Adventures in Installing Sod for the First Time – Part 1

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

In the summer of 2018, I took on a D-I-Y project to sod my back yard.  Now that several months have passed, I can share my funny moments, achievements, and failures with all of you. It’s easy to give advice when you read from a script or manual on a daily basis,  but when you actually experience the complete prepare, install and care of sod, you get a better understanding what customers are going through first hand.

If I may start out by giving a bit of advice … if you have a smaller project like mine (1,800 Sq. Ft.), it’s manageable for the D-I-Y’er. If you’re working on a larger job, consider hiring a landscaper.  Landscapers have the equipment and manpower to get the job done easier and more efficiently. If you need a few leads on hiring a landscaper, just call Red Hen Turf Farm – 574-232-6811

I have a slight advantage over the typical residential homeowner.  I’ve been working for Red Hen Turf Farm for 2 seasons now, and I have been equipped with the knowledge of preparing, installing and caring for the sod day in and day out.  And if I really want advice or an answer I cannot find in my trusted sources (Purdue & Michigan State), I can easily just ask Jeremy, our Turf Operations Manager.  Although I am still very much learning the ropes, he knows pretty much everything there is to know about the turf industry, as well as other off topics I don’t need to know (but he tells me anyway).

When I expressed an interest in sodding my back yard, I wanted to make sure I chose the right type of (two) turf varieties Red Hen grows, harvests and sells, which are Kentucky Bluegrass sod and Rhizomatous Tall Fescue sod (also referred to as “RTF Sod” or simply “Tall Fescue Sod”). You can read a more in-depth article about our two turf varieties HERE – Red Hen’s 2 Choices for an INSTANT LAWN: Kentucky Bluegrass Sod vs. Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod.

Jeremy helped me choose the type of sod best suited for my project by asking me a few simple questions. These are some of the same questions we ask our customers to make sure their sod projects are successful, and include things like:

  1. Do you have irrigation in the area you are sodding? This is important because although both types need enough water to get established, fescue is drought tolerant and will bounce back better after a drought than Kentucky Bluegrass.
  2. What type of soil do you have? Is it closer to beach sand or hard clay? Again, this is important for the capacity to hold nutrients properly.  Sandy & clay soils need to be watered and fertilized a little differently as well. For more on SOILS, check out FROM THE RED HEN FAQ VAULT: Soils for Lawn – Considerations for Seeding and Sodding
  3. How many hours of direct sunlight does the area you want to sod actually get? Our fescue sod is not a “shade grass” like some people think.  Both turf grasses need direct sunlight to thrive.
  4. How much time and money do you realistically want to spend on maintenance?  Kentucky Bluegrass is a higher maintenance turf than fescue.  Fescue will need less water and fertilizer once it’s established than Kentucky Bluegrass.
Red Hen Turf Farm grows, harvests and sells 100% Kentucky Bluegrass AND Rhizomatous Tall Fescue. Kentucky Bluegrass makes up most of our sales, but the Fescue is another option for homeowners with little or no irrigation and/or want less maintenance.

The “BEFORE PHOTO” … We had a lot of work ahead of us including removing a fire-pit and walkway.

CHOOSING THE BEST-SUITED TURF TYPE

I knew that my backyard was not going to be the best fit for the Kentucky Bluegrass sod. There’s no in-ground irrigation, it’s got some shade and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time or money maintaining it.    I didn’t mind having an “imperfect” lawn, especially with our pesky squirrels and moles.  So I chose Rhizomatous Tall Fescue for the project. It was end of June when I decided it was time for my project to begin since I was planning a huge birthday party in August and I was on a time crunch.

Keep in mind that our Tall Fescue sod is not a shade grass – no grass likes shade.  However, in theory our Tall Fescue sod MAY do better in shaded areas than our KYB sod.

Ultimately, if your grass is thinning out due to shade, there are things you can do to improve your growing chances such as trim trees and create more airflow. Here’s a great link for those wondering about growing grass in shaded areas:  Red Hen’s Grass In Shade

INSPECTING THE SITE

I first wanted to make sure the soil was going to be fertile enough for my turf but I knew it would be fine because there was already grass growing in the area I was planning on sodding. The initial reason I wanted to sod is because I had large dirt patches everywhere. Seeding could have been an option but I am impatient. I didn’t want to wait a year to pass a “sock test” and who doesn’t want an beautiful, instant lawn?

We found out later (after closer inspection) the reason grass didn’t grow in certain areas was due to compaction and rocks under the soil. Grass doesn’t grow well on rocks or in compacted soils.  To learn how to correct compaction issues, Purdue has a great link here:  Mowing, Dethatching, Aerifying and Rolling Turf.

Rocks made grass impossible to grow next to our old driveway. It was a tough and long job to remove them to make way for turf.

