Lots of turf to go around

The latest surveys indicate that about 47 million acres of turf are found in the United States, and annual maintenance costs total about $30 billion. Needless to say, that's a lot of turf to mow and maintain. The Northeast accounts for about 21 percent of the acreage, followed by the Great Lakes region (19 percent) and the Southeast (15 percent). Undoubtedly, equipment and labor involved with mowing accounts for a significant portion of the expenditures. Considering this, we focus this month on mowing.

Large-area mowing need not be as arduous a task with today's equipment. In fact, it can be quite enjoyable when using rotary mowers capable of devouring large turf areas in short time. Peter Whurr, with Ransomes America Corp., discusses the various types of rotary mowers suitable for large turf areas in our opening feature, "Mowing large areas down to size" (page 14).

Aside from rotaries, many other types of mowers are available for tackling large turf areas. You can use reel-type gang mowers, zero-turns and even walk-behinds. Gardeners' Guild representatives, Kevin Davis and Paul Swanson, detail the array of mowers for maintaining large-turf areas in "What's New" (page 44).

While watching your favorite baseball or football team, if you're like me and millions of other viewers with a horticultural bent, you've probably marveled at the intricate and precise mowing patterns appearing on the fields. The light and dark striped turf adds a professional, manicured appearance to the field. David Mellor, grounds manager at Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, and Steve Wightman, grounds manager at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, reveal how it's done in "How to: Establish mowing patterns" (page 40).

Other sites-such as golf courses, residential properties and institutional sites-also use mowing patterns to add that professional touch. Another way to display professionalism in your operation is to have your workers don uniforms. The American public views a uniformed worker as trustworthy, easily recognizable, neat and having a sense of pride in his or her company. Many companies have found the level of customer confidence is markedly higher when requiring employees to wear uniforms. Find out how uniforms can benefit your operation in our feature, "Identifiable apparel: An image-making marketing tool" (page 58).

With all the turf in the U.S., some critics are concerned that irrigating turf is a significant drain on our water supply. This appears far from the truth. I just received a release from Turf Producers International that states, "A mere 1 percent of surface and groundwater used in the U.S. is for domestic purposes. And, of that amount, only one-third is used for outside purposes, which includes washing cars, filling swimming pools and watering gardens and lawns." Regardless, some states are being conservative and requiring large turf facilities, such as golf courses, to irrigate with effluent water rather than drinking water. However, using effluent water poses some new challenges to turf managers. Problems associated with effluent-water use include excesses of total salts, of specific mineral ions and of bicarbonate, which can contribute to elevated pH of the irrigation water. Learn how to deal with these challenges in "Effluent water has positive potential" (page 20).

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