Did you know that Red Hen Turf Farm produces and sells 2 kinds of sod?
Since 2018, we have carried both our flagship 100% Kentucky Bluegrass Sod, and more recently our “Tall Fescue Sod”.
Of these 2 choices, our Kentucky Bluegrass Sod is a more popular cool-season turf grass that is specific to our Midwest region.
By far, the majority of sod we sell is our Kentucky Bluegrass Sod.
So what are the main differences between Red Hen’s two types of Sod, and why might you choose one over the other? We get this question a lot.
FOR A QUICK SUMMARY…
Our Red Hen 100% Kentucky Bluegrass Sod (aka KYB Sod or Bluegrass Sod) is a beautiful, lush, and finely textured natural grass. It is a blend of four high quality, top performing seed varieties, and is widely used on golf courses, athletic fields, and home lawns.
Our Red Hen Tall Fescue Sod (aka Fescue Sod or Tall Fescue Sod) is 90% Rhizomatous Tall Fescue and 10% Kentucky Bluegrass, and is grown for its superior density, dark color, and fine leaf texture. The fescues in this mix provide increased spreading ability, deep rooting, and are drought tolerant. The fescues and Kentucky Bluegrass in this mix provides lower irrigation requirements once established.
But, to dive in deeper, let’s start by focusing on Red Hen’s KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS SOD …
Kentucky Bluegrass is by far (in our opinion) the more beautiful of the two turfgrasses. It has a deep, emerald blue-green color with boat shaped blades and spreads quickly via rhizomes, (which are basically underground roots) to form a dense “knitted” type sod.
Kentucky Bluegrass does best in full sun but needs at least 4 hours or more of DIRECT sunlight per day to thrive. Kentucky bluegrass requires regular maintenance. Routine fertilization is key to maintaining this beautiful, lush turf.
Kentucky Bluegrass has a shallower rooting system than Tall Fescue Sod. Because of its shallow rooting system, Kentucky Bluegrass has lower tolerances for heat and drought. This is why it is important to follow good watering habits, especially in the heat of the summer.
Every spring, we have a handful of our new Kentucky Bluegrass sod customers call us early in the spring and ask us, “Why is my sod is still brown when my neighbors’ lawns are already greening up?” Well, it’s just nature being nature! Kentucky Bluegrass takes a few extra weeks to “green up” than fescues and rye grasses. This is absolutely normal for this type of grass, so it’s nothing to worry about. You can read more about this issue in our previous blog post, “Straight from our FAQ VAULT … It’s Spring, but why is my Kentucky Bluegrass Sod not GREEN yet?”
One of the best things about Kentucky bluegrass is, once it’s established – it has the ability to repair, spread and recuperate quickly from damages.
Now, let’s switch over to focusing on RED HEN’s TALL FESCUE SOD …
Red Hen’s Tall Fescue Sod is slightly lighter in green color compared to Kentucky bluegrass, but is still pretty dark in color compared to some other types of fescues. It is a deep-rooted, cool-season turf grass that adapts well to a wide variety of soil types. The deep root system allows Tall Fescue to tolerate drought conditions better than Kentucky Bluegrass.
Many of our customers ask if we have “shade grass.” Our response is, “no grass likes shade.” However, our tall fescue is a great heat and drought tolerant grass that tends to do well, even in less-irrigated areas.
Typically, tall fescue grasses have a “bunch-style” growth habit without the ability to spread like Kentucky bluegrass’s rhizomatous root system. However, with the advent of this past decade’s turf technology, Rhizomatous Tall Fescue is the only tall fescue variety with true rhizomes, which help its roots knit together, repair and spread better than regular fescue.
The seed mix used to grow Red Hen Tall Fescue Sod is comprised of 90% Rhizomatous Tall Fescue, which helps with installation and makes for quick establishment. Re-seeding Red Hen’s Tall Fescue Sod is often still necessary in damaged areas, as the turf can tend to be “clumpy” versus the tightly knit Kentucky bluegrass.
Red Hen Turf Farm Tall Fescue Sod Field – photo taken 9/16/20
Since less water is needed for Red Hen’s Tall Fescue Sod, it is a common choice for those who do not have access to irrigation and desire a lower maintenance lawn.
IN SUMMARY: Red Hen’s Tall Fescue Sod Maintenance Level: Low-Moderate: Less irrigation and less fertilizer is needed – once established. Avoid fertilizing in the late spring and summer (warmer) months.
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Ready to Learn More? Looking for a Quote? Call us at 574-232-6811 or visit us our PDF library.
Or, as always, Purdue offers a wide range of free educational, research-based articles about home lawn care in our part of the country – HERE’s THE LINK
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Measuring your yard to figure out the size of area you want to lay sod might seem like an easy task UNTIL you actually give it a shot.
