Turf grass for salt water environment

Asked February 26, 2016, 5:55 PM EST

I live adjacent to Rehoboth Bay, Sussex County. Receive periodic bay flood water (about twice each year) plus many wind-blown salt-sprays. So, I am trying to identify the best turf-grasses for my lawn plus other remedial efforts to compensate for the salt build-up in the lawn. I’ve applied a lot of lime and gypsum to combat the salt, plus planted turf-type tall fescue, but have not had success growing turf. Can you or your associates help me grow a successful lawn?

Sussex County Delaware lawns and turf salt water lawn and turf

1 Response

I have three suggestions for you. Bermudagrass is probably the most salt tolerant grass we can grow in Delaware. Common bermudagrass is the weed, wiregrass. But improved varieties are grown in the south and potentially as far north as southern Delaware. Some athletic fields in Sussex county are using bermudagrass. If you can't find bermudagrass or your exposure is such that it won't survive, zoysiagrass is the next alternative. Here is a quote from a publication about zoysiagrass:

Zoysiagrass is nearly as salt tolerant as bermudagrass. It is widely grown along sandy seashores where drainage is adequate. Zoysiagrass does not tolerate poorly drained soils whether they are saline or otherwise.

A Minnesota publication assessing salt tolerance selected fine fescues as the most tolerant of the cool season grasses (they can't grow either bermudagrass or zoysia in MN). See details below:

Most of the top performing salt-tolerant species ended up being fine fescues. The term fine fescue represents 5 turfgrass species that all have very similar traits including shade tolerance, drought tolerance and low fertility requirement. Fine fescues include slender creeping red fescue, strong creeping red fescue, sheep fescue, Chewings fescue and hard fescue. From the five species of fine fescues, research has shown that slender and strong creeping red fescue are best in salt loading situations and in areas receiving reduced fertility, thus making them a perfect choice for a salt-tolerant mixture.