Why is My Grass Dead Along the Sidewalk?

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
Many turf professionals were a little surprised this spring when the bermudagrass starting greening up. Based on our temperatures last winter, we expected to see quite a bit of winter kill, or at least spring dead spot (two different issues). While there are some localized areas that received damage, for the most part, the bermuda came through the winter just fine.

One exception to this were areas adjacent to some sidewalks, streets, and driveways. Any guesses why? Remember all the icy spots we had along with the prolonged cold? Quite a bit of ice melt was used through these periods. In cases where the melted ice was shoveled off into a pile, or where melt accumulated in a small turf area, a very high salt load was produced.

If you are seeing this damage, you have a few options. The first, and most important, is to remember this happening and adjust your maintenance plans for next winter. Next is to give the area a heavy watering. If you have tight soils, this may mean several water-soak cycles; water to the point of runoff, turn off the irrigation and let it soak in, and repeat. The idea is to flush the salts out of the root zone.

Unfortunately, many of our soils don’t drain well enough for this to be effective. The next option is to be patient and see if the grass is able to recover when (if) we get some soaking rains. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to cultivate the area (deep tillage) and reestablish the turfgrass.

I’m using bermuda as an example because the effects are so dramatic right now. You could also easily have damage with other turf or ornamentals-it just might not be as evident. Once again, the bottom line is to be careful where you dispose of snow or ice containing high concentrations of salt. Note: We occasionally see the same type of issues during swimming pool cleanout season.

For more information of this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal laws and regulations

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