In fact, it’s not exactly uncommon to get a call from our customers who are professional installers, letting us know that they need MORE SOD because they undermeasured.
But when it happens, you lose the time it takes to come pick up a bit more. Or, if it’s a larger amount and you need us to bring it to you, you can also end up paying a premium since there’s another delivery fee plus the cost of more sod involved.
On the main sections of Red Hen Turf Farm’s website, if you click on the RED MENU BAR under Sod Installation / Care, we offer some tips that should be helpful. Here’s the LINK and a screenshot:
Step 1 says, “Use a tape measure or measuring wheel to measure areas you want to sod.”
But what if you don’t own either a tape measure or a measuring wheel?
A good quality measuring tape is definitely the less expensive of the two, and generally more useful tool of the two, as well.
But what if you measured 3 times with your tape measure, and each time you get a different result and your different results are not even that similar? Or you’re just not feeling confident about your measuring skills?
For these reasons, most professional sod installers would invest in a good-quality commercial-grade measuring wheel for this very reason. That can run you a good $150 or more very easily, and if you only plan to use a tool once, maybe that’s not the best option.
Consider that as I write this in 2021, our delivery of sod LOCALLY includes a delivery fee of $150 – Plus the Cost of the Sod Itself – and the further we drive, the more that delivery fee comes to. Minimizing the number of deliveries we make to your job site or home can definitely add up quickly.
If you have a bit of room to store a measuring wheel, and would be interested in a few higher rated “budget options”, I’ve done a bit of internet sleuthing to see what’s out there.
2 QUICK NOTES:
We’ve not actually tested them out, but for your convenience, here are 3 measuring wheels that are budget-friendly and fairly compact / easy to store that I keep seeing in “best of” lists – in no particular order …
If you try one out and absolutely Hate it, Amazon returns tend to be pretty easy. If you want to comment on this blog about your own experience, we’d love to hear about it.)
Scuddles Collapsible Measuring Wheel – This Wheel made several lists including Architecture Lab’s 11 Best Measuring Wheels Of 2021 Reviewed. It measures up to 10,000 feet and is compact and easy to store. The handle collapses to 17 inches, it extends to 39 inches and this wheel even comes with a tape measure. Amazon lists it at just under $27 as of the current time, and reviews are consistently favorable. HERE’S the AMAZON LINK
The Keson Roadrunner 1 / Keson RR112 Measuring Wheel pops up on various “best of” lists, and is another compact, budget-friendly option. Mr. DIY Guy, for instance, recommends it for homeowners HERE on the list of 6 Best Measuring Wheels of 2021. It collapses to 17 Inches and extends to 38 Inches and measures up to 9999 feet. Amazon reviews are consistently positive, and this wheel currently lists it at just under $29.00 HERE.
If you prefer a budget-friendly digital option, for just under $50 (current price on Amazon HERE), this AdirPro Digital Distance Measuring Wheel pops up on a few lists including GistGear’s 2021 updates of the Best Measuring Wheels – Buying Guide (HERE’s THE LINK). This one is more heavy-duty, is extendable up to 44 inches and collapses fairly compact to 27 inches and measures up to 9999 feet. This one comes with a carrying bag, and even includes the two AAA batteries needed to operate it.
Between these 3 options for measuring wheels, or any number of others included in the links we’ve shared, this should help you get some consistently accurate results.
With whatever tool you decide to use, you’ll want to divide your lawn into sections that resemble squares, rectangles, circles and triangles so the math to find the area is reasonably easy to do… and measure each section in FEET.
Round each section’s measurements up or down to the nearest half foot … Generally, rounding up might be the better choice so you don’t run short on sod.
Consider ordering extra sod to account for trimming and errors in measuring difficult areas. You can use leftover rolls in other spots or offer to your neighbors. 5-10% is what most websites agree is a decent “extra amount” to order, but it’s up to you to decide if you want to order extra, and how much extra.
If you feel comfortable with calculating square feet, go for it. Maybe these area calculators HERE will help.
WE’RE HERE TO HELP! To double-check your math or avoid flashbacks to high school math class altogether, you can also feel free to jot down your measurements in feet, noting the type of shape(s), and give us a call at 574-232-6811. We can help you do the math to figure out the number of square feet of sod you need.
Updated and Reviewed: 3/1/2021 in response to Indiana Governor Holcomb’s 2/25/21 Executive Order 21-06: FOURTH CONTINUATION OF COUNTY-BASED MEASURES AND RESTRICTIONS BASED ON THE IMPACT AND SPREAD OF THE CORONAVIRUS DISEASE (COVID-19)
Red Hen Turf Farm is currently OPEN FOR BUSINESS, however for everyone’s safety, all Customer / Sales interactions – whether for pickup or delivery – will be handled Curbside / Touch-free whenever possible.
