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Turf wars

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By Michael D. Bates

Managing a healthy lawn can be a full-time and expensive job.

And learning where to start is the key.

The Florida-friendly Landscaping program says the best place is selecting the right materials to accomplish what you set out to do. Homeowners should ask these questions: What type of lawn do I need and what is my water budget for this much grass?

Citrus County homeowners can soon find out the answers to these and other questions, including selecting the right kind of grass to plant in appropriate spaces, proper fertilization practices, pest and weed problems to anticipate and avoid.

The University of Florida/IFAS Extension Office will hold one if its periodic “turf basics” classes from 2-3:30 p.m. July 11 at the Citrus County Extension office, 3650 W. Sovereign Path in Lecanto.

Steven Davis, program coordinator with Florida-friendly Landscaping, said the class is geared for new residents who may not know the challenges of growing turf grass in a sub-tropical climate. Long-term residents will also benefit by learning new techniques.

For example, growing turf on the west side of the county, near the coast, may be different than doing so in the central part, near Lecanto or Inverness.

“Soils near water bodies tend to be muckier and can be wetter,” said Davis, who plans to teach the upcoming class. “Often in the central part of the county, you have sandy soil conditions. A lot of the soil in our developments are either excavated or moved and brought in from other locations so you might have clayey areas around the foundation of your home.”

Davis said one would think that this time of the year — with winter residents in their northern homes — horticulture classes would be sparsely attended.

But he gave a talk last week on soil basics and 28 people attended. It could be the challenging environment, he said.

“Some people think moving to Florida is a piece of cake when it comes to gardening,” Davis said. “But soil conditions make it a little more difficult and impactful.

“Turf grass attracts a lot of attention,” Davis added. “It’s often one of the most frequent questions with new Florida residents. What types of grass to use under what specific conditions, sunlight, different horticultural practices, proper fertilization, pest control — just a high number of questions asked of our master gardeners into managing turf grass in our sandy soil conditions.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205, mbates@chronicleonline.com.