Red Hen’s 2 Choices for an INSTANT LAWN: Kentucky Bluegrass Sod vs. Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod

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Red Hen’s Kentucky Bluegrass

Did you know that Red Hen Turf Farm produces and sells 2 kinds of sod? 

In 2018, we carry both our flagship 100% Kentucky Bluegrass Sod, and more recently our Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod (also referred to as “RTF Sod” or simply “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.

Let’s start by focusing on KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS SOD …

Kentucky Bluegrass is by far (in our opinion) the more beautiful of the two turf grasses.  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 their sod is still brown when their neighbors’ lawns are already greening up.  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.

IN SUMMARY:  Kentucky Bluegrass Sod Maintenance Level Medium to High Follow watering instructions, mow “right”, and fertilize regularly for best results. To keep pests and diseases at a minimum, promote a thick, dense turf by regularly fertilizing.


Now, let’s switch over to focusing on TALL FESCUE SOD …

At this point, Red Hen’s Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod is grown in limited quantities, and for this reason, we require a minimum of 2,000 sq. ft. order and a 2-3 day lead time for pickup or delivery.

Red Hen’s Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod is slightly lighter in green color compared to Kentucky bluegrass.  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 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.  This helps with installation and makes for quick establishment.  Re-seeding is still necessary in damaged areas, as the turf can tend to be “clumpy” versus the tightly knit Kentucky bluegrass.

Red Hen’s Tall Fescue (in the fall season)

Since less water is needed for Tall Fescue, it is a common choice for those who do not have access to irrigation and desire a lower maintenance lawn.

IN SUMMARY:  Rhizomautous 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.

* * * * * * * * * *

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

Did you enjoy this article?  You can SIGN UP FOR RED HEN’s EMAIL NEWSLETTERS HERE  to have these types of articles sent directly to your Email Inbox

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True or False – Sodding vs. Seeding

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Having a hard time deciding whether to sod or seed? Here are some tips to help you decide.

True or False: It takes more water to establish sod.

False.

Typically, in the hotter months, a large amount of water is needed to install sod, but once sod has established a root system, less water is needed. Rooting for new sod takes about 2-3 weeks. New seeding requires multiple daily applications of water to maintain adequate moisture to prevent the seed from drying out. Germination can take 3 days to 3 weeks depending on the type of grass and the quality of the seed, but more water is needed during this establishment time frame. It takes 12-18 months to fully establish a lawn from seed so more watering is needed overall for seeding.

New seeding requires 12-18 months of intensive nurturing to establish into a lawn.

True or False: Sod requires more fertilizer and herbicides.

False.

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.

Grass seedlings.

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.

Red Hen’s Kentucky Bluegrass field.

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.

Photo Cred: David Losh
Photo Cred: David Losh
Photo Cred: David Losh

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.

Until next time,

– Michelle & The Red Hen Crew!

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My Sod is Installed, Now What Do I Do With My Pallets?

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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:

  1. 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.
  2.  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). 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Here is a great example of well-stacked Red Hen Turf Farm Pallets!
Here is a great example of well-stacked Red Hen Turf Farm Pallets!
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Installing Sod In Late Fall Months (Oct-Nov)

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– NOVEMBER 2019 – 

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.

FAQ:

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!

Read our other blogs here:  Red Hen Blogs

Or you can always call us 574-232-6811 (M-F) 7:30am-4pm ESTFacebookpinterestlinkedinmail

Too late for a Fall Grass Seeding? Tips for a Winter (Dormant) Seeding – It’s a great option that few know about!

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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?) 

Read more on seeding here: Late July / Early August UPDATE – The Window of Time for Fall Grass Seed Planting Will Be Here and Gone Before You Know It!

FROM THE RED HEN FAQ VAULT: Soils for Lawn – Considerations for Seeding and Sodding

Red Hen’s Grass Seeding Quiz

Until next time, Michelle & The Red Hen Crew!

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Thatch Problem? or Not a Thatch Problem? … IS THAT THE QUESTION???