Red Hen Turf Farm extends wishes of wellness to all. We are committed to doing the best we can in providing a safe COVID-19 free environment for all Red Hen employees and for every one of our customers, vendors, and guests.
We encourage you to support your local businesses and landscapers and use this time to get outside and enjoy your lawn!
For Customers, Vendors, and Other Guests
The main doors to Red Hen’s Office / Shop are currently locked, therefore all Customer ORDERS should be placed in advance by phone. We provide curbside pick-up and contactless delivery as a general rule of thumb, and upon request.
We have designated a specific backdoor office entrance to maintain safer social distancing, and will conduct interactions as much as possible by phone call / text / email / curbside.
As much as possible, any payments / receipts / paperwork will be delivered and received electronically.
Masks for employees that DO NOT interact with customers are generally NOT required on the farm property as long as social distancing can be maintained. However, signage will be around the farm reminding everyone of safe social distancing of 6 feet if possible.
Masks for employees that DO interact with customers are generally required when social distancing CANNOT be maintained. Customers are encouraged to have masks with them in case there is a need to interact with Red Hen Turf Farm employees at times when social distancing of 6 feet is not possible.
Each day, every employee will be self-screen at home prior to coming to work, with requirement to continue to self-monitor and self-report to management after arriving to work to make sure they not experiencing any of the COVID-19 symptoms or “red flags.” “Red Hen’s Daily Onsite Employee COVID-19 Self-Evaluation Checklist” consists of:
Taking their temperature. In order to consider reporting to work, the temperature reading must be 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Answering screening questions related to currently known common COVID-19 symptoms, whether they have been in close contact with someone known or suspected to have contracted COVID-19.
If St. Joseph County, Indiana (where Red Hen is located) is at Color Code Blue with a point score of 0.5 below or Color Code Yellow with a point score of 1.0, then Employees may self-screen by “honor system” without having to turn in or show any proof of completion.
If St. Joseph County, Indiana Color Code Yellow with a point score of 1.5, or in the Orange or Red Zones, then Employees are required to show proof of completion through use of “Red Hen’s Return to Work & Daily COVID Screening App”.
Should an employee experience any of the COVID-19 symptoms or “red flags,” then Red Hen’s most current “Return to Work Plan” will be followed, in concert with current guidelines and guidance of CDC, Indiana State Health Department, and St. Joseph County Health Department.
Every employee will wear a mask or face shield when unable to maintain social distance at least 6 feet when interacting any fellow-employee, customer, vendor, and guest, following CDC’s current definition of “close contact” as, “Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.”
Every employee will practice safe social distancing of 6 feet, as much as they can.
Every employee handling food and/or money will practice safe social distancing of 6 feet, wear gloves and/or wash / sanitize their hands.
Hand sanitation supplies will be available for cleaning hands often. Soap and water will be provided — especially for proper hand-washing.
The cleaning products used at Red Hen Turf Farm are all EPA approved for fighting the spread of COVID-19.
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.
BONUS: CLICK 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 high quality Fertilizer, and people seem to love the results, especially at our competitive prices Here’s our 2021 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”
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-On-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 carries Award-brand Fertilizer + Crabgrass Preventer
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
The Lawn Institute – While this site is not regionally-based, in 1955, The Lawn Institute was created as a not-for-profit corporation to assist and encourage through research and education the improvement of lawns and sports turf. Since then, the Institute has been one of the most respected authorities in the world among turf professionals and scientists for monitoring, reporting, and interpreting the latest advances in turfgrass research, landscape horticulture, and agronomic science. – Online at www.thelawninstitute.org
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!
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, Updated 5/12/17, Updated 4/17/18
Our customers have many questions about installing sod this time of year (during the cooler months of October and November). We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions with our answers below. We hope it helps you with your year-end landscaping projects!
Harvesting sod in the cooler months.
Q – Is now (October/November) a good time to install sod for our area?
A – Fall is one of the best times to install KBG sod (in our region)! Our (KBG) Kentucky Bluegrass sod is a cool-season grass. Installing it during cooler months means better survivability and less heat stress. A fall installation date will also allow time for the roots to develop prior to the next summer. And since it’s too late to plant grass seed for a successful fall seeding, sod is a great alternative for an instant lawn.
A layer of frost blankets the sod field last year. Once the frost burned off in the sun, we were ready to harvest!
Q – How much time do I have left to lay sod this year, and how long are you harvesting sod?
A – We tell our residential customers as a guide, try to have all of your landscaping projects wrapped up by Thanksgiving (end of November). We will harvest sod until the ground becomes too frozen for our equipment which is typically in December sometime. Some landscapers install sod in the winter – as long as the site is prepped and ready and we are still able to harvest sod.
Q – How long will my sod survive if I cannot install it right away?