My soil was on the sandy side, so I considered mixing topsoil in.  However, from what I have learned while working at Red Hen, I knew it was not necessary because I had success growing grass in that area before. Additionally, I knew our sod grew well in many types of soil as long as it was taken care of properly. I also learned that having sandy soil meant you may just have to water more frequently and in smaller amounts. Here’s a great Purdue article on sandy soils: Maintaining Lawns on Sandy Soil

When homeowners tell us they have new construction, we often suggest to mix topsoil in – just because (typically) with new construction the top layer of soil  (where a lot of the nutrients are) is often stripped out to make way for concrete, garages, homes and roads.  If you are unsure, always get a soil test before you seed or sod.
MEASURING

We recommend using a measuring wheel or other measuring tool designed for this purpose.  We have found that house plans/prints are not reliable enough when deciding how much sod to order.

Make sure you measure more than once and allow for any trimming.

Red Hen makes it easy to measure – just go here:  Measuring Tips  I measured a few times with a measuring wheel and after I got the same number twice, found 1,800 sq. ft. was the magic number.

You can also try using a website called Lawncrack to help you figure out the size of the area.  You simply type in your address into the Lawncrack Area Calculator, and an aerial view of your property pops up for you to draw the area you want to sod, while it calculates your square footage.  there are lots of trees on your property, it might not provide you a good enough aerial view.

You can use a measuring wheel like this for small projects, or a larger wheel for larger projects.

PREPPING THE SITE

We were finally ready to break ground.  I would suggest reading our instructions on Preparing, Patching and Installing sod.  It was end of June and it was very hot (90’s)  Jeremy did warn me about heat stresses on sod during these temps but I pushed forward with the project anyway.  I was able to hire a friend to scalp the remaining sod off the site. Using a sod cutter, it didn’t take any time for him to remove the upper layer of the lawn to get it down to bare dirt.  We removed the fire-pit and stone walkway, then we were ready for the tilling. Some landscapers suggest to use grass killer herbicide and till it up afterwards.  If you decide to go this route, ensure you pick a herbicide that allows you to replant grass or seed within the time frame you want to seed or sod.  (always read the label/instructions).  I had pets so I didn’t want to risk any harmful chemicals around them.

Renting a sod cutter is one way you can prepare your site for new sod.

Once the old grass was removed it was time for tilling and grading.  My husband rented a tiller and tilled the soil deep to about 4-6 inches.  We then took metal rakes and leveled the area into a smooth surface.

The final grade.

DELIVERY & INSTALLING

I made sure I planned ahead to order my sod, ensuring at least 4-5 days for scheduling.  It was July 5th.  My sod and enough starter fertilizer (12-12-12) to cover my area was set to arrive after lunch.

With a bit of planning and communication to the Red Hen Team about where the delivery semi would be parking and placing the pallets of sod, (HERE’s an article we recently wrote on that topic), our awesome Red Hen driver Bob, arrived promptly and set the pallets exactly where we needed them.

We were ready to start installing.

I fertilized the graded ground with starter fertilizer (12-12-12) at 8 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft so I used just about 15 pounds total for my 1,800 sq. ft. area.

An easy way to calculate how much fertilizer you need:  Take your total square footage divide it by 1,000 (sq.ft) then multiply it by the rate of the fertilizer.  IE: 1,800 sq. ft divided by 1,000 = 1.8 multiplied by the rate of the starter fert of 8 lbs per thousand sq. ft  equals 14.4 lbs needed for the entire area.

Not sure if your spreader is set to the right setting?  Click HERE for Red Hen’s Guide, Fer tilizing Tips & How to Calibrate that Darn Spreader.    I always tell our customers if you are unsure on the amount of fertilizer to use, go lighter to start.  Don’t go too heavy … you will see why in Part 2 of my story … 

And the work begins…

With help from a wheelbarrow, we hauled our sod to the opposite side of the yard to start our first long straight line of sod.  I made sure as the sod was put down, it was constantly soaked with water using my hose and sprinklers.

Since neither of us had installed sod before, it took us about 2 hours to install each of our three 600 Sq. Ft. pallets, whereas the average professional landscaper could probably do it in half of the time.    My husband hauled the sod and set each piece down, while I firmed up the seams and made sure each piece was deeply soaked with water, just like it says in Red Hen’s Early and Long-Term Care Guide.

We laid the sod making sure each seam was tight with the next until we had a completely installed lawn.   I was extra proud of the fact that I ended up being spot on with the measurements!  It took us about 7 hours total for the entire installation.  This included a few much needed water breaks. We were racing against a thunderstorm that was heading our way and we just made it in time for mother nature to help us with some watering.

Our project was coming along nicely!

WATERING, WATERING, WATERING

We kept the freshly installed sod deeply soaked for the first 5 days, then continued to monitor it everyday for any additional waterings.  As you might remember, July 2018 was extremely hot and dry, and during basically doughty weather, you will need to water your freshly installed sod more often so it does not dry out.

I made sure I watered early in the morning – between 4-6am because according to Purdue’s Irrigation Practices for Homelawns – “at this time water pressure
is usually the highest, there is little distortion of the watering pattern by wind, and the
amount of water lost to evaporation is negligible.”  On the other hand, if I was unable to water early in the day, I knew that watering at a less-ideal time was much better than skipping it altogether.

