Loading...

LCOs share their best tips to prevent and manage heat-stressed turf

|
Keeping turf safe from heat and drought stress is a year-round job for certain parts of the country says Steve Murray, government contracting and agronomic manager at McCall Service in Jacksonville, Fla. (Photo: Pro Green Lawn Care)
Keeping turf safe from heat and drought stress is a year-round job for certain parts of the country says Steve Murray, government contracting and agronomic manager at McCall Service in Jacksonville, Fla. (Photo: Pro Green Lawn Care)
Keeping turf safe from heat and drought stress is a year-round job for certain parts of the country says Steve Murray, government contracting and agronomic manager at McCall Service in Jacksonville, Fla. (Photo: Pro Green Lawn Care)
Keeping turf safe from heat and drought stress is a year-round job for certain parts of the country says Steve Murray, government contracting and agronomic manager at McCall Service in Jacksonville, Fla. (Photo: Pro Green Lawn Care)

The summer months can cause turf to turn brown or go dormant from the long periods of hot, dry weather. To minimize the effects of heat and drought conditions, experts say lawn care operators (LCOs) should educate customers about irrigation and soil health.

Proactive communication

>Communicating with customers well in advance of heat stress and drought conditions is key, says Steve Murray, government contracting and agronomic manager at McCall Service in Jacksonville, Fla.

“We know the stress is going to happen, so proactively prepare them to take action instead of reacting,” he says.

That includes giving customers plant care recommendations, local regulations, aeration schedules and suggesting quarterly lawn audits. Having success isn’t as much about what products McCall Service uses as it is about preparation, Murray says.

His company provides pest control, lawn care, bed bug, mosquito and wildlife services to 60 percent residential, 15 percent commercial, 15 percent government and 10 percent other customers.

“Stress management in a lawn is a year-round job, especially in our market,” Murray says. “We focus on stress-reduction processes in every single service to get the plants as strong as we can to survive the stressors that will happen.”

McCall Service’s regiment includes applying surfactants and moisture-management products to prepare the soil for stress and maintain plant health. They also use Hydretain and topdressing, along with maintaining potassium levels.

“If there is stress, minimize herbicides and fertilizers so you don’t further encourage stress on the lawns,” Murray says.

Moisturize soil

Water restrictions also need consideration when managing heat-stressed turf, says Paul Laberge, vice president of operations at Emerald Lawns in Round Rock, Texas. Emerald Lawns provides turf/soil, tree and shrub, pest control, mulch/rock and holiday lighting services to 95 percent residential and 5 percent commercial customers.
First, the company adds a topdressing of compost in the spring before the drought sets in. Then, technicians apply the granular version of Hydretain beginning in May and apply again about 60 days later.

“We chose this because it allows us to be more flexible when applying due to stringent water-rationing regulations we undergo in several of our service areas,” Laberge says. “We also advise our customers to mow at the highest recommended settings for individual turf types throughout the summer to help conserve water.”

Add nutrients

LCOs should ensure the turf and soil are healthy before drought conditions set in, says Shawn Cadmus, lawn care manager and commercial applicator at Pro Green Irrigation and Lawn Care in Plainfield, N.J. Pro Green Irrigation provides lawn care, tree and shrub care, irrigation and lawn maintenance services to customers that are 70 percent residential and 30 percent commercial.

At the beginning of the year, the Pro Green Irrigation team focuses on preventive treatments like grub control and other prep work. This is so the turf responds better during the season. This summer, Cadmus will apply a custom blend with a high amount of potassium to strengthen the turf for the next year. Technicians also add micronutrients and humates to improve soil health.

Incorporating stronger grass blends and more organic matter improves the overall turf health and stress tolerance. As the cool-season turf becomes dormant, Pro Green Irrigation backs off from applying fertilizers.

“When it’s hot, let it be,” Cadmus says. “If the temperature is 90 degrees or more, don’t do weed control or fertilizer.”

Pro Green Irrigation also leaves notes for customers to remind them not to water every day or at night to prevent fungus — as well as to have the lawn aerated.

“It’s all about educating your customer in the end,” Cadmus says. “It takes time to build the environment to survive better and thrive.”

To top
Skip to content