12 Quick Tips to Make Your Lawn Look Its Best, The 2017 Update

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Red Hen Turf Farm PRESENTS ... 12 Quick Tips to Make Your Lawn Look Its Best

1.    Mowing 
The best height to keep grass for our area is 2-1/2 to 3 inches high. Mow when the grass grows out ½ to ¾ inch.

  • BONUSCLICK HERE for Purdue Extension’s free publication on Mowing, Thatching, Aerifying, and Rolling Turf …

2.    Fertilizing (and Liming)
The first rule of fertilizing is to read the label of the product you are using.  Two more important factors to consider when fertilizing your lawn are HOW MUCH and WHEN to apply.

Experts recommend an ANNUAL TOTAL 2-4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet throughout each growing season for most established full-sun lawns (Kentucky bluegrass; Kentucky bluegrass mixed with perennial ryegrass and/or fine fescue) in Michiana. Ideally, your annual total of nitrogen should be split into 2-5 applications, with each single application of nitrogen being about 1 pound per 1,000 sq. ft.  For established shade lawns, about half as much nitrogen is suggested.

On the flipside, how often you fertilize affects not only lawn appearance, but also its maintenance level. The more often you fertilize, the more you’ll have to mow, for instance.

About applying lime … Red Hen Turf Farm does NOT recommend that you blindly follow this annual ritual unless you have done a recent soil test that indicates you need to adjust your soil pH.   While lot of so-called “experts” recommend lime (especially in the fall) as a way of adjusting the pH of your soil to make it less acidic, we don’t agree with this advice.  The idea behind liming your lawn is that you are trying to raise the soil pH near neutral to increase the availability of most plant nutrients.  While proper soil pH is necessary to achieve a healthy, attractive lawn, most Indiana soils under turfgrass do not need liming. 

THE BOTTOM LINE:  At Red Hen Turf Farm, we feel that the reality is that every single lawn has its own unique needs, so we recommend that you do a soil test every 3 years. If you use our soil testing procedures, we’ll provide you with a kit that you’ll mail to a certified lab.  The cost is $25 for a single sample, and $10 for each additional sample. The results are sent to us and we will translate them into layman’s terms, using this
information as an important piece of the puzzle for us to create a Customized Fertilizer Program, designed just for you

  • BONUS:  Learn how Red Hen Turf Farm can help you get your soil tested AND help design YOUR Customized Fertilizer Program by CLICKING HERE … And, Yes, we do sell Fertilizer and Spyker Spreaders. Here’s our 2017 Price List.

3.    Watering 
Very few people who have an “automatic” sprinkler system water turf properly. Most end up over-watering! You should water when the soil is dry to a depth of 4 inches and then water long enough to wet the soil 4 inches deep. Looking at the soil is the best way to tell how moist it is. Invest in a soil probe! Avoid watering in the late afternoon or early evening.

  • BONUS: Check out Purdue Extension’s free publication, “Irrigation Practices for Homelawns” by CLICKING HERE

4.    Shade 
There is no grass that likes shade. Turf is poor in shade for two reasons:

  • One is lack of quality and quantity of sunlight present and
  • The other is reduced air movement that keeps sun or wind from drying wet leaves.

Lessen shade and increase air flow for better grass. You can have either healthy grass or shade, not both…

  • BONUS: Learn more about trying to grow Grass in Shade via our website by CLICKING HERE

5.    Grubs
Most people are caught up in the hype of killing every grub. The truth is that most grubs do VERY LITTLE HARM, and it’s completely normal to have SOME grubs in your lawn … in fact, all lawns have grubs! It takes 5 or more per square foot to cause problems. Protect the environment and save some $$ by eliminating or reduce the size of preventative applications. If you are sure you have “grub problem,” there are a number of pesticides with varying efficacy depending on when you apply them.  For example, we currently carry a combination fertilizer / grub control product – 15-0-3 PLUS IMI  (“PLUS IMI” means that the 15-0-3 fertilizer has an added chemical called “Imidacloprid,” a widely used and powerful insecticide that can also affect non-targeted beneficial insects.)  We carry the 15-0-3 as well as a granular insecticide without a fertilizer “built in” called Dylox 6.2.

  • BONUS:  CLICK HERE to read our previous blog post on the topic of Grubs … especially if you think you might have a true “grub problem”, including the times of the year that are most effective for treating the affected area.
Click on the Image to Read Purdue Extension's "New White Grub Pests of Indiana"

Click on the Image to Read Purdue Extension’s “New White Grub Pests of Indiana”

6.    Moles 
The primary diet of moles is earthworms, not grubs!  Old fashioned traps and gell baits that mimic worms are the only things that work.  Tomcat mole killer is a brand that Purdue Extension recommends.