Although my new yard was Tall Fescue sod and, once fully established in a year or so, will be drought tolerant, all new sod (until it’s established) will need to be soaked with water for the first week to root properly, and even more so in the hotter temperatures like we were dealing with.  If you are unsure if your sod is getting enough water, lift up on a corner, see if the soil underneath is getting soaked through.  If it is not, water more. Here’s a great link on properly watering your lawn from Purdue: Irrigating Home Lawns

The finished project!

Throughout the hot month of July with no rain for several weeks,  it seemed no matter how much I watered, it just wasn’t enough. After all, my hose and sprinklers did not put out as much water compared to in-ground irrigation.  I was determined to keep my new sod green, but it had been a few weeks and the sod hadn’t even rooted in places. I started seeing a few brown spots so I took some pictures and showed Jeremy.  Just as I suspected, I still was not putting down enough water.  I had my watering cut out for me!

A few heat stressed areas were visible after a few weeks.

In the meantime,  at The Red Hen Office we were getting calls from customers who were having similar issues, even with irrigation systems on timers, we we knew it was the perfect time to write our blog, Irrigation, droughts – and strange weather … HOT, DRY SUMMER TURF TIPS from Red Hen Turf Farm.

It was difficult watching my sod turn brown during the hot weather. But just when I was losing hope, in early August cooler weather came around and Mother Nature graced us with some much needed rain, and guess what?  My fescue started repairing itself.  I was relieved and excited to see it come back to life.  I decided it was a good time to boost it with another round of starter fertilizer before my August party … and THAT’S WHERE MY NEXT ADVENTURE BEGINS in Part 2!

Look for Part 2 soon!  Until then,

~Michelle & The Red Hen Crew!

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Hauling and Trailering Sod Safely and Efficiently #PickingUpSod #Trailering

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While Red Hen will deliver 500 Sq. Ft. (1 standard pallet) or more of sod, if you have the means of picking sod up, it’s always worth getting quotes for both scenarios.

When you pick sod up at Red Hen Turf Farm during our loading hours, we will always prefer to load your sod on the pallet, by using one of our forklifts.

The most common problems that we encounter when loading various vehicles are:

  1. Customers do not bring and are not prepared to use the appropriate tie downs.
  2. No good access to load trailer with Red Hen’s Forklifts because the trailer has a drop down gate that can not be removed and/or ramps that the forklifts cannot safely drive on.
  3. Tires have not been checked for wear or air pressure.
  4. Trailer is not rated for the weight of even 1 pallet of sod.

If you ultimately decide to pick up sod, the Law puts the responsibility of providing proper transportation and equipment for SAFE and LEGAL hauling squarely on your shoulders.  This includes proper cargo tie-down equipment, properly equipped vehicles and the knowledge and skills to execute the practices safely.

Being mindful of this could literally save someone’s life!

If you want to become REALLY EDUCATED about hauling cargo and equipment, we suggest you look at Purdue University’s FREE 85-Page GUIDE, “Securing the Load: A Guide to Safe and Legal Transportation of Cargo and Equipment” at THIS LINK.

The very least you should know when picking up sod includes:

  1. You need a vehicle that can haul the load safely. A full pallet of sod (500 sq. ft.) can weigh 2000-3000 pounds depending on recent rains or irrigation. IN CASE YOU ARE INTERESTED IN RENTING A TRUCK and/or TRAILER TO PICK YOUR SOD UP, we’ve included a few helpful links at the end of this article.
  2. Make sure you have a vehicle that can pull the loaded trailer and also make sure the vehicle is designed to pull the loaded weights.
  3. If you bring a trailer, make sure it is designed to hold the weight you want to haul, and make sure the tires can handle the load.
  4. CHECK THE TIRE AIR PRESSURE of YOUR VEHICLE and THE TRAILER.
  5. With a Trailer, Safety chains should be properly rigged to tow vehicle, not to hitch or ball
  6. With a Trailer, the Coupler should be secured, tight, and locked.  Refer to the “Coupling To Tow Vehicle” section of your manual.
  7. Lights: Test Tail, Stop, and Turn Lights
  8. Bring something to tie down the sod on the pallets. Ratchet tie down straps work best.
  9. With a Trailer, Follow the safety checks after 10, 25, and 50 miles as described below.
After 10 Miles After 25 Miles After 50 Miles
Retighten lug nuts Retighten lug nuts Check that Coupler is Secured
Check tire pressure Check tire pressure Check that safety chains are fastened and not dragging
Check that Coupler is Secured Check that Coupler is Secured Check that Sod is Secured

We truly want you to get home with all of your sod safely, and the people following you will appreciate your diligence.

Also, it is required by law.

