Practical turf areas

Turfgrass is one of the most versatile and functional plants in the landscape. It provides one of the best recreational surfaces for outdoor activities. From a water management standpoint, turf is recognized as one of the most effective plant covers to reduce runoff and erosion while recharging the ground water, which results in more efficient use of rainfall (Wade et al., 2002). Along with minimizing turf perimeter, an important factor in conserving water in lawn areas is selecting a water-conserving, warm-season turfgrass species and cultivar. Warm-season species recommended for North Carolina are centipedegrass, zoysiagrass, and bermudagrass. Within each species are a number of cultivars with slightly different characteristics, including the transpiration rate or rate at which the grass gives up moisture to the air. Turf can help control erosion; it can contribute to temperature modification; it can reduce urban glare; and it can help control dust and mud. Turf is also useful for slowing runoff from landscape areas and can be of practical benefit in areas like swales. Grass is also functional in open recreational areas and can be maintained without heavy use of chemicals that have recently caused health concerns (Welsh, 2000). Use turf where it aesthetically highlights the house or buildings and where it has practical function, such as in play or recreation areas. Grouping turf areas can increase watering efficiency and significantly reduce evaporative and runoff losses. Select a type of grass that can withstand drought periods and become dormant during hot, dry seasons. Reducing or eliminating turf areas altogether further reduces water use (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2002). Also consider the ease of watering turf areas. Areas that are long and narrow, small, or oddly shaped are difficult to water efficiently. Confine grass to blocky, squarish areas that are easier to maintain.