Dr. Goatley preps audiences for upcoming lawn seminars
, 2015

Dr. Goatley preps audiences
for upcoming lawn seminars

by Cathie Ward

Professor Mike Goatley, Ph. D.,  of Virginia Tech will be the featured speaker at the Northern Neck Master Gardeners’ Lawn Seminar August 23.

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The seminar will be offered from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Transportation Building, Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern, 73 Monument Place, and from 1 to 3 p.m. at Westmoreland County School Board Meeting Room, 141 Opal Lane, Montross.

According to Goatley, lawns that are managed responsibly can prosper without damage to the environment.

A professor at Virginia Tech, Dr. Goatley writes and lectures throughout the state on turfgrass issues, reaching out to industry professionals and homeowners with tips and best management practices on how to “keep lawns green and water clean.” 

Dr. Goatley recently responded to questions about his upcoming presentation: whether or not lawns and turf areas, managed responsibly, can actually benefit the environment, what can be done in the fall to restore our lawns, and what key points he hopes people will take away from his presentation.

NNMG: Why have the seminar now? Is there something we should be doing with our lawns in the fall?

Dr. Goatley: With cool-season grasses being the predominant species used in Northern Neck lawns, fall is the prime time to get them in shape for the next season. And if one grows a warm-season lawn, there are some important things to do in the fall to help it perform better in 2015.

NNMG: Can lawns be good for the environment?

Dr. Goatley: Absolutely... turfgrasses are amazing plants when you think of the abuse that they can take and they keep coming back for more. How many other plants can you bounce, roll, walk, run, or drive on, cut to heights of 1 to 2 inches  (as low as 0.1” for a golf putting green) with a piece of metal spinning at 3,000 rpms and you expect it to not only live, but thrive. Turfgrasses provide great functional benefits in soil stabilization/erosion control, atmospheric cooling, and carbon sequestration. I always preach that it is not the turf that is bad for the environment, it’s the person managing it who makes inappropriate management decisions that can have unintended consequences.

NNMG: What’s new and different nowadays when it comes to maintaining our lawns?

Dr. Goatley: New grasses, new chemistries, and new equipment are always in the works and arriving on the scene. But of most importance, is the realization that what we do in managing our lawn can impact the bay and other water resources if we don’t take the right steps. I tell folks that your lawn can and should be the Las Vegas of the plant world—“what happens there stays there” if you manage it the right way.

NNMG: How often do you do these seminars—and what sorts of feedback do you get?

Dr. Goatley: I probably do 20 to 25 of these types of seminars per year all across the state. My favorite usual comment is something like this: “A presentation on turfgrass was the one Master Gardener training topic I was least interested in for this year’s educational programs, but I want you to know that that presentation wasn’t so bad after all.”

 NNMG: What do you hope people will “take away” from your seminar?

Dr. Goatley: Having a great lawn in Virginia is never going to be easy because we can grow eight different turfgrasses in this state, none of them very well. But basic things such as taking and utilizing soil tests, other ways to improve soil health, how to apply fertilizer, seed, and other chemicals at the right rates and time, and adjustments to make in mowing based on the season can all make a huge difference in the performance and quality of a lawn. I tell folks my goal with any of these presentations is to hopefully show folks how to “keep water clean and lawns green.”

Cathie Ward is the communications chairman for the Northern Neck Master Gardeners.

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