Last but not least, if you are curious about renting a truck and/or trailer, here are some handy links to check for availability in your local area:

LOWE’S rents Pick-Up Trucks – https://www.lowes.com/l/truck-rentals.html

HOME DEPOT also rents Pick-Up Trucks – https://www.homedepot.com/c/truck_rental

HOME DEPOT also rents Trailers – https://www.homedepot.com/c/moving_supplies_equipment_rental

U-HAUL rents Trucks and Trailers – https://www.uhaul.com/

MacALLISTER RENTALS operates throughout Indiana and Michigan and rents Trailers – https://www.macallisterrentals.com/rental/trailer-rental/

If you’re in the South Bend Area, BURNS RENTALS offers Trailer for rent – https://burnstoolrentals.com/equipment.asp?action=category&category=33

For the South Bend Area, MICHIANA RENTALl is another source to rent a Trailer – https://mtrental.com/tools/trailers/

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You’re thinking of having Red Hen Sod Delivered by One of Our Semi Trucks? TIPS on How to Make the Delivery Go More Smoothly for Everyone …

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So, let’s imagine that you’re thinking about ordering sod from Red Hen Turf Farm, and you’re considering opting for DELIVERY rather than picking it up.

Perhaps you’ve measured your area already, and maybe you’ve even called us to receive a FREE QUOTE and to talk about delivery versus pick-up.  Maybe when you called, you asked questions about prepping and installation, and general care of the sod, especially initially. There’s SO MUCH that we can cover when you call for a quote or information on ordering sod that we NEVER have the time to cover EVERY SINGLE THING.  

If you’re at this stage of planning your sod project and have not talked to the Red Hen Customer Service Team yet, give us a call at 574-232-6811

Sometimes, when we’re talking about scheduling a delivery or when we’re calling you to confirm the details on the day of your scheduled delivery, we may not always gather enough information to provide our TEAM of EXCELLENT FARM SEMI DRIVERS so that they know ahead of time if the delivery site is tricky to access with Flatbed Semi Truck in some way.

The first question to consider when envisioning your sod delivery is WHERE DO YOU THINK THE SEMI TRUCK WILL BE ABLE TO PARK?

Our flatbed semi trucks are about 9 foot wide by 70 foot long, and to offload your sod order, they first have to unload our 2-1/2 TON Piggy-Back-Style forklift, which is about 8 foot wide by 8 foot long. If Our Driver needs to park on the street, to stay safe, they’d need to have plenty of visual distance in all directions. Once the forklift is off the truck, they’ll take each 2-TON pallet of sod off of the truck and place it as close to your desired location as possible, which brings me to the next question to consider …

The next thing to consider is HOW TO LET RED HEN KNOW WHERE YOUR DELIVERY SITE IS LOCATED … ESPECIALLY for new developments and areas where Google Maps does not find your address correctly for some reason.

While you are onsite and considering where Red Hen’s delivery semi should park, let’s make both of our jobs easier by helping us find you using your Android or IPhone and the Google Maps app, which lets you share your location in real time.  The best part? It’s all quite simple to do once you know where to look.

  • First, go to the best spot you feel the semi will need to park.
  • Now, make sure your LOCATION or LOCATION SERVICES is turned on in your phone settings
  • Next, open the Google Maps app (which is simply named Maps on your phone screen) on your iOS or Android device. The Google Maps Icon looks like this:

  • Tap the blue dot, which represents your current location and select “Share location” from the menu. If it’s your first time using Google Maps like this, it’s normal if your phone asks you to authorize the app to access your contacts before continuing.
  • If you want to share your location for a specific amount of time, select the “1 hour” option, and you can use the blue plus and minus buttons to increase or decrease the time as you wish
  • If you want to share your location with a trusted source indefinitely — that is, until you manually turn it off — select the “Until you turn this off” option
  • On an Android, select the person with whom you want to share your location from the list of suggested contacts or select an app (like Gmail or Messages) to send a private link. You can also opt to copy the link to your system clipboard and then paste it wherever you like.
  • On an iPhone, tap “Select People” to choose a person from your contacts, select “Message” to send a private link to someone in your messaging app, or select “More” to send a private link via another communication service. Your phone may prompt you to give Maps ongoing access to your location before it moves forward.
  • To manually stop Maps from sharing your location, open the Google Maps app, and look for the “Sharing your location” bar at the bottom of the screen
  • Tap the “x” next to the line that says how and for how long your location is being shared

If you have an iPhone, there are more ways to share your location from the Messages app, Contacts, and both Apple Maps and Google Maps. You can read all about those options in a recent article by Business Insider called, “How to share your location on an iPhone in 4 different ways” at https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-share-location-on-iphone

Now, think about where you envision each 4ft-by-4 ft pallet of sod will be placed, and then have a back-up plan in case Red Hen’s driver feels they may do more harm than good driving approximately 4-and-a-Half-Tons across the worksite.  A hard surface like your driveway is typically the easiest to access.  They can spend some time placing pallets here and there, within reason.  A wheelbarrow will come in handy! 

 

When you initially order your sod or when you confirm the details on the same day your sod is to be delivered, if you let us know what you’re thinking and pay by credit card by phone or on our Homepage with the CLICK TO PAY NOW button, with mindful communication it’s not even necessary for you to be home when your sod is delivered.

Thanks for reading about the basics of the type of communication that is key to a smooth sod delivery.

Got more questions?  We’d love to hear from you at 574-232-6811!