7.    Thatch 
Thatch is the dark cocoa brown material that is below the green and above the soil. It is created by the death of old plant parts that are below the mowing height. Clippings do not produce thatch! 

How much thatch is ok?  Up to ½ inch of thatch is ideal and greater amounts are bad. Increasing levels of thatch are caused by over applications of fertilizer and water.Multiple passes (8 or more) with a core aerifier in September for a 2 or more years along with management changes can reduce thatch.

8.    Dog spots 
Pick up the feces and for urine, dump some water on the spot if you observe the act. Re-seed or sod as there is no resistant grass for this area. Despite what you may have heard, we, along with Dr. Steve Thompson, DVM, Director of Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital Wellness Clinic, do not recommend changing your dog’s diet without consulting your own vet first. It is either dogs or turf!

  • BONUS: Read Dr. Thompson’s article, “Dog-Gone-It Lawn Problems!” by CLICKING HERE

9.    Weed control 
The best way to prevent weeds is to have thick turf that is mowed high and not over-watered. Grass will out-compete most weeds. By the way … moss is not an invading weed. Moss likes shade and tends to occur where turf is then (and thin turf usually ALSO accompanies shade conditions). You can’t fight Mother Nature, so the reality is that you will usually need to just live with the moss, or even give up on grass and install ornamental beds with shade loving plants. Another option is to cut down the trees to allow the grass to thrive, and you can read our website link on “Grass in Shade” to learn more.

10.    Crabgrass 
The best crabgrass preventer is to mow high and manage the turf so it is thick. TV adds scare people into applying outrageous amounts of herbicides that may not not needed! If you continually have a crabgrass problem, make a first application of a preventative herbicide in mid-April/early May, and a second application in late June. Red Hen’s 15-0-3 + Cavalcade is a good crabgrass preventer choice.

11.    Disease                           
Lawns that are mowed, watered, and fertilized properly have the fewest diseases. Disease outbreaks are the result of a combination of factors occurring at the same time. These factors include the presence of the pathogen, the status and vulnerability of the turf, and certain prevailing environmental conditions.  A prolonged period of hot, humid weather can cause occasional non-fatal outbreaks. The genetics of your grass play an important role in disease control. For example, newer varieties of Kentucky bluegrass (such as the ones that Red Hen Turf Farm uses in our 100% Kentucky bluegrass sod) have greater overall resistance compared to fescues, ryegrasses and old bluegrass varieties. 

To effectively control a lawn disease, first you need to accurately diagnose the problem  – BUT lawn diseases are hard to identify because the pathogens are typically microscopic.  Diagnosing lawn diseases is both an ART and a SCIENCE that requires a systematic approach. What we are able to observe is usually the RESULT of an infection, and not the pathogens themselves. In other words, if you are seeing patches of discoloration in your lawn, you could be seeing the RESULT of a lawn disease caused by a microscopic pathogen.  Another challenge to diagnosing the problem is TIME – if you can recognize the initial stages of the outbreak, this will greatly increase the likelihood that you can treat it and your lawn will recover.

If you decide to start applying chemicals to your lawn without first confirming what the disease is, this can be expensive decision and can actually cause more problems.  If you think you are seeing signs of disease in your lawn, we would recommend limiting yourself to scientific research-based resources.  Specifically, for this part of  mid-west Indiana, we endorse the following:

12.    Finding Reliable Answers                      
As we have already touched on, we feel that Googling random website or following word-of-mouth advice are not reliable ways of getting lawn care information.  Everyday, we talk to customers that have been following certain lawn practices their entire lives … and so often it turns out they were mis-informed.

There are so many “urban myths” out there, especially when it comes to the 11 topics discussed above.  If you’re ready to make sure that the information you know is based on science and research, you’d be best off limiting your resources to:

  • Purdue Extension / Department of Agronomy (up-to-date, research-based information, specific to our geographical location) – Online at www.agry.purdue.edu/turf
  • Michigan State University Extension (up-to-date, research-based information, specific to our geographical location)  – Online at www.msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/home_lawns
  • Red Hen Turf Farm’s website (our info is derived from Purdue / MSU Extension and other reliable sources, including decades of experience) – Online at www.redhenturf.com
  • Red Hen Turf Farm’s Customer Service Crew, especially Turf Operations Manager, Jeremy Cooper … our contact info is below!

