Turf grass is a landscaping and lawn gardening term for the grass used on a lawn. This type of grass is in contrast with ornamental grasses, which are generally larger, taller, and grow in bunches. Well-known types of turf grass include St. Augustine grass, centipede grass, and zoysia grass.
Though usually prized for its luxurious carpet, which softens the ground for playgrounds and sports events, turf grass has an important purpose in many landscaping designs. Properly planted grass can help prevent flooding and prevent erosion during heavy rains. In hot areas, a well-maintained lawn can help cool the ground and surrounding areas, reducing the need for electric cooling.
Turf grass has its advantages, but keeping a healthy carpet of grass does present its challenges. Most of these types of grasses are susceptible to diseases, pests, and soil problems that can cause brown spots or lawn death. Generally, good cultural practices, also known as lawn care, will prevent a lawn from developing major pest and disease problems, but some levels of pest or disease infestation must be addressed with direct treatment.
Types of insect pests that invade turf grass patches include grubs, chinch bugs, and sod webworms. Grubs are little white larvae that kill grass in brown patches. One telltale sign of a grub problem is grass that peels easily away from the ground. Underneath the peeled layer, one will find visible grubs in an infested lawn.
Chinch bugs are black with short-looking white wings folded across the back, and adult bugs are approximately the size of an unpopped popcorn kernel. These bugs damage a lawn by extending a needle-like proboscis into the tender base of the grass stem, sucking juices from the plant. A proboscis is a needle-like extremity that extends from the head of an insect. When the chinch bug sucks juices from the grass, it also injects a substance that kills the grass.
There are hundreds of non-insect problems that can also affect turf grass. Some of the most common grass problems include brown patch grass disease, take-all root rot, and damage from dogs. Brown patch grass disease and take-all root rot are caused by fungal growth in the grass, usually under the wet conditions encouraged by watering too late in the morning. Dog urine can damage lawns due to its nitrogen content, but if the soiled area is thoroughly flushed with water within eight hours of its deposit, the nitrogen in the urine can actually be beneficial for under-nourished grass.