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by Lisa Courtney, Customer Support, Red Hen Turf Farm

At certain points throughout the year, we start getting calls asking, “Do I need to be thatching my yard? It looks like I’ve got a LOT of thatch.”

So, what is thatch?

First of all, healthy grass can have a small amount thatch. Some is good, more is not. Most lawns do have thatch, and in small amounts it’s kind of like the padding under a carpet, providing a resilient, springy surface to walk on. It is thick EXCESSIVE THATCH that gives this normal aspect of lawns a bad name.

Thatch is a layer under the growing grass you see, comprised of an intermingled layer of lawn clippings and other living and dead plant stems, leaves, and root matter that gather at the base of the grass, between the soil and green vegetation.

Thatch does not necessarily mean you will have issues – it’s more about HOW MUCH thatch is present. You only have a “thatch problem” if the thatch layer gets so thick so that water and air have trouble getting to grass roots.

EXCESSIVE THATCH comes about from practices that make the grass grow faster that soil organisms can break it down, or that reduce beneficial soil organisms such as earthworms, insects, and microscopic species. The practices that cause the type of overly-rapid growth that can lead to EXCESSIVE THATCH include over-fertilizing, over-watering, and/or causing soil compaction.

EXCESSIVE THATCH may:

  • Prevent water, air, and nutrients from reaching the soil and grass plant’s root zone,
  • Reduce tolerance to drought and temperature extremes
  • Provide a protective environment for insect pests like webworm larvae, chinch bugs, and billbugs
  • Provide an environment that encourages fungus disease
  • Prevent some insecticides and herbicides from penetrating the soil, which makes them ineffective
  • Obstruct overseeding

A thin ¼-½ inch layer of thatch actually can provide benefits like surface cushioning, greater tolerance to wear and tear, and better temperature moderation.

EXCESSIVE THATCH of 1 inch or more can, however, cause a host of lawn problems. Grass varieties that tend to produce thatch more slowly are fescues and perennial ryegrass, whereas grasses like zoysia, Bermuda, and bluegrass tend to produce more thatch.


The GOOD NEWS is that in most cases, people really don’t have an EXCESSIVE THATCH PROBLEM at all. How can you tell?

  • If you mow frequently enough so as not to remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at a single mowing where you’re cutting less than 1 inch of the leaf blade, the clipping will disperse and and decompose with sunlight and moisture quite quickly …. LONG BEFORE they can accumulate and become “excessive thatch”
  • If, on the other hand, you are not mowing regularly and end up cutting more than about 1 inch of the blade, it takes longer for these clippings to decompose and they can suffocate your lawn.
  • Get a little hands on! Whenever you mow, take a minute to scout things out, like a Farmer does for their crops. Use your finger to dig down around the base of your grass plants. If all you find is bare dirt, then you do not have an excessive thatch problem. Check again a couple of days after you mow. The clippings you leave should be barely noticeable.
  • If you wanted to measure the thickness of thatch (and again, healthy grass has thatch!), poke around the grass until you find the brown layer near the bottom of the grass blade. With your finger or a stick, poke a hole through the brown layer to the top of the soil, and measure the thickness of the thatch. If your thach layer is less than 1/2? thick, it’s not a problem, and you can leave the grass alone.

If you’re still a little skeptical about leaving your clippings on your lawn after mowing, Regional Turfgrass Experts at Purdue University explain:

Clipping removal is generally not recommended on most turfgrass areas. Clippings do not contribute to thatch because they are primarily water and break down quickly. Furthermore, returning clippings will recycle valuable nutrients to the soil thereby reducing fertilizer requirements. Clippings are not harmful if your mower spreads them evenly and if they are not thick enough to shade the grass below. Mulching mowers are recommended, but research suggests that mulching mowers increase clipping breakdown only slightly faster than conventional side-discharge mowers when used on cool-season turfgrasses. Catching clippings is labor and time intensive and should only be done if the clippings are used for mulch or compost.