A – During the colder months of October and November, since it’s well under 80 degrees and the risk of “cooking” your sod is no longer an issue, uninstalled sod can hold up for several days. However, no matter what time of year it is, it’s always best to get installed right away so it can transplant as quickly as possible.
Q – How often should I water my new sod this time of year (October/November)?
A – Although most people are finished with watering their established lawns this time of year, you still need to ensure your newly installed sod does not dry out and stays damp after installation until the ground freezes. During the October and November months (cooler weather) moisture from water stays in the soil longer and most people typically do not have issues with sod drying out. Mother nature usually takes over and keeps everything pretty hydrated. Keep in mind that morning frost will not kill the new sod, rather it will add moisture naturally after it thaws. Once the ground freezes for the season, there is no need to water, as the sod will go into a dormant state and finish rooting in the spring.
Not sure if you are getting enough water? Pull up on a piece of sod and look at the soil underneath for signs of moisture.
Q – What if my irrigation system has been winterized?
A – You should get enough irrigation from mother nature unless we have an unseasonably warm fall/winter. Again, it is important to keep the sod hydrated until it goes dormant so checking it frequently is suggested.
Q – Can I fertilize during this time of year (October/November)?
A – If the grass is not actively growing, no fertilizer is needed. Keep in mind, you want to get your last fertilizer treatment down while the grass is still green and before the ground is frozen for the season. We suggest applying your final fertilizer with your last mow of the season. Again, end of November is typically a good time to finish all your landscape projects up for the year.
Until next time, ~Michelle & The Red Hen Crew
Was this helpful? Do you have other questions we can answer? We are here for you!
Here’s something many people find surprising… When rains are not part of that irrigation, you’re never going to get as good results as Mother Nature. Natural rainfall reduces the need for SUPPLEMENTAL IRRIGATION, but irrigation is always just that – SUPPLEMENTAL. When considering how long to run your sprinklers, you’ll want to adjust to account for rainfall. A good old-fashioned rain gauge will come in handy for this. To figure out how long to water your lawn during a week when it rains, subtract the number of inches of rainfall from the weekly watering need to get your new weekly watering figure and do the rest of the calculations we’ll be describing below normally.
In “Irrigation, droughts – and strange weather … HOT, DRY SUMMER TURF TIPS from Red Hen Turf Farm“, we went into in a good amount of detail on how you have a few options on how to approach watering your lawn during a hot, dry, doughty period, and how it makes a difference whether you’re dealing with a fully established lawn or sod / seed that is new or has been in your yard for less for than a year. We’d also recommend checking out the experts at Purdue’s excellent guide, “Irrigation Practices for Homelawns,” HERE
Beyond the information to come below, both Red Hen’s article and Purdue’s Irrigation Guide discuss how the time of day you’re watering, slopes, soil compaction, new seedings / new sod, the choice of letting your lawn go dormant, and more should also be considered.
It’s near the end of August of 2020 now, and here in northwest Indiana, we’ve had a very hot and dry summer, which is stressful on any fully established yard, but when it comes to newly laid sod, it can be quite the task to do all you can to water your sod when it’s trying to re-establish it’s root system in its new home.
Based on the calls, texts, and photos we have been receiving during the hottest, driest, parts of the summer from concerned customers, probably 90-95% of the lawn problems and brown / yellow spots are caused by lack of water, and so often it comes down to a sprinkler system / irrigation issue.
Though you might water for the amount of time your sprinkler system has been programmed for… say it’s 30-40 minutes, and you feel it should be “enough,” maybe you’re seeing brown or yellow spots. If this is happening, do you know how many inches of water each individual sprinkler head is putting down?
In other words, have you checked your sprinkler system and/or performed a “Sprinkler Audit” or “Irrigation Audit” or what we sometimes call the “Tuna Can Test”?
Surprisingly (and frustratingly) even a new sprinkler system can have heads that are not operating as you’d want them to!
The thing is… it’s impossible to determine the distribution of water by looking at your sprinkler system while it’s running. It will look fine unless you test it out more methodically.
That’s where a simple Irrigation / Sprinkler Audit can help bring any issues to light.
OUR PREDICTED MAIN TAKEAWAY once you complete your Sprinkler Audit: After following the steps to do an Irrigation Audit, you’re likely to discover that the areas that are browning are probably being skipped by irrigation, or not getting enough water. Adjustments you make will likely take 2-3 weeks to make an observable difference in your lawn, especially with Kentucky Bluegrass. Red Hen’s Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod will likely bounce back quicker than our Bluegrass Sod (HERE’s MORE on the main differences between our 2 types of sod)
Here are the basic steps for a Simple Sprinkler Audit / Tuna Can Test:
Put out 10 to 12 containers of the same size in a zone, placing them in both in the green areas and the brown/dying areas. Tuna cans or plastic cups work great!
Run your irrigation system for a set period of time. For instance, 10 minutes, or 1/6th of an hour, would be a good amount of time for this Sprinkler Audit.