– Jeremy, Michelle, Lisa, and the rest of the Red Hen Turf Farm Team

 

 

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When was the last time you checked you tires’ air pressure? #PickingUpSod #Trailering

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“When was the last time you checked your air pressure?”

Well, this is a question we ask a lot here at Red Hen. There is a tire gauge next to our cash register for a reason.

I always tell myself I am going to count how many tires I fill up every year and never do so. But I can tell you it’s a lot.

It all started about 8 years ago when I noticed a lot of trailers and sometimes trucks would have start to get loaded, but then would have to be unloaded so that they could drive back to the office to use our air pump.

Now the important thing to understand is how we operate as a team. If it needs to get done, we do it. But if we can be smart about it, why unload a trailer just because no one checked the air pressure?

I have sent our semis out with forklifts to save customers from what was becoming a bad day.

Be proactive.

Take the time to grab a tire gauge and check your air pressure.

The last thing I want to see on the way home is a customer pulled over with a flat tire.

Oh, and for MORE TIPS on picking sod up safely, check out our blog post,Hauling and Trailering Sod Safely and Efficiently #PickingUpSod #Trailering” (CLICK HERE)

— Jeremy and the Red Hen Turf Farm Crew

P.S. If you are curious about renting a truck and/or trailer, here are some handy links to check for availability in your local area:

LOWE’S rents Pick-Up Trucks – https://www.lowes.com/l/truck-rentals.html

HOME DEPOT also rents Pick-Up Trucks – https://www.homedepot.com/c/truck_rental

HOME DEPOT also rents Trailers – https://www.homedepot.com/c/moving_supplies_equipment_rental

U-HAUL rents Trucks and Trailers – https://www.uhaul.com/

MacALLISTER RENTALS operates throughout Indiana and Michigan and rents Trailers – https://www.macallisterrentals.com/rental/trailer-rental/

If you’re in the South Bend Area, BURNS RENTALS offers Trailer for rent – https://burnstoolrentals.com/equipment.asp?action=category&category=33

For the South Bend Area, MICHIANA RENTALl is another source to rent a Trailer – https://mtrental.com/tools/trailers/

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MAY REMINDER! Fertilizer, Crabgrass & Broadleaf Weed Control

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Whether or not you applied a crabgrass pre-emergent or perhaps a straight fertilizer in April, early to mid-May is usually the time for an application of either a fertilizer or a “weed and feed” (a “weed and feed” refers to a fertilizer that also has a herbicide in it).

 * * * A word of warning when applying a “weed and feed” to newly seeded grass OR to an area you are planning to seed… Herbicides typically inhibit the germination of grass seed, so you should always read the label of the product to find out the recommended waiting period between applying the herbicide and planting grass seed.  Typically, you will need to choose one or the other – seed in the spring or apply a product with a herbicide in it. * * *
First, we always recommend Soil Testing, and then working with us to develop your fertilizer program with your soil analysis and your goals in mind.  When you don’t have a soil test or a custom fertilizer program in place, for a May application, consider these 3 options…   

OPTION 1 …
NO NEED TO TREAT WEEDS? 
A product without any type of added herbicide, like our 25-0-10 fertilizer, would be appropriate.  Our 25-0-10 gives you a boost of Nitrogen to green up your lawn and make it more lush, and a higher level of Potassium than most of the products you can buy at the local garden centers, which helps promote root growth, heat and drought hardiness, wear tolerance, and disease tolerance. Wait 6-8 weeks from the time of your last application, or if this is your first application of the year, you can make your first application now.

OPTION 2 …
NEED A SECOND (or first?) APPLICATION OF CRABGRASS PRE-EMERGENT?

Frankly, the window of time to get the most bang for your buck with a crabgrass pre-emergent has passed so we don’t usually recommend treating for Crabgrass at this time of the year, but we realize some people may want to give it another shot. A very small percentage of crabgrass seeds MAY still be lurking.  If you did an application of crabgrass “weed and feed” 6-8 weeks ago (like 15-0-3 Crabgrass pre-emergent PLUS fertilizer), you might be considering a 2nd application.  If you choose to do this, you’d want to get the crabgrass pre-emergent applied ASAP for this product to be as effective as possible (in other words, BEFORE those few remaining crabgrass seeds have reached the germination stage).

OPTION 3 …
WANT TO BATTLE THOSE PESKY BROADLEAF WEEDS? 

Dandelions and other broadleaf weeds are among the most troublesome turf pest problems in lawns, and it looks like this spring will be an especially bad year for them.  Wait 6-8 weeks from the time of your last fertilizer or weed-and-feed application, or if this is your first application of the year, now would be a good time to get something down.  That said, we offer several ways to effectively control broadleaf weeds.

One method is by applying Trimec 22-0-5 + Iron, which is a post-emergent broadleaf “weed and feed” with added Iron to give your grass a richer, deeper color.  The active ingredient, Trimec, needs to be absorbed by susceptible plants in order to be effective, so for best results, mow one to two days before application and then water lightly or apply in the morning for proper adhesion to plants.