~ via Purdue University Turf Science Department of Agronomy Publication Ay-8-W, “Mowing, Dethatching, Aerifying Mowing, Dethatching, Aerifying and Rolling Turf and Rolling Turf”

Purdue’s experts also offer this advice:

Yard waste materials such as grass clippings, leaves, and yard trimmings make up approximately 10% (by volume) of the municipal waste stream, according to Indiana’s Department of Environmental Management. Yard waste can account for 50% or more of residential solid waste during the active growing season. Although this waste is biodegradable, landfills do not get the oxygen and water needed for breakdown. Landfills are constructed to prevent movement of air and moisture in order to protect the surrounding environment. These materials can be better put to use enhancing our gardens and landscapes.

***

Leaving grass clippings on the lawn rather than bagging for disposal is an excellent way to dramatically reduce yard waste. The amount of grass clippings generated from a given lawn varies, depending on the grass species, weather, fertilization program, and yard size. One estimate indicates that 5,000 square feet of lawn generates about 1 ton of clippings per year! Grass clippings left on the lawn are not harmful to the turf if it is mowed at the proper height and frequency. In fact, the clippings will return some nutrients back to the soil, reducing fertilizer requirements. Contrary to popular belief, grass clippings do not contribute to thatch buildup because they break down quite rapidly. Thatch is composed of dead, decomposing roots, and underground stems.

~ via Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, West Lafayette, IN, Publication ID-182-W, “Managing Yard Wastes: Clippings and Compost”

So, the RIGHT QUESTION to ask is, “Do I have an EXCESSIVE THATCH problem?” and the answer is often No, but proper assessment is the only way to tell for sure.

You can LEARN MORE, including how to DETHATCH if you need to, by clicking on the links blow


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More Adventures in Installing Sod – Part 2

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By Michelle Sadowski, Customer Service Specialist, Red Hen Turf Farm

In Part 1 of this story, I shared my experiences as I planned for, prepared for, and installed my new Tall Fescue sod, and then worked to keep it watered enough for the very hot and dry July we had in 2018.

If you missed Part 1, which we shared this past May 2019, HERE’S THE LINK.  Now, in late August 2019, as things are slowing down a bit this week, I wanted to take advantage of a little extra time and share Part 2.

It was getting closer and closer to my big party last year in August 2018, when I decided it was a good time to boost with another round of starter fertilizer to really bring out the best my Tall Fescue sod had to offer my guests.

So on a nice cool afternoon, after a few glasses of wine, I started my fertilization.  Right away I knew something wasn’t right … too much fertilizer was coming out of my spreader! I accidentally dumped the starter fertilizer all over the place – and before I could catch it it was too late.

My first instinct was to get the shop vac. But instead I tried watering it down.  I should have chosen the shop vac because watering only made it worse.

I sat back and did the only thing I could do at the moment. I had another glass of wine. How could I have dumped all that fertilizer out? What was going to happen?  Actually, since I work at Red Hen, I knew what was going to happen.

And it happened in a matter of days, just like that. I burned my lawn only a couple weeks before the big party.

Fertilizing and wine do not mix! Be careful to check your spreader for the right setting, too!

The party came and went and no one even really cared about the chemical burn on my newly installed lawn.  It was already starting to repair itself. I was so impressed and amazed at its repairing ability.  Still, I didn’t have high expectations after the chemical burn, and figured I’d seed the bare spots at the end of August (the ideal time to seed in the midwest is typically August 15 – September 15).  But as September rolled around, my turf had nearly repaired itself completely without any assistance.  There were several small spots I had to remove dead grass and re-seed but I was very happy to see the sod had repaired itself so well.

Critters.

By mid to late August, the turf looked great.  In September, just as it was repairing from the chemical burn, I was inspecting my new turf like I did often when walking on it.  Suddenly, the ground beneath my feet sunk through the turf into runs of tunnels left by critters.   After some investigating and attempts to trap what we thought were moles, we found the culprits to be ground squirrels or chipmunks – there is a difference but we couldn’t figure out which ones were creating the damage.  We had at least a dozen or more all over the yard … under the decks, in the mulch, in the garage, everywhere.

