Thursday’s morning arborist-centric learning seminar at New England GROWS, the three-day green industry conference & expo held at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, dealt with the trees vs. turf. Specifically, can the two elements get along in a landscape?

Bert Cregg, Ph.D., associate professor of horticulture & forestry at Michigan State University, was the seminar’s speaker and moderator. Highlighted points of Cregg’s seminar included:

  • Trees and turf are often viewed as mixing about as well as oil and water. However, with careful planning, it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.
  • Identifying the cultural requirements of each is critical to effective landscape management.
  • Trees impact turf and vice versa, in many different ways and some turfgrasses are more likely to be impacted by different kinds of trees.
  • “Poor attempts to manage trees and turf together almost always end badly,” Cregg said.
  • Shade is the biggest impact trees have on turf. The more shade a tree provides, the less likely turf can succeed in that spot.
  • When deciding which trees to plant in a landscape where turf is present, select trees with thin crowns. For example, the Honey Locust tree.
  • Deep root feeding is crucial to managing tree impact on turf.
  • Light quality matters: Tree canopies intercept red wavelengths. Low red contributes to thin turf blades and poor root systems.
  • To improve your tree and turf relationship, minimize conflict points. Give each their own space and plan ahead in your design. Allow mulched-free turf zones around trees and design beds or borders specifically for trees.
  • Consider alternatives: Use deciduous trees instead of conifers. Use trees or ground covers in areas poorly suited to grass.

Other seminars this week dealt with tree reduction and structural pruning.

Check back for more arborist-centric coverage and photos of New England GROWS.