By Nick Strehle
Many of you have been watching the progress of the turfgrass and drainage improvements we have been making along the area of Seabrook Island Road just before the gates over the past eight months. After the completion of the new bike path and unusually high tides last year, the turf could not keep up with all the extra moisture and salt water, so the Town turned to us for help.
Besides the problem of people driving off the road and rutting the grass, one of the biggest issues with the roadsides along the island approach is that it is flat, without anywhere for the water to drain. The first step was to kill off the remainder of the grass and remove as much of the soil as possible while keeping in mind that all of the irrigation, utilities, and tree roots were just below our feet. The next step was to select the type of turfgrass to plant this spring.
The sides of Seabrook Island Road not only needed a hardy type of turfgrass to withstand roadside abuse, it also had to be able to tolerate brackish water from high tides. In the end, we really only had one choice: Seashore Paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum), the same turfgrass used on golf courses along the beach. Seashore Paspalum first arrived in the U.S. by way of slave ships from Asia or Africa and was originally used for bedding.
Today, research has further developed this turf into a high quality product. It can be used anywhere from residential lawns to fine golf courses. Locally, Sean Hardwick, Director of Golf Maintenance on Seabrook Island, is converting more and more of the golf course tees to Seashore Paspalum. The turf is proving to be very tolerant to high levels of salt in water, and is very adaptable to wide ranges of pH levels. While requiring less fertilizer and water than other types of grass, the wear tolerance of Seashore Paspalum is still excellent.
For many years, the section of Seabrook Island Road as it approaches the gate was treated as a road side and not as an opportunity to welcome homeowners and guest to the Island. However, over the past couple of years the Town has provided us with the opportunity to improve the road little by little. The drainage problem will always be a concern due to the flat nature of the area, but at least now we have a beautiful grass which will tolerate the occasional high tides. On the one hand I am going to miss hearing speculations as to who drove off the road and made all the damaging ruts, but on the other, I’m proud to see the road looking beautiful and succeeding in maintaining that appearance despite the onslaught of tires and tides.
Nick Strehle is a Purdue University Agronomy Major, certified irrigation contractor and EPA WaterSense Partner for Sunburst Landscaping Inc., leading Sunburst’s clients into the next generation of water management. For more information, contact Sunburst at 768-2434.