Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bent Grass Woes

Bentgrass is not the grass of choice for a home lawn. Golf courses love it for the putting greens because it tolerates being cut short. But bentgrass needs a lot of extra care. It loves to be pampered with extra fertilizer and a lot of watering.
Bentgrass grows in the wild and birds can bring along a few seeds and drop them in your yard. Once started, bentgrass will sprout and spread. The other problem with bentgrass is that a short stem that is cut when mowing, can land in the lawn elsewhere and take hold, form roots and grow. So you can be spreading bentgrass to uninfected parts of your lawn when mowing.
Bentgrass has short shallow roots. This means it tends to dry out easily in drought conditions. On home lawns, people are unhappy that their lawn is yellow or brown in the summer. In dry weather, the shallow roots are just not enough to keep bentgrass green. Unfortunately, it is hardy enough to go dormant in dry conditions, but not weak enough to die out. Once the cooler fall weather comes with more moisture, bentgrass will revive and turn green again.
Bentgrass with its shallow roots will sometimes form a thick mat. The stems of bentgrass often grow on the surface. As they spread out, they will sprout small roots. But the stems will smother other lawn grasses. Bentgrass is a vigorous growing plant and can easily outgrow other turf grasses.
Bentgrass is a weak grass and is often slow to green up in the spring. Bentgrass is often subject to winterkill and you lawn can have large patches of yellow grass that hasn't greened up. Again, the best scenario would be for it to have really died. Unfortunately, it will eventually turn green and live to take over more lawn than before.

Sometimes, once the bentgrass has turned brown, a little tug of a rake will lift the stems and the shallow roots up and leave a large bare patch.
How can one deal with bentgrass. There isn't a product that can be applied to the lawn to selectively control bentgrass.

The best one can do is to rake the bentgrass hard to remove as much of the stems and roots as possible. Then rake the soil to loosen it, add good quality grass seed and then keep moist.

I wish I could say this would do the trick for the lawn. Bentgrasss is very prolific and very vigorous and will likely be back. But this is often a better, less expensive solution than ripping out the whole lawn and resodding.

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