At the set period of time, promptly turn the heads off, and take some time to get down and really look at your sprinkler heads…
Is each one popping up out of the ground, perpendicular to the ground?
Is each head functioning properly?
Any heads that are not popping up fully or are tilted will lead to non-uniform distribution of water.
If you’re watering around curves, it is probably going to take some adjusting so that all areas are covered.
Now, look at how much water is in each of the cups.
Are there any vast differences of the amount of water collected in the cups? If so, go back to that area with the sprinkler heads and take another close look.
Are you noticing a correlation between a head that is not functioning properly and the limited water output?
Now measure how many inches of water the cups are showing that you’re putting out during this time period.
Let’s say for this test, you have applied 1/4 inch of water in 10 minutes. Based on this output, if you were to run your system for 30 minutes), then 1/4 inch X 3 (since 10 minutes X 3 = 30 minutes) means you’d be putting down .75 inch of water per each 30 minutes of running your sprinkler system. To get 1.5 inches per week, for this example, you’d need to run it twice a week for 30 minutes.
As stated above, right now, between rain water and irrigation, most lawns will need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water/week if you want to keep it greened up (versus letting it go dormant).
Even if you choose to let your lawn to dormant, you’d need 1/2 inch of water every two weeks just to maintain hydration to the grass plants’ crowns. (Again, refer to THIS RED HEN ARTICLE for more details on different approaches to watering during hot, dry periods)
Start again with step 1 for any other zones you have that you’d like to test out.
REPEAT OFTEN???!!!! It’s a good idea to do this type of Sprinkler Audit at least once a year, and more often if you’re noticing possible issues such as mysterious brown / dying areas. Even if you’re sprinkler system is new, it’s a good idea to test it out.
Remember that this Sprinkler Audit is showing you the results of one single application of water. If your cups are not equally – or uniformly – filled, this means that over a period of months or years, some parts of your lawn may be getting twice as much (or three times as much) water as others. This can add up to 10 inches annually versus 20 inches, or 10 inches versus 30 inches. A difference as small as 1/4 inch during each irrigation cycle can add up to dozens of inches per year.
Even if you’re running your sprinkler system twice per week for … say… 30 minutes because that’s what you feel should be right, it may not be enough water. Take into account that the type of your sprinkler head affects how much water is being put out during your 30 minute rounds. Generally, rotor heads will take a longer time to put irrigation out, so depending how how much water your Sprinkler Audit shows you’re putting out, you may have to run these for three times per week to achieve the desired inches of watering per cycle.
Besides determining how uniform your sprinkler system heads are putting out water, and the output levels, other factors to consider when facing browning grass in the midst of an especially hot, dry summer include, but are not limited to:
Areas of your lawn in full sun versus shade tend to need more watering
Areas exposed to extra heat coming from nearby sidewalks, concrete, stonework, or perhaps even a white or light-colored fence that is reflecting sunlight / radiant heat onto your grass can make a bigger difference that you’d think, so if you’re seeing browning in these areas, you’ll need to adjust for more water.
Hilltops tend to dry out faster than lower areas, so they will need more water.
When comparing Red Hen’s 2 types of sod, Kentucky bluegrass may take 2-3 weeks to recoup and start turning green again. On the other hand, tall fescue will tend to bounce back quicker from a droughty period.
If any questions come to mind after reading this article and the links we’ve included, let us know!
To chat by phone with one of Red Hen Turf Farm’s knowledgeable customer service team members, the number to call is 574-232-6811. (Our Business Hours are HERE)
On 6/15/20, a few updates were made to this Blog originally published on 8/2/18.
The last few months we’ve been hearing, “This sure is a strange season.” It certainly was an unusual start to the 2018 year. We had floods in February, snowstorms in March and in April we never thought we’d see the trees turn green. But are we really having especially strange weather, or are we just hoping for normal weather to let mother nature do all the work for us?
Let’s look at the weather facts from this year, gathered from our main weather source: NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). In February 2018, we hit a record-breaking 8 inches of precipitation. Rain, coupled with a huge snow storm, melted snowpacks and led to extreme flooding, causing cresting of local rivers. I think we all remember this event and some are still feeling the effects. Click: here for an article about this historic flooding.
This picture was taken on February 27, 2018, showing one of Red Hen Turf Farm’s many flooded fields.
In March, everyone was trying to recoup from the February floods. We received snow showers for the first half of the month. It was a pretty cold month with temps averaging around 34 degrees. Typically, around this time, we are all looking forward to spring and the green up of trees and grass. But nature didn’t green up like it did the prior year and it remained pretty cold. In fact, it seemed like “greening up” took 3-4 weeks longer compared to last year. The strange weather had its effect on us at the sod farm as well. Flooding and extremely cold temperatures prevented us from harvesting sod until April. Whereas last year, we were harvesting sod on February 14 (an especially early time compared to most years), in 2018 we did not harvest our first order of sod until April 9th – WHAT A DIFFERENCE!
