Looking at a Dead Clump of Grass is Not Good Research
Pinellas County Extension service good at providing research data and information but poor at diagnosing lawn problems. Why? The reasons for the failures are threefold: examining only small samples brought to them, lack of historical information about the lawn and departmental goals of reducing water used for irrigating lawns.
How the Extension Service Fails
If you randomly yanked a handful of turf out of your dead dying lawn and took it to the extension service for diagnosing, they will most likely give you a cause of death. Whatever they happen to find in that random patch of grass – chinch bugs, grubs, fungus, whatever – will be named as the causal agent. And they certainly are not going to tell you to water more to keep your lawn healthy.
A Real Case of Misdiagnosing
A new to this area homeowner installed a new lawn and irrigation system in January. The lawn was on a slope that faced due south and was scorched by the sun every day. The homeowner believed that watering 1x per week should be enough. The lawn failed within the first 6 months with most of the failure occurring during the hot dry spring. Then the rains came in the summer and the lawn did not recover. He grabbed a rain-soaked dead patch of turf and took it to the extension service to find out why his lawn died.
What the Extension Service Found
Without context or history about the lawn, the extension service determined the lawn died of root rot caused by overwatering. The homeowner tore out his entire lawn, applied expensive fungicide treatments and replaced the lawn with new sod. The total cost to cure the root rot and replace the lawn was over $5000.00. Convinced by the extension service that he overwatered his lawn, the homeowner will be even more faithful not to water more than 1x per week – if that!
Why Root Rot was a Misdiagnosis
Root rot didn’t kill the lawn – lack of water killed the lawn. Then once the rains started in the summer, the dead grass and roots started to rot. It’s called composting! Healthy turf - even overwatered turf – benefits from root rot recycling old roots that slough off. But to the extension service, it is what killed the lawn because that is what they found and cutting back the water is the solution.
Don’t Use the Extension Service for Diagnosing Lawn Problems
I have personally witnessed many horror stories just like this one. Misdiagnosed lawn problems costing the homeowner thousands of dollars to cure a problem that didn’t exist or could have been simply solved by more water. My best advice if you have a problem with your lawn don’t go to the extension service but ask several experts who provide professional turf care services for an honest opinion.