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When it comes to turf – it depends

4 July 2014 by Rolawn

Rolawn turf fieldsWhen growing ‘Britain’s finest turf’ there is undoubtedly an expression that covers a multitude of situations and which can be used to answer virtually any question about turf. ‘It depends!’ This is the answer because with natural products no one issue can be discussed without taking into consideration a raft of other elements. For example, the innocent question ‘When is the best time to lay a new lawn?’ can be answered simply with ‘Any time of year, apart from when there is frost on the ground.’ But does this tell the whole story?

To answer this question more fully additional information is required, such as,

  • Where in the country is the site?
  • What is the quality of the topsoil on site?
  • What is the turfed area going to be used for?
  • What care will the lawn receive immediately after laying?

Depending on the answer to these and a number of other questions customers can be offered the best advice which most likely includes more than one option. This example illustrates the challenges in selling turf, it is a living, breathing, collection of many thousands of plants that are constantly changing and being impacted upon by their surroundings. As turf growers we are constantly working with the growing environment, however, we are not in control of that environment, as the biggest factor is the weather which as we know, in the UK is highly unpredictable.

After many years of growing market leading quality product some customers have an expectation that seems to include our ability to control the weather. But sadly, we have to report this is not the case, we merely work with what nature gives us. Dependent on what the prevailing weather has been, turf supplied will reflect it to some extent. It’s often said that farmers sleep with one limb sticking out of the window so that a change in the weather is instantly known about. Many a true word is said in jest because here at Rolawn, whilst we may not dangle a leg over the window sill, we do know what this saying means. The quality of turf we grow is highly dependent on the speed of our reaction to changes in the weather, and the difference between good turf and the greatest turf can come down to daily decisions about how to maximise every opportunity the weather gives you.

At certain points in the year turf growers have a flurry of commonly repeated comments regarding both product recently supplied and established lawns. And invariably the weather experienced in the recent growing cycle will be the most significant factor. In recent weeks we have had many reports of mushrooms in recently laid turf and Annual Meadow Grass (AMG) growing aggressively. When one looks at the weather in March, April and May it is easy to see why. Met office statistics detail the third warmest spring in the UK since records began but with significantly higher rainfall than last year. Despite the higher than average temperatures, hours of sunshine in April and May were 24% and 14% down on 2013. May was officially the dullest month since 1991. In summary this adds up to a warmer, wetter, duller spring period. The growing conditions that this gives is good for many plants, however, within a lawn environment they are particularly favourable for fungi, which ideally like dark, damp, warm conditions and AMG, which thrives when lawns and soils are wetter. The additional down side of wetter conditions is they impact on mowing opportunities, which contribute to combating both mushrooms and AMG. However, there is good news, mushrooms are easily removed with a mower and are a sign that there is good, fertile, healthy micro-bacterial life in the lawn; all essential for ongoing healthy grass plants. As we go into the heart of summer, days should get drier and brighter giving opportunity for fescues and ryegrasses to strengthen relative to the AMG, which can also be attacked with remedial methods to reduce its presence.

Of course, this ‘depends’ on us all having an open holistic approach to turf and lawn maintenance as there will be exceptions to all rules and micro climates will have localised impact on grassed areas. So, read the signs, work with what nature gives you and remember the answer is always ‘it depends’.