April 9, 2018, Red Hen Turf Farm’s first sod harvest of the season. Snow and all!
As summer began to set in, throughout July our customers started feeling the effects of extreme heat and drought. Lawns started turning brown and sprinklers were constantly running.
One of the frequently asked questions we received during this hot, try time of the season was “why is my grass brown if I have my sprinklers on timers?” Sure, auto-timers may seem like a dream. Set it and forget it, right? Unfortunately, this is a common misconception, especially when the temperatures are above normal and/or if we haven’t had significant rain in weeks. Sprinklers are a good supplement for water, but can never do as good of a job as Mother Nature when it rains.
In order to understand why your grass may be turning brown, you need to first consider how much water is needed to sustain a healthy, green appearance.
According to a fantastic, easy to read publication from Purdue, Irrigation Practices for Homelawns, most ESTABLISHED Indiana lawns need 1 to 1-1/2 inches of irrigation per week. But what if you are in the midst of a drought? You can do 1 of 2 things for established lawns.
CHOICE 1: Allow your established lawn to go dormant. Irrigate 1/2 inch every 2 weeks just to maintain hydration to the plant crowns. This amount of water will not green up the lawn, but it will increase survival chances during long drought periods. However, newly installed sod will require daily irrigation 1-2 times per day for at least a week. After a few mows, deep and infrequent watering should be practiced.
LEFT: Turf has been irrigated during a drought. RIGHT: Turf turning dormant.
CHOICE 2: If you decide against dormancy, keep your established lawn green by watering it DEEPLY 2-3 times per week. Soak it deeply, morning hours are best to water, but if your only chance to water is at a different time, go for it but keep a few things in mind that we’ll talk about next…
IN GENERAL, WHEN IT COMES TO IRRIGATION SYSTEMS, avoid the set-it and forget-it approach. Rather, adjust your irrigation timers according to your turf’s needs, not yours. Some things to consider when you’re evaluating your turf’s needs are:
Paying close attention to the weather will help you figure out if you need to water more or less.
Finding out how much water your lawn needs depends on a few factors such as species of turf, if it’s in the shade, if it’s at the bottom of a slope, and whether your grass is newly established.
Grass in the shade and at the bottom of a slope tends to need LESS water overall.
Keep in mind that NEW SOD and GRASS GROWN FROM SEED tends to need more weather overall FOR THE FIRST YEAR OR SO while it’s becoming fully established – but again, if it’s in the shade or at the bottom of a slope, adjust accordingly.
Yes, you read that right … Sodded and Seeded Lawns should be considered newly established / establishing for about a year or so. Some of the calls we had this summer were about sod that was laid last fall, where the amount of irrigation was not adjusted accordingly, and they were effectively under-watering which led to yellowing or browning of the grass that was still establishing, as compared to the established parts of their yards.
You also may want to pay attention to the length of the lawn surrounding your sprinkler heads.
If the grass is too long, the water spray will be deflected and not get to where it needs to go. Keep grass trimmed around sprinkler heads.
If you are unsure how much water your irrigation system is putting out or if it’s putting out the same amount all over, simply put empty tuna cans or rain gauges in grid like zones. If they are not holding the same amount of water for each zone, adjustments may be needed. You will also have to adjust timers on hills, slopes and shaded areas as they all require different amounts of irrigation. Set timers on hills and slopes just enough time until the water begins to run off, then stopping until it is absorbed, repeating until the desired amount is applied is recommended. Hilltops dry out faster than lower areas so they should be irrigated differently. Shaded areas also need less water.
Click here to read more on a blog we recently published on proper watering techniques.
Let’s recap and build on a few main points…
The best time to water is 4am-8am.
The next best time is 8am-noon.
Watering every day, in light/shallow waterings should be avoided and can produce unwanted crabgrass, diseases and other weeds that thrive in that environment.
Deep, infrequent watering is the best for established lawns.
Newly established lawns and lawns that are establishing over about a year or so tend to need more water overall – but again, slopes and shade can make a difference.
Oh, and Fertilizing and mowing should also be avoided during extremely hot and dry periods.
When the Temperatures are HIGH, RED HEN TURF FARM RECOMMENDS that you hold off on fertilizing and mowing, and plan on doing some extra watering if you want to keep your lawn from going dormant, especially with Recently Laid Sod
So whether you have underground irrigation on timers or a good old fashion sprinkler and hose, some adjustments and work still have to go into keeping your lawn green during droughts.
Questions? Give us a call at 574-232-6811
A FEW UPDATES to this BLOG MADE on 6/15/20 – A HOT DRY JUNE!
