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Median Miseries

City officials in Redding, Calif. aren't happy with the look of the grass blends in the Miracle Mile medians.
Photo by Nathan Morgan / Record Searchlight

It's more that six months since landscape crews planted trees and rolled out turf for what Redding, Calif. calls its Miracle Mile medians. However, Redding officials aren't pleased with the "vigor" of the grass, a word not heard much these days (one of John F. Kennedy's favorites). The city, looking to lower maintenance costs, approved the planting of Delta Mow-Free, a sod blend from the Stockton area of five grass fescues. The blend was advertised as needing the same amount of water and fertilizer as a traditional grass, but requiring mowing only three times per year. The blend is about 15 cents more per square foot than a more traditional grass.

The city engineer who coordinated the work of the Sacramento-area-based landscape contracting firm that won the bid told the local paper the sod is patchy in areas and the grass hasn’t grown uniformly. The city won’t pay the landscape contractor the roughly $50,000 remaining on the $1.25 million contract until all the trees, shrubs and grass are healthy.

The median work began in the spring of 2007, later than the landscape contractor planned. The water table was too high and work could not begin until given the go-ahead by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The Landscape crews, naturally, first installed the automated sprinkler system, then planted the deciduous trees and evergreen shrubs before rolling the sod. By then, summer winds were blowing and a heat wave baked the city--110 degrees on four days during the first week of July. Several trees and half the grass died. Crews replaced the dead turf by mid-fall (the contractor was liable for a 90-day maintenance period). By then, the cooler weather moved in and the new turf could not catch up with the surviving grass.

With winter arriving, the city has to wait until about mid-March to evaluate the grass. The blend can grow about two inches a week in the right conditions. Until then, Redding’s parks crews won’t cut the grass shorter than six inches.

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October 20, 2019, 8:21 pm PDT

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