Another very effective product that Red Hen Turf Farm carries is a newish selective herbicide called Tenacity.   Tenacity does NOT contain any fertilizer, so if this is the herbicide you choose, you’ll likely want to also do a fertilizer application in May (refer to Option 1 above).  When properly applied, Tenacity will destroy the weed but not harm your grass.  Tenacity can be used both as a pre-emergent and post-emergent to selectively control 46 weeds and grass species, including dandelions, clover, creeping bentgrass, perennial ryegrass, or fine and tall fescue. And it’s safe to use on established or newly seeded turf.  Tenacity works by inhibiting photosynthesis, so it does turn the targeted weeds white, and it may also cause temporary whitening of your turfgrass (for a few weeks anyhow).

CLICK on this Screenshot to READ Purdue Extension's FREE PUBLICATION, "Control of Broadleaf Weeds in Home Lawns"

CLICK on this Screenshot to READ Purdue Extension’s FREE PUBLICATION, “Control of Broadleaf Weeds in Home Lawns”

* * *

Please call Red Hen Turf Farm, or come in to get advice on which is best for your situation…  574-232-6811 is the number.

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I HAVE THE BEST CUSTOMERS!

Facebookgoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailI know … everyone says they have THE BEST CUSTOMERS, and I truly mean it!

And, I have some of the funniest customers around.

For instance … Let’s talk about Landscapers!  Landscapers in general must have a good sense of humor just for the industry they are in. Mother Nature tends to throw a monkey wrench into a landscaper’s job plans weekly if not sometimes daily.  They might be trying to lay sod, but it rains two inches that night. Or they might be going to plant trees, and it snows two inches. Then they need to get the salters in the trucks and a day later take them back out. Yes every job and business has its challenges. But Landscaping in the Michiana area is a unique one.

I have been on some fun trips, events, conferences, lunches and dinners with my customers. I learn something new and always have a good time. I am amazed at how many of my customers have become a friend over the years. I am very lucky to be in the industry I am in, and to have met so many great men and women.

There are more days than I can count that a customer has called or texted me and made me laugh. Including today. Laughing makes for a great day!   Thank you!

Until next time, Jeremy and The Red Hen Turf Farm CrewFacebookgoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Children’s Books with a Lawn-Theme – A List by Red Hen Turf Farm

Facebookgoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailHere’s something a little different than you typical lawn-related or green-industry related posts that I hope you enjoy … the theme is Lawn-Related Children’s Books!

Last Summer, when visiting Black River Books in South Haven, Michigan, I happened across a cute lawn-related children’s book that put a big smile on my face called We Are Growing!  by Michigan Author and Illustrator, Laurie Keller, as part of the great Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series.

You can even watch a Youtube video of the author, Laurie Keller, reading We Are Growing as a part of the Adventures in Michigan kids’ summer reading program at Baker Book House HERE IT IS!

This delightful 2016 picture book won the 2017 Theodore Seuss Geisel Medal, and follows 7 friends who happen to be blades of grass, as they have humorous adventures in growing, even as they are up against a menacing purple lawnmower.  In School Library Journal, Rachel Forbes, formerly at Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada describes this cute book as follows:

K-Gr 2—An exciting thing is happening. The grass is growing! One blade grows tall, another grows curly, and two grow pointy. As these changes occur, the blades of grass declare what it is that makes them unique—all but one, that is. The last blade of grass has no distinguishing feature of note, and no matter how much the group wrack their brains, they can’t figure it out. Then, the great equalizer, the lawn mower, comes along. It takes this event for the blade to discover his special quality. As for the rest, even though they are literally cut down, they are reassured that they will grow again. The empowering narrative can be applied to lessons regarding things like confidence, identity, and growing up. No matter the takeaway, the message is easily consumable, thanks to exaggerated characteristics, cartoonish actions, and a good sense of comedic timing. In this new series, Willems’s popular characters share their favorite books, acting as the introductory and closing framework to the story. In this case, they have made an excellent choice. VERDICT Fans of Elephant and Piggie will devour this kooky easy reader, with its similar presentation and storytelling style.

We Are Growing! got me wondering what other kids’ books I might be able to find that are lawn-related, so here are 5 more books (of MANY that are out there) for kids of all ages that you might enjoy sharing with the young ones in your life.

The Little Mower That Could by Yvonne Jones (2016) – This picture book is a spin-off of the classic story, The Little Engine That Could.  It follows a little ball that gets stuck in some tall grass who asks several different kinds of lawn mowers for help, and finally a kind green electric mower steps up to cut his way through the thick grass to help the ball.  For the little mower enthusiasts in your life, Yvonne Jones weaves facts about each type of lawn mower into the story.  You can check out the book trailer at www.yvonne-jones.com/trailers  

Larry the Lawnmower by Jeanne Archambault and illustrated by Victoria Corey, (2014). In this Mom’s Choice Award-winning picture book, Larry is a dedicated little lawnmower, but when a big blue rider-mower replaces Larry on the farm, he is no longer needed and ends up being left in the shed until a young boy finds him and gives Larry a coat of fresh red paint so they can mow lawns together to earn money so the boy can buy a new bike.  This story was inspired by Jeane Archambault’s grandson who was “crazy for lawnmowers” starting at 2 years old, and the illustrations are based on scenes at Windmist Farm in Jamestown, RI on Conanicut Island, where both the author and illustrator call home.