CONTACT US
Phone
: 574-232-6811
Emailturf@redhenturf.com
Webwww.redhenturf.com

GET UPDATES when we publish new blog articles and share other helpful, timely tips SENT DIRECTLY TO YOUR EMAIL INBOX – It’s Easy to Subscribe to Red Hen’s E-Newsletter by CLICKING HERE

Red Hen Turf Farm – The Best Turf on Earth!  We grow & sell KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS SOD HARVESTED FARM-FRESH ON DEMAND in Northern Indiana, along with GRASS SEED, FERTILIZER, WEED CONTROL PRODUCTS & MORE to homeowners, landscapers, contractors, garden centers alike

 

Originally posted 6/6/14 and Updated 5/12/17
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From the FAQ Vault – It’s officially Autumn … I hate raking. What do you recommend I do with these tree leaves laying around on my grass?

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Public Domain Photo by Charles Rondeau

Autumn Dry Leaves (Public Domain Photo) by Charles Rondeau

In the past few weeks, we’ve gotten quite a few phone calls about tree leaves.

People are asking, “Should they be kept on the grass, removed completely, or mulched?”

Some of these calls were from customers with newly installed sod, others have sod that was installed a while ago, and still others were calling about their lawns that were established by seed.

No matter the origins of your grass, and no matter the age of your lawn, at Red Hen Turf Farm we do NOT recommend letting your leaves cover up your grass throughout the entire winter.  

Yes, if you do enough Googling, you’ll see articles that tell you it’s desireable to let the leaves stay there, mainly because a thick layer of leaves gives wildlife a nice place to live and find food.  We disagree about this being a good idea.

In fact, we recommend you limit the advice you get online to reputable, regional websites such as Purdue University Extension, Michigan State University Extension, and Ohio State University Extension. At times, we also might use extension.org and other “land grant university” websites, although we try our “local” sources first.

When we give advice to our customers, it’s typically based on these “land grant university” / Extension websites because they only publish information that is backed up by scientific research and they pass the so-called C.R.A.P. testwhich means they are Current, Relevant, Authoritative / Accurate, and their Purpose is to provide science-backed information to the community and to fellow experts.

University of Minnesota Extension suggests that if you MUST allow leaves to cover up 10-20% of your lawn, it might be fine but leaving an excessive amount of leaves on your lawn over the winter is not advised.  WHY NOT? Many reasons, including:

  1. Excessive leaf coverage over winter will likely smother your grass and inhibit growth in the spring.
  2. Leaves shade your grass, which can prevent your lawn from being able to photosynthesize in the late fall.  Photosynthesis is crucial for plant growth because it’s the process that let’s them turn sunlight into “food”.
  3. Thick layers of leaves can smother and completely kill the turf. Removing the interference from fallen tree leaves also allows your late season nitrogen applications to reach the turf more effectively, and improves the efficacy of late-season broadleaf herbicide applications. Therefore, for optimum turf health, it is critical to remove the tree leaves, or at least break them up.
  4. Leaves, even in small amounts, can trap humidity at the surface of your turf, which may encourage snow mold diseases.
  5. The animals like mice, moles, and voles that might enjoy living in your leaves may cause more damage than usual.

So, what might you do with your leaves?

  1. Rake them up or use a blower, then either compost them, dispose of them, or use them to mulch a non-turf area of your landscape such as your garden of flower beds.
  2. Use your mower’s bagging attachment, then either compost them, dispose of them, or use them to mulch a non-turf area of your landscape such as your garden of flower beds.
  3. If the coverage is no too excessive, you can MULCH your leaves with a mower.  This chops them into small pieces that won’t smother your grass. Mulching is an especially good way to handle autumn leaves since the nutrients and organic matter will benefit your lawn and soil. To learn more about mulching leaves check out THIS LINK from the City of New Rochelle, New York, which provides information from Purdue and Michigan State Universities.

Until next time! And keep the questions coming … The Red Hen Turf Farm Crew.

 

 

 

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Where did the rain go? And what do I do about my thirsty lawn?

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons user adrian.benko

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons user adrian.benko

Well – ONCE in a while – I am wrong (unless you talk to my wife).   You see, around the middle of June, I was telling many clients, landscapers and farmers not to worry about all the rain we were getting. I was sure July 1st would hit, and we would not see another drop. Well I was wrong by 18 days.

The last measurable rain at the South Bend Airport was on July 19, 2015. We got a ½ inch that day and over 1-¾ inch the day before that.

Today, after visiting a few of my favorite internet weather sites it does not look like we will see any rain for a while longer, other than a 30% chance this Sunday. We could very well see three more weeks without significant rain.

With that in mind, the question you might be asking yourself is, “What do I need to do with my yard?  

Keep in mind that there are two different types of yards right now:  

  1. yards that are recently established by seed or sod (less than 1 year old); and
  2. yards that are already well-established (1 year or older).