Of course, I did some internet searching that included the word “Purdue” since – because I work at Red Hen – I know that Purdue University Extension provides a huge amount of FREE, REGIONAL and SCIENCE-BASED information on all sorts of topics including lawn care and wildlife management, and Googling the terms Purdue Chipmunk Squirrel led me to THIS GUIDE and THIS GUIDE to find out how to get rid of these rascals.

After doing some reading, the very first thing we did was take away their food source.  Eventually with some other trapping methods, we were able to eliminate most of the critters. We also LIGHTLY rolled the turf daily until we felt the problem was eliminated.

By the end of September 2018, the Tall Fescue Sod was improving, but the damages were evident.  I was hoping for another round of amazing self-repair.

Our turf at the end of September repairing itself after underground critters wreaked havoc.

By the end of October 2018, my new sod had filled in again!  I couldn’t believe it.  It was so green.  Sure, there were a few bare spots, but after everything this turf had gone through, it bounced right back.

One thing I didn’t get a chance to do was to get a fall/winter fertilizer treatment down. In general, Tall Fescue sod needs less fertilizer than Kentucky Bluegrass sod to maintain it’s best condition, and especially since mine is in a shady area, it would need even less fertilizer. I was confident that a good spring fertilizer would do wonders, and as I write this in August of 2019, I can happily say that I was right.

Because we have critters, oaks and other problematic trees in this particular part of the yard, we’re always going to have some issues and cleanup to do.  But in the end, we’ve got a gorgeous backyard we can enjoy.

And as long as I continued to follow Jeremy’s advice, “Mow right, water right and fertilize right,” I think I’ve got this.

This was a great learning experience for me, and with the help from my co-workers I will continue to learn more and more.

It also makes it easier to tell our customers, I’ve been there, done that – and here’s what I did to correct it.

Sometimes you just have to wait to see what happens.

Grass is funny like that.

It takes time to grow.

October 30 – our tall fescue turf is looks amazing!

Hopefully you have learned a little bit from my experiences and maybe you can relate to (or laugh at) some of my failures.

Either way, don’t let it get to you.  It’s just grass.

Until next time,

~Michelle & The Red Hen Crew!Facebookpinterestlinkedinmail

Holy Mole-y!

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One of the problems a lot of homeowners face this time of year (approaching fall) is moles. The worst part about finding moles in your yard is the damage it does to your turf. I noticed a few soft spots in my front yard and upon further investigation, realized we had a mole issue. A few days later, after trying to locate the mole trap, the runs had gotten much worse. My yard was starting to look like a war zone. And mowing after you’ve experienced moles in your yard? I wouldn’t recommend it until you’ve rolled the areas first otherwise you will be mowing mounds of dirt.

After a few discussions with the husband about where to put the trap, he won the argument and by the next day he finally got his mole. He was quite proud of himself and made sure he sent me a picture of the set trap. It’s not a pretty scene, and the trap does kill the mole. It’s not something I want to see, so I leave the disposal to my husband. He decided to leave the little guy in the ground as a “warning” to his other friends. (Insert eye roll here).

A harpoon trap after a mole had triggered it. RIP Mole

By the time we finally trapped the mole, the damage was evident. Rolling and re-seeding were in my immediate future. And lucky me, I know just where to get my seed! But when is the best time to seed? It’s now. (typically between August 15 & September 15). Read more about seeding here: Late July/Early August Update-The Window of Time for Fall Grass Seed Planting Will Be Here and Gone Before You Know It!

Rolling turf after mole damage is necessary. Areas also may need to be re-seeded or sodded.

For now, we’ll have to keep an eye on the yard to see if any new holes pop up. We’re also moving around the trap just in case there are others still lurking underneath.

Using a harpoon trap is a common method of mole control. You can see the damage the moles runs have made in my yard.

