in trouble. Check my gameplan, please?

Post by andy10917 » July 11th, 2019, 8:25 am

Some further warning: you can't really switch from shallow/frequent irrigation to deep/infrequent irrigation rapidly in the middle of July - the roots have been "trained" to be near the surface to get water, and suddenly switching to deep/infrequent watering will just put much of the water below the roots' reach. So, a sudden switch would just jerk the chain in yet another way.


Dargin
Posts: 149
Joined: September 29th, 2017, 12:42 pm
Location: Worcester, Ma
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Re: Mayday: client lawn in trouble. Check my gameplan, please?

Post by Dargin » July 11th, 2019, 9:14 am

Ouch. Thanks for the warning, Andy.
Will roots grow at all during this period? Chase water down even a little?

Maybe I'll push for and monitor the 1/2" every 3 days option. Hopefully keeping the upper rootzone covered and MAYBE getting some trickling down deeper.

Thanks.

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andy10917
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Re: Mayday: client lawn in trouble. Check my gameplan, please?

Post by andy10917 » July 11th, 2019, 9:57 am

Ummm, not so much...

As photosynthesis slows in cool-season grasses during weather above 85F (the stomata close at 85F), the plant uses reserves in the roots to get through, and roots shorten, not lengthen.

Image

Dargin
Posts: 149
Joined: September 29th, 2017, 12:42 pm
Location: Worcester, Ma
Grass Type: NoMix
Lawn Size: 1000-3000
Level: Novice

Re: Mayday: client lawn in trouble. Check my gameplan, please?

Post by Dargin » July 11th, 2019, 10:18 am

Well, that's just perfect. Ugh...
The amount of gaps I still have across basic concepts...

Many thanks.

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