Turfgrass selection involves choosing a grass adapted to the environmental conditions of Oklahoma and that fits your personal needs and interests. The grass should also be suited to the physical or environmental limitations of the planting site, such as shade, no supplemental water, or poor soil conditions.
Bermudagrass, buffalograss, and zoysiagrass are the Warm Season (grows in the summer and dormant in the winter) turfgrass species most commonly planted in Oklahoma.
Occasionally, Cool Season turfgrass species, such as tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass are planted on shaded sites because the Warm Season turfgrasses cannot tolerate shade. These grasses also can be utilized in the full sun, but only when a convenient means of irrigation is available. Choosing the right cool-season turfgrass cultivar is essential for its success during the hot, dry summers of Oklahoma.
A common practice for bermuda grass owners is to leave bermuda grass tall in the fall to help protect the plant from cold winters. This leaves a a large mass of dead grass blades to contend with during the early days of spring when all we want to see is green. To speed up the process scalping the lawn on the first mowing seemed like a harmless kick-start for spring. The thinking was that by removing so much of the dormant grass blades promoted early green up of bermuda by allowing the sun to warm up the soil faster, and thus the lawn greens up faster.
In theory this is true, but in actual practice it may do more harm than good. In many cases bermuda grass has often already started to green up, but hasn't become noticeable yet. Scalping the lawn on that first mowing actually damages this new growth at the base of the plant. A better, safer practice is to remove no more than 1/2 of the dead plant. This will protect that sensitive new growth zone, yet still allow the soil to start warming a little faster.
After the first mowing, never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade with any one mowing.
Got Winter Damage to Bermuda?
Oklahoma is right on the northern border for growing Bermuda and in those years with exceptionally cold winters, there will be damage, even winter kill to bermudagrass lawns.
Determining if the bermuda was damaged or killed takes time to assess. Damaged or killed spots may just fill in. But if the dead areas are sizeable, the areas will need fresh sod.
Follow the same advice for bermuda. Although zoysia's leaves do turn brown in the fall, and waits for soil temperatures to warm, it does not actually go dormant for the entire winter. Scalping it can do severe damage to the plant and should be avoided.
Buffalograss (western Oklahoma)
Zoysiagrass (eastern Oklahoma)
St. Augustinegrass (extreme southeastern Oklahoma)
Promoting healthy growth and avoiding conditions that cause stress to your turfgrass is the best way to prevent a severe disease outbreak. Stressed lawns are an open invitation for a lawn disease to gain a foothold. Optimal maintenance practices are the best way of avoiding stressed turfgrass.
Even if a pathogen is present in the soil, infection will not occur unless the environmental conditions are conducive to disease development. Once turf diseases have become active, they can cause heavy damage if not treated properly. Here is a list of common diseases to Oklahoma lawns:
Professional Oklahoma turfgrass associations: Oklahoma Turfgrass Research Foundation,