Even with types of grasses like our Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod that are technically more “drought tolerant” as compared some other turfgrasses, it’s becoming quite the “HOT TOPIC” here at Red Hen.
For more on this topic, Check out Purdue’s article, “Home lawn during drought: To water … or not?” HERE, and Purdue’s article, “THE HEAT IS ON!” HERE is another good one to read.
You might also check out Red Hen’s BLOG, “Where did the rain go? And what do I do about my thirsty lawn?” HERE. Purdue’s guide on “Irrigation Practices for Homeowners” is another great resource, HERE.
UPDATE on 8/28/20 – After a hot, dry summer pretty much for months, we have written a companion article, “Doing a Simple “Tuna Can” Sprinkler Audit … IS THE WAY TO GO!” that explains why setting it and forgetting it is not a good idea when it comes to irrigation / sprinkler systems – especially if you’re dealing with brown grass and not sure why. Check it out HERE.
True or False: Sod requires more fertilizer and herbicides.
Compared to seed, sod is professionally grown, healthy and mature. Properly grown sod has minimal (if any) weeds and pests therefore, there is no need to apply herbicides. All you need to do is feed it a few times a year with a standard fertilizer to keep it green, thick and healthy. As long as it’s thick and healthy, chances of getting weeds or pests are slim. Seeding will need multiple treatments of herbicides and starter fertilizers throughout it’s establishment. Not to mention young seedlings are more susceptible to disease causing bacteria and fungus than mature turf grass.
True or False: Sodding is more expensive than seeding.
Trick question – you decide!
Initially you may think sodding is more expensive than seeding. However, add all the herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, watering’s, wash outs, dirty pets and kids tracking in mud, and the time and labor it takes to carefully crop your seedlings into mature turf grass for 18 months, you may think twice. You must decide the trade off and if 18 months of your time and labor is worth it. In the end, do you have a quality product even close to what is grown on a turf farm? In the long run, we feel sodding and seeding costs are fairly equal. There is also soil quality to think about. Seeding on less than desirable soils leave you with questionable results. You may have to add top soil into your current soil to get better nutrients to grow grass from seed, which adds to your expenses. Sod can survive and thrive on all types of soils.
If you aren’t that picky about the quality of your lawn, like to watch plants grow, or have the time to nurture and learn about growing turf from seed, then seeding may be for you. If you want instant gratification, no washouts, no weeds or fungus, clean floors and the desire to have a great quality lawn (100% Kentucky Bluegrass or Rhizomatous Tall Fescue (aka RTF) sod) then choose to sod your lawn.
Let’s not forget one important factor in seeding. There is a small window of time to plant grass seed whereas sodding can be done anytime (as long as we are harvesting). Click here to find out when the best time to seed is: Establishing Turfgrass Areas from Seed: Purdue
Some customers are quite successful at seeding. Here’s an example of before and after photos from a customer who over-seeded his lawn using a slit seeder.
We hear it a lot from those who have seeded and failed, “I wish I would have sodded my lawn.” Seeding is not for everyone. Never fear, we are always here to help with questions whether you decide to seed or sod your lawn. Measure up your area, call us and we’ll give you pricing on both sod and seed, fertilizers, herbicides and more. We don’t do installations, but can recommend a good landscaper in your area if you aren’t interested in D-I-Y projects.
Red Hen does not make a special trip to return to your site to pick pallets up, so the question often arises about how to deal with our custom-made pallets after your sod delivery. Here are a few suggestions for our Retail Customers:
You might try your hand at “up-cycling” them or reusing them in some home-improvement / garden projects. Pinterest has so many fun, creative ideas you can check out at THIS LINK.
If you are in the South Bend area, you can contact Michiana Pallet Recycle to make an appointment to drop them by. It is our understanding that Michiana Pallet Recycle may also consider picking up pallets for businesses or in large quantities. Their phone number is 574-232-8566, and they are located at 55022 Pear Rd, South Bend, IN 46628 (GOOGLE MAP LINK).
If you’re not in the South Bend area, try searching Google for “Pallet recycling near me” and calling around. Even if the first few calls you make don’t pan out, it’s worth asking them if they can refer you to somewhere you can recycle them.
If your Red Hen pallets are in good, re-usable condition, you can call us at 574-232-6811 and arrange for possibly bringing them to our farm and we will re-purpose them. Only return our pallets, which are custom-made. We cannot accept returns on any other pallets.
If you are planning to have more sod delivered, and your Red Hen pallets are in good, re-usable condition, here’s another possible option. When you place your next order, be sure to let us know you’d like us to pick them up, and we can usually make arrangements to do so when we deliver your next order of sod. If you are considering this option, please keep the following in mind:
Please do not send pallets with any loose boards.
Please have the pallets neatly stacked. The picture below is a great example of how we’d like them stacked.
Only return our pallets, which are custom-made. Other pallets cannot be picked up.
