With all of the rain we’ve had, I’m sure your grass is growing as quickly as mine. I’m mowing every four days.
I’ve written many columns on turf grass and lawn issues, but it wasn’t until recently that I came upon an issue in my own yard that stumped me. It’s called looping. I had never seen this particular issue with St. Augustine grass, and didn’t know what to call it. But a little research showed me it is a problem many people have had to tackle.
St. Augustine grass spreads by stolons, which crawl along the soil’s surface, sprouting roots and producing blades of grass. This is very evident when there is a bare spot in the yard and you begin to see the long runners covering and eventually filling in over the soil. These can grow up to many feet long, producing new roots and grass blades. We usually don’t notice the runners unless there’s disease present or a bare area.
This is where my mystery began. I was mowing and noticed lots of runners on the surface of my grass. I kept mowing, and some were cut and some remained long. A few days later, I mowed again. I kept seeing long, green runners, still attached at one end but sitting on top of my turf. A month has gone by, and the runners are covering a large portion of my backyard.
Looping occurs when the stolons grow but do not attach to the soil as they lengthen. Because they are stiff, they rise to the surface instead of forming roots. I wondered, “Why aren’t the stolons forming roots and staying low to the soil?”
My front yard didn’t have any looping, so I decided I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I thought about what was different between the front and the backyard. Then it came to me — soil compaction. We had some work done last summer, and bull dozers, dump trucks, cement trucks, propane trucks and other vehicles drove on my back lawn. When the construction was completed, a new layer of topsoil was spread. Grass that hadn’t been destroyed began filling in over the severely compacted soil. This likely caused the looping in my situation.
Anytime soil is hard-packed, as on a walking path through the yard, under a swing set or a lawn furniture area, where pets pace back and forth, etc., it will be more difficult for tiny roots to grab hold of and anchor into the soil. Herbicides, insects and fungal issues may also contribute to looping. Determining the cause and treating it should help to reduce looping over time.
I’ll do some soil aerating in the area to reduce compaction as well as rake some compost over it as well. I’ll let you know if it works.