Lawn Mower Magic (A Stepping Stone Book) by Lynne Jonell, illustrated by Brandon Dorman. This illustrated chapter book is actually a sequel to Hamster Magic, and continues to follow the four Willow children as they have recently moved to an older home in the country.  The family’s lawn mower breaks down and they can’t afford to fix or replace it, so the children dig out an older push mower that was stored in an hold tool shed.  The mower doesn’t look like much, and it’s difficult to use, but it turns out that it’s been soaking up magic for years, and it’s hungry for grass.  The children accidentally discover that the mower will move on its own, and the more it mows, the faster it goes. Just like what happened with the hamster in the first book in this series, there’s some type of magic happening.

Louie the Lawnmower series by Maria I. Morgan, illustrated by Sherrie Molitor.  In this series of 3 picture books written by Christian inspirational writer and speaker, Maria I. Morgan, Louie is a bright red lawnmower who previously lived with this friends at a hardware store.  Louie’s BIG Day! (2014), Louie & the Leaf Pile (2015), and Louie to the Rescue: The Big Dig (2017) are fun, cute, simple stories that don’t overtly talk about God or Christianity, but the themes and life lessons like sticking up for your friends, getting to know a person without judgement, and being careful with your words are ones that the author feels helps her to “share God’s truth and make an eternal difference.” Any of these 3 books can be read as a standalone story.

Lawn Boy (2009) and Lawn Boy Returns (2011) by Gary Paulsen.  Gary Paulsen is one of America’s most popular writers for young adults, and has written more than 200 excellent books for young adults. His his 5 book Hatchet series is especially well-known.  Lawn Boy and Lawn Boy Returns are short light-hearted chapter books that tell about the comical slapstick adventures that unfold when a 12 year old unnamed narrator who is broke and decides to earn some money by using his Grandfather’s old riding lawn mower that he received as a birthday gift.  When one of the boy’s customers, a persuasive day-trader Arnold Howell, barters mowing services for market investing advice on how to make money, humorous and increasingly complex economic adventures unfold as the business expands into an empire.  Paulsen gives young readers a thorough yet entertaining crash course in basic economics and business concepts, such as the stock market and the changing needs of growing business enterprises through the lens of a lawn mowing business.

Happy Reading!

– Lisa, and the Crew at Red Hen Turf FarmFacebookgoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

What a pain in the crabgrass!

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When is time to apply a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer? 

So we never have an “exact” date on when to apply the crabgrass pre-emergent since every season is different. We monitor the weather and soil temperatures.  Crabgrass germinates when the soil temperatures are consistently 60° F degrees for 3-5 days at a 1/4″ level. To be effective, crabgrass pre-emergent must be applied at least 2 weeks prior to germination.  Here’s a great (real time) link we use for crabgrass germination and optimum times to apply pre-emergent from Michigan State University.  GDD Tracker.

As you may know, the best crabgrass prevention is a dense, healthy turf, but because crabgrass has a massive reproductive & survival capability, it is common to have some  in your lawn.  Some of you may have seen more crabgrass come up several weeks after your first application last year. Here’s a tip:  To prevent that second flush, simply apply another crabgrass pre-emergent to your lawn 7 weeks after the first treatment.

Regular fertilization should help thicken turf along with proper watering and mowing.  Water deeply and infrequently. (Light and shallow watering will encourage crabgrass growth).  Do not mow more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at one time.  If you mow below 2.5-3 inches (depending on the turf species) it will increase crabgrass populations. 

IMPORTANT TO KNOW:  If you are planning on seeding or have completed a dormant winter seeding, we do not recommend using a crabgrass pre-emergent until the new seedlings grow (at least 2 mows at 3 inches high).  If you apply it too soon, it will likely end up killing any new grass seedling growth. There are a few options for crabgrass treatment if you have planted grass seed or plan on planting this spring. 

For example, a very effective product that Red Hen Turf Farm carries is a selective herbicide called Tenacity.  Tenacity herbicide can be used for pre- and post-emergence control of a wide range broadleaf weed and grass species, including CRABGRASS (well, up to the point where the crabgrass has 4 tillers or fewer).

Here is a picture to show the tillering stages of crabgrass.
SOURCE: Kansas State University

Tenacity’s active ingredient, mesotrione, which is based on a naturally occurring compound produced by the bottlebrush plant that inhibits photosynthesis in susceptible plant species. The mesotrione is absorbed by weeds you are targeting through the roots, shoots and leaves and distributed throughout the plant by “translocation“.  Becuase the targeted weeds are blocked from using photosynthesis, it does turn the targeted weeds white, and it may also cause temporary whitening of your turfgrass (for a few weeks anyhow).