Did you miss the optimum time for seeding this fall? If you are wondering when that was, typically in our region (Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan) the number 1 very best time to plant grass seed is between August 15 and September 15.
Today, as we write this article, it’s October 23rd and we are still getting daily customer questions about seeding at this time of year and it’s really too late and would be a waste of time and money. Mother Nature is not going to let your seed grow enough to make it through a frost and our soon-to-come harsh cold temperatures.
Any grass seed planting after September in our region can be risky due to freezing ground temperatures. Once the seed germinates in anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks (more on germination can be read HERE), it will need a couple more weeks to mature enough to withstand the freezing and often unpredictable Indiana temperatures so planting too late may not be successful.
TOO LATE AND NOT FEELING GREAT ABOUT WAITING UNTIL SPRING? THERE’S A SOLUTION!
Why not step out of your comfort zone and opt for what is often referred to as a “dormant seeding“? Using the method of “dormant seeding” also happens to typically be the 2nd best option timing-wise to plant grass seed in our region.
“Dormant seeding” simply refers to the fact that if you put the seed down once the ground is frozen for the season, the seed will lie dormant or inactive until soil temperatures are warm enough to germinate in the EARLY spring and give you a head-start compared to doing the seeding in the spring.
You can use any seed you want to use for this method of seeding. Unsure what seed to choose? Pick a high-quality seed for best results. Here are a few options we sell in our store:
100% Kentucky Bluegrass Seed …
This sod-quality seed will match our most current variety of Kentucky Bluegrass sod in production. This seed takes 21 days to germinate and will be very slow to fill in. This seed will require some extra attention to establish, but it exhibits the same deep green color and disease resistance that Red Hen’s sod does. AVAILABLE PRICED BY THE POUND. Rates: NEW SEEDING: 4 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft /// OVER-SEEDING: 2 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft
Rhizomatous Tall Fescue (RTF) Seed …
This seed will match our No Net Rhizomatous Tall Fescue sod in production. This seed takes 7-14 days to germinate. AVAILABLE PRICED BY THE POUND. Rates: NEW SEEDING: 6-8 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft; over seed 3-4 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft.
Greenskeeper Custom Mix Seed …
OUR MOST POPULAR SEED! Works well in full sun and light amounts of shade. This variety contains 3 types of grass seeds and each type will germinate at a different time. AVAILABLE PRICED BY THE POUND. Rates: NEW SEEDING: 4-6 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft /// OVER-SEEDING: 2-3 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft.
Greenskeeper Premium Shade Mix Seed …
While no grass loves shade, this blend has varieties that exhibit better growth habits in partially shaded areas. AVAILABLE PRICED BY THE POUND. Rates: NEW SEEDING: 4-6 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft /// OVER-SEEDING: 2-3 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft.
Greenskeeper Super Shady Seed …
NEWER PRODUCT we started carrying in 2018! If you have less than 2 hours of direct sunlight and have tried to other shady mixes with little luck, this may be the grass seed for you! This mix contains includes 5% Poa Supina bluegrass seed – some of the highest tech shad grass seed on the market. AVAILABLE PRICED BY THE POUND. Rate: NEW SEEDING: 4-6 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft /// OVER-SEEDING: 2-3 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft.
For good timing on a dormant seeding, we typically suggest waiting until December and getting it done prior to March, but it all depends on ground and air temps.
You will need to make sure your site is prepared for seeding prior to snow fall, as you would a typical spring or fall seeding.
Starter fertilizer is not needed, since the grass is not actively growing, but be sure to get some fertilizer (without crabgrass or broadleaf herbicides!!!) down after the ground thaws to help give the new seedlings a good spring boost.
Simply broadcast the seed at the rates recommended, sit back
(enjoy a hot chocolate) and wait for spring.
Sound strange? How does it work? When the ground freezes and thaws during the winter months, the earth heaves and cracks, eventually making room for seed to fall into the soil where it will wait in a DORMANT STATE for warmer weather to germinate in the spring.
Some challenges to consider with dormant seeding (overall, less challenges than spring though!):
Birds love seed and since food is scarce in the winter you may get some visitors. You might try seeding in the later winter months (February or early March) for better results.
If we get an early sprig warm-up followed by winter settling back in again, there is potential for snow or freezing AFTER the seed has started to germinate.
You won’t be able to use certain herbicides — such as pre-emergent crabgrass herbicides — until after the new grass’s roots system has grown enough to have been mowed at least 2-3 times.
Unsure about trying a dormant seeding? Try sodding instead.
We harvest sod well into November and sometimes as late as December. The cooler months give off just the right amount of hydration so little water is needed during this time. As long as the site is prepared, you can lay it on frozen ground, the sod will go dormant, and it will “wake up” and finish rooting in the spring. (Surprising, huh?)