When customers come in and ask advice about getting rid of moles the first thing they say is they need to buy grub herbicide. There was a time I believed that too. But I was wrong. I got the facts and read the real, science-based, regional facts from Purdue’s publication here: Moles

Moles’ diet consists mostly of earthworms, so if you believe they are after the grubs, you may think applying a grub herbicide seems like the logical thing to do, but it’s not. There are other things you can try before you go purchasing an expensive product that you may not even need.

Grubs are a whole other topic – read about them here: Red Hen Blog/Grubs!

As Purdue’s publication states, trapping is the most reliable method of mole control. All the other urban myths you may have heard such as pouring Listerine down the holes or using ultrasonic devices are all just a waste of money. Here is a great read from Timothy Gibb-Purdue’s entomologist: Moles, myths, and misconceptions.

Locating the main runways in which to set your trap is key. Purdue’s publication goes into detail about which runs are best. Patience and perseverance are important during the trapping process. The only other source of control that we suggest is Tom Cat poison worms that mimic earthworms, which is the moles’ main diet. I have not tried that because I have pets but both the trap and poison can be purchased at hardware stores or Amazon.

~Michelle Sadowski, Customer Service Specialist

Call us if you have questions about moles, grubs, seeding and more! 574-232-6811

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MID to LATE-SUMMER CRABGRASS CONTROL TIPS (from the Red Hen FAQ Vault – The 2019 Update)

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Crabgrass Photo by Michigan State University Extension

Crabgrass Photo by Michigan State University Extension

Getting right to crabgrass … it’s looking to be bad this year! From site visits and talking to quite a few landscapers and customers, with the sporadic weather / precipitation patterns this year, I believe that non-irrigated lawns are seeing the most dramatic turf-decline this year, and on a related note, the brunt of crabgrass germination. We have definitely seen a lot of customer photos this year of grass-type weeds in general.

The best way to control crabgrass is to maintain a dense, healthy turf. That way, your grass is more likely to out-compete crabgrass (and other weeds), preventing weeds from establishing. On the other hand, crabgrass tends to have rigorous survival and reproductive capabilities.

So, for lawns, it may be unrealistic to expect a crabgrass-free lawn (BUT YOU CAN TRY!)

It may be that, in the end, you will have to accept a few crabgrass plants.

Are you dealing with crabgrass at this point in the year?

Do you want to get this weed under control?

If so, we recommend following of these 2 Options to hopefully put you in a better position by next spring:

Option 1. Let the crabgrass go for now, and wait until fall and let Mother Nature kill it off. After mid-July, crabgrass plants are usually too large to control effectively. Crabgrass begins flowering and setting seed in July and will die out with the first major frost. It will take a while for these plants to decay, but at least you won’t see any in the spring. That is, unless you have allowed the crabgrass to go to seed this year, in which case you will be dealing with those seeds germinating next spring.

Option 2. As Purdue Extension points out, “Proper fertility, mowing, and irrigation is essential for crabgrass control; consider herbicidal control only if necessary.” If you are not able to tolerate the crabgrass in your lawn, we specifically recommend using a product that we carry called Q4 (CLICK HERE to read the label). Here at Red Hen Turf Farm, we really like a product called Q4 because it covers all 3 major types of undesirable weeds all in one bottle — grassy weeds, broadleaf weeds, and sedges. If there was only one herbicide product that I could use on my lawn, it would be Q4.

For better crabgrass and broadleaf weed control next year, you’d really need to do some strategizing over the next few months.

For example, by adding 25-0-10 fertilizer to your lawn two times from now until winter, this should make your lawn much less weedy going into the 2020 growing season.

WHY IS THIS? The thicker and stronger your grass is grass is, the better your grass can out-compete weeds. Regular fertilizing is one of the important steps towards making that happen.

Have you ever wondered why is it that we don’t see a lot of fertilizer commercials in the fall, like we do in the spring?

My guess is that the marketing teams for the big name brands do not use turf science, but are instead driven by the purchasing habits of homeowners (for better or worse).

Our job at Red Hen Turf Farm is always to strive to save our customers time, money, and/or both. So, let’s use some turf science and feed your lawn when it needs it the most.