If you are planning on doing a NEW seeding or sodding with Red Hen’s products, you should already have our instructions – so stick with that or let us know if you need those instructions.

CLICK on this PICTURE for Tips for Improving Grass Seed Germination

But what about a 1-year-old or older established yard? There are basically 2 different ways to go about it.

  1. You can let it go, stop watering, and let your lawn go dormant until we get enough rain and hope for the best. Some grasses will make it through and others will not. Some types like perennial and annual ryegrass may not make it. Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass do have a much better chance or surviving longer periods without rain or irrigation… or
  2. You can keep up with watering, BUT REMEMBER THE KEY IS TO “WATER DEEPLY AND INFREQUENTLY“. For my own lawn, I am planning on watering deeply every 3 days until the next rain.

If you choose to keep up with your watering, and you need to keep an eye on your water bill and are looking to help conserve water, here are some good pointers:

  1. With more shade, grasses need less water than in areas than full sun. And keep in mind that as trees grow taller, they naturally create more shade. Adjust your sprinkler heads accordingly in shady vs. full sun areas.
  2. Look for areas in your yard that are greener than others. Areas that are less-green need more water.  For instance, you’ll see that on a hill, the grass at the bottom is usually much greener.  Adjust your sprinkler heads accordingly.
  3. As discussed in our previous post about irrigation efficiency, you should consider calibrating your sprinkler heads.  Sound complicated?  Not really.  Basically, you set cups out across a zone check to see if they have the same amount of water, or at least close.  If not, adjust your sprinkler heads accordingly.  CLICK HERE to check out the WikiHow website’s step-by-step visual guide for calibrating home lawn sprinklers

Until next time,
Jeremy Cooper & the Red Hen Turf Team
Call us at 574-232-6811 .. for our location and hours, click here.

 

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Straight from our FAQ VAULT … It’s Spring, but why is my Kentucky Bluegrass Sod not GREEN yet?

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Especially for people who sodded their lawns last year, it can be a surprise when the snow comes off and you see your sodded lawn looking very UNGREEN.

While it may be a bit annoying, this is extremely typical.

During the winter months, Kentucky bluegrass sod will go dormant, and needs time, warmth, sunlight, and nutrients to GREEN-UP. In fact, your neighbors’ grass may green up before yours simply as a result of the genetics of the Kentucky bluegrass sod.

The superior genetics of Red Hen’s Kentucky bluegrass sod gives it excellent tolerance of diseases like leaf spot and summer patch. And, as you know, it is a very attractive, dense, compact (low growing) turf with dark green color during the summer.

However, as is the case with certain elite varieties of Kentucky bluegrass, our sod can have a long winter dormancy and slow spring green-up. Cool dry weather can exacerbate this growth response. Full green-up typically occurs by mid- to late-May.

So what can you do besides wait?

An early spring application of fertilizer may very well help speed up the green-up of your Kentucky bluegrass sod. Please note that as of today (March 24th), it’s still a little early to apply fertilizer because the ground is still frozen, but we would expect that applying between April 1 and May 1 will help tremendously.

Another thing you might try is to mow the brown tips off of your grass.  This may help stimulate growth, but it will also make your lawn more aesthetically pleasing in the meantime.

I mentioned earlier that you might notice your neighbors’ lawns greening up quicker than your Kentucky bluegrass sod. This is because their lawns may be comprised of perennial ryegrass and/or some type of fescue, which often green-up several weeks earlier than the elite type of sod you have in your own lawn. Perennial ryegrass typically will have the earliest green-up.

More questions? Give us a call at 574-232-6811.
Thanks!

– Lisa, Red Hen Turf Farm

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How Easy is it to Care for Newly Laid Sod?

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You need a healthy balance of WATER,SUNLIGHT, and AIR, to help your sod take root after within weeks, depending partly on your initial soil preparation and sod installation.

Since you have limited control overSUNLIGHT and AIR, the key to success relies heavily on WATER.  The roots of your new sod will penetrate the soil faster and root down sooner if properly watered.  Only 2-3 weeks may be necessary for initial sod rooting, but the roots will still be relatively shallow. Full root establishment typically takes about 4-6 weeks.

Common questions we get are when? and how much?  Usually, there are two main ways to kill new sod … by watering too much, or watering too little.

Here’s how to ensure that your new sod has the right amount of water.

First day watering.
Your sod should be soaked with water as soon as it is laid. Water each zone or section as soon as it is laid!

How do you check to make sure you have watered it enough?

You could check by walking on it. If you make deep footprints, it has enough water.

Another way – if the soil is firm – is to lift a few different corner of the sod to inspect. The soil on the back of the sod should be damp to wet. If it is not damp – and if the ground is still dry underneath – water for at least 30 minutes.

Second through fifth day watering. 
Check your lawn at least one time per day, or more than once if it is hot or windy. Walk on the new lawn to inspect it. If the soil is soft and you make deep footprints, or water has puddle in areas, it is too wet and you should stop watering for awhile, and water less often with less water. If the soil is firm, lift a corner of the sod in several places. The soil should be damp, not  dripping wet, or dusty dry.

Watch the color of the sod.

Green is good.

Blue-green indicates not enough water, and you will have problems in 12-24 hours.

Yellow-tan means the sod is heat/moisture stressed and will go dormant. The roots and crowns are still alive and if you water more, new leaves will appear in seven to ten days.

Cracks that appear between the rolls indicates not enough water has been applied and you should water longer or more often.

Temperatures above 80 degrees F generally mean more water is needed and below 60 degrees F means less water is needed.

In the cooler months of March, April, October, and November, sod needs much less water.

Further watering.
After five days or so, the soil has soaked up water like a sponge, and you must reduce your watering habits or you will drown the new roots.

Roots will not grow into waterlogged soils!  Begin stretching out the time between the watering. Reset your timer if you have an automatic system.

New Sod Watering Tips near Sidewalks and Driveways.
Pay close attention around paved areas!
A LOT of heat will transfers from paved surfaces and will dry out nearby new sod much faster than the rest of the new yard.

LEARN MORE
Read our “Early and Longterm Sod Care Instructions” and much, much more by visiting Red Hen Turf Farm’s PDF LIbrary.

Or give us a call today – 574-232-6811

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Take a VIRTUAL TOUR of Red Hen Turf Farm!

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CLICK on this SCREEN SHOT to Take the WSBT Home Sweet Home Video Tour of Red Hen Turf Farm

CLICK on this SCREEN SHOT to Take the WSBT Home Sweet Home Video Tour of Red Hen Turf Farm

 

In addition to so many other projects we’ve been working on this spring as we were gearing up for our 2014 busy season, we had the pleasure of working with WSBT-TV to create a Video Tour of our farm for their Home Sweet Home series.

CLICK HERE or on the Screen Shot ABOVE to take a virtual tour of Red Hen Turf Farm and to learn more about the sod, mulch, fertilizer and MORE that we offer.

 

So often, we're told that it's truly SURPRISING at how affordable our SOD is!

So often, we’re told that it’s truly SURPRISING at how affordable our SOD is!

 

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From the Red Hen Turf Farm “Frequently Asked Question” File – “Is it TOO LATE to SOD my LAWN?”

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RED HEN FAQ – “Is it TOO LATE to SOD my LAWN in August? in September? in October? in November?”

RED HEN’s RESPONSE:

In our recent blog post about SEEDING your lawn in Northern Indiana, we talked about how August 15 – September 15 is the BEST WINDOW of TIME to PLANT GRASS SEED (CLICK HERE to read more).

Over the past few weeks, and on a related note, one of the most common questions we’re hearing is whether it’s too late to LAY SOD in Northern Indiana.

The short answer is NOPE!

In fact, FALL is the OPTIMUM WINDOW FOR SOD INSTALLATION of cool season grasses like Red Hen’s 100% Kentucky Bluegrass Sod.

A fall installation date will allow adequate time for the roots to develop prior to the next summer. We will be harvesting sod each day that we can (weather-permitting) well into November.  

YES, YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY!  If you really need to and if the Mother Nature cooperates, it is possible to lay sod in November, although it would probably be better to get it laid by the end of October.  Give us a call and we can talk more about the logistics involved.

We sell our sod, seed, fertilizer, mulch, top soil, and MORE direct to the public, to landscapers, to contractors, to businesses … to YOU … Available for pickup at our farm in New Carlisle, Indiana, or for delivery in most cases.

  • Not sure if sod or seed is your best bet?
  • Not sure how to prepare your site for sod or seed?
  • Not sure if you want to install sod yourself or hire someone?
  • Need some technical advice on sod, seed, fertilizer, or maybe some problems you’re having with your lawn (even if you didn’t use our sod or seed)?
  • Looking for an estimate? (and ready to be surprised by just how reasonably priced Red Hen’s Sod is?)

THEN – Give us a CALL at 574-232-6811. We’re here Monday – Friday, 7:30 AM – 4:00 PM (Eastern Time) and Saturday (from April to late October) 7:30 AM to 11:30 AM (Eastern Time).

Or contact us 24/7 by email at jcooper@redhenturf.com

Until next time …

Jeremy and the Crew at Red Hen

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