If you told me that you only wanted to fertilize 1 or 2 times each year, you might expect I’d recommend doing it in the spring, but actually that’s not the case.

In fact, you would get the most bang for your buck by fertilizing in September and then again in November. Are you surprised? We wrote a blog about this very topic that you might want to check out by CLICKING HERE. We have also written quite a bit about crabgrass in the past, which you can read by CLICKING HERE.

And guess what? It’s all based on turf science, with Purdue Extension as a major source that we consult, and we always recommend that our customers do the same.Facebookpinterestlinkedinmail

Children’s Books with a RED HEN Theme – A List by Red Hen Turf Farm

FacebookpinterestlinkedinmailSo, today I was reminded about how we’re often asked if there are Hens or Chickens or any animals at all at Red Hen Turf Farm, and that’s a fair question!

Alas, there are no Red Hens running around our farm.

The Red Hen we’re named after is from the folk tale, The Little Red Hen.  You know … the one where none of the other farm animals want to help the Little Red Hen grow wheat from some grains she finds, then harvest it, thresh it, mill it into flour, and then bake the flour into a yummy bread.

The animals want someone else to do the hard work, but they want to enjoy the fruits of the Little Red Hen’s labors.  Red Hen ultimately tells the other animals they cannot eat the bread since they did not do any of the work, but MAYBE if they had enough money or goods to make it worth her time, it would have been another story.

It was back in the 1950’s when the original owners of our Farm, Ron and Victor Keigley and Harold Hetler, started growing turfgrass sod for themselves, but then their neighbors saw the beautiful results and wanted some, too.

As a twist on the old folk tale, at Red Hen Turf Farm, we are GROWING FOR OTHERS who want a beautiful instant lawn when it takes nearly 2 years of hard work for us to grow grass from seed into a thick turf that can be harvested into rolls.

Do you remember the story of The Little Red Hen?  Did you have a favorite book version? There are LOTS!

I’m especially fond of the Golden Book version by Diane Muldrow and JP Miller (first published in 1954) since this is the one I first grew up with.

Paul Galdone’s The Little Red Hen (1973) is another classic version of this tale.

More recently, there’s Jerry Pinkney’s The Little Red Hen (2006), which has especially wonderful watercolor illustrations.

There are MANY more versions of The Little Red Hen tale, but let’s switch focus onto a few spin-offs off this story.

Barbara Barbieri McGrath and illustrator Martha Alexander’s The Little Green Witch (2006) retells the story when a little green witch cannot get her lazy monster friends to help her make a pumpkin pie.

In The Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens and illustrated by Susan Stevens Crummel (2011), there’s a mountain of homework and Little Red Pen tries to get her fellow school supplies to help her out.

In Candace Fleming’s and illustrator, Sally Anne Lambert’s Gator Gumbo: A Spicy Hot Tale (2004), Monsieur Gator is getting so old that he can only catch leaves, moss, and roots. He is teased by the other animals day after day, and finally decides to whip up a pot of gumbo.  None of the animals will help him so he does it all by himself.  Of course, when the gumbo’s done, the other animals want some, but instead Monsieur Gator teaches them a lesson.

In Armadilly Chili by Helen Ketterman and illustrated by Will Terry (2004), Miss Billie Armadilly wants to make some chili, but as we would expect in this Texas prairie spin-off of The Little Red Hen, all of her animal friends are too busy to help.  She decides to eat it by herself one cold night, but the smell brings her friends one by one to her door, bringing dishes of their own to share.

And finally, while I could keep going with this list for quite a long time, I’ll end with Help Yourself, Little Red Hen! (Another Point of View) by Alvin Granowsky and illustrated by Wendy Edelson (1995).   This version is told by the pig, and tells how the true backstory of this classic folktale is that Little Red Hen never does anything for herself and that the other animals do all of the work for her.  When Little Red Hen finds the grain of wheat that leads her to plant it and eventually bake it up into something yummy, the other animals decide it’s time for her to learn to help herself.

Happy Reading!

– Lisa, and the Crew at Red Hen Turf FarmFacebookpinterestlinkedinmail