Tenacity does NOT contain any fertilizer, so if this is the herbicide you choose, you’ll likely want to also do a non-herbicide / straight fertilizer application (like our 25-0-5 fertilizer) in May. When properly applied, Tenacity will destroy the weed but not harm your grass. And it’s safe to use on established or newly seeded turf.  

Just give us a call and we can go over the products to use. Use caution when using post emergent herbicides and ALWAYS read the label. 574-232-6811 is the number to call.

Pick your battles.  You shouldn’t plant grass seed AND apply crabgrass pre-emergent at the same time. If crabgrass was a problem for you last year and you want to treat it, apply the crabgrass pre-emergent and save your seeding for fall.  That is the best time to seed anyway.  (Typically around August 15-September 15 … again, every year is a bit different … Purdue explains more about seeding in their free publication – CLICK HERE).

Here’s more info from Purdue Science: Crabgrass Control

Know when to give up. Crabgrass can be a pain if it is not taken care of early enough. If you wait until summer and you realize your crabgrass is out of control, you may as well let it go until it dies off with the first frost.   There are post emergent herbicides that you can use but they are more difficult to use than the pre-emergent products, they cannot be used in the heat of the summer, are expensive,  and are only effective on smaller crabgrass plants – which you probably don’t see anyway.

If you are looking for crabgrass pre-emergent + fertilizer (13-0-5), come see us!  We have quality fertilizer in stock at great prices AND you get free expert advice!

Don’t forget to visit us on Facebook to see all of our updates including office hours and our first harvest of the season!

We have a ton of crabgrass topics!  Check out our previous blog posts that touch on the topic of CRABGRASS by CLICKING HERE.

Until next time!

The Red Hen CrewFacebookgoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

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

Facebookgoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail(This post was originally written by David Millar, Red Hen Turf Farm)

Unless a person has a lot of experience growing things in all types of soils, they probably could use some advice on preparing a site to grow grass on. There are some right things to do, wrong things and things that depend on your budget and the quality level you want your lawn to look like. Some things will produce a good return for your investment and some may be the right thing to do but not produce a great return for your investment. That’s why one recommendation does not fit for every lawn.

A person with an average budget and average expectations will do things differently than a person with a big budget who wants a “perfect lawn.” Proper and improper soil preparation before a lawn is installed will have a huge impact on how a lawn looks and the amount of money it takes to maintain it for many years to come. Proper lawn preparation before the turf is installed costs almost nothing compared to what it costs to correct something done wrong after the turf is installed. A lawn is one of the few things about a home that can last for the life of a home. Removing the turf and establishing new turf on a lawn can be one of the most expensive remodeling projects a person can undertake. My best advice is to select the kind of turf grass you want, and prepare the soil properly to achieve the lawn you desire. Keep an open mind as you read these recommendations, because many people spend a lot of money doing things that are wrong or not worth it.

What is soil? Soil is composed of particles of sand, silt, clay, rocks, organic matter, microorganisms and pore spaces. (sometimes moles, too!) Different soils have different amounts of these items.

Silt, clay and organic matter are responsible for the soil holding water and nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Pore spaces are where the roots grow, the path water takes into the soil when it rains, and most importantly, the pathway of oxygen for the grass plant roots. Sand is mostly a structural part of the soil and holds very little water or nutrients compared to the other components. A soil with just a medium amount of clay will dry slowly and be sticky when wet. Clay soils have more water and nutrient holding capacity than sandy soils. Microorganisms perform the very important function of breaking down and recycling organic compounds like old grass plants and air pollutants that fall to the ground. Rocks and moles are just a nuisance.

What is the difference between topsoil and subsoil? At undisturbed locations, topsoil is the soil on top of the ground. It usually contains more nutrients, organic matter and microorganisms than subsoil and will better support plant growth than subsoil. Subsoil is below the topsoil and has fewer nutrients, organic matter and microorganisms, which can make growing plants from seed quite challenging. The purpose of adding topsoil is to increase the water and nutrient holding capacity of an existing soil, but you must be careful when you add topsoil or you can do more harm than good.

Why are pore spaces important? Pore spaces are cavities in the soil that allow water to pass through when it rains and are a channel for oxygen to reach the roots. An ideal soil is 50% pore spaces! Construction vehicle traffic, bulldozing a final grade, and dogs running in the same path all compact a soil, which reduces the size and number of pore spaces. Compaction increases when traffic or tillage is performed and when the soil is wet rather than dry. An impatient homeowner demanding that a landscaper rake and install a lawn when the soil is too wet causes tremendous compaction, which greatly affects the lawn for years to come.

What does establishment mean when talking about lawns? Establishment is the period of time from when a lawn is started to the point when it will be maintained as a mature lawn. For a seeded or hydroseeded lawn, this period is about 24 months. For sodded lawns, it is about 2 months. Why the difference in time? You have to start from scratch with seed, but you transplant mature plants with sod. Don’t be fooled. It takes a lot of time, work and know-how to grow turf from seed. And, the quality of the soil the turf is growing on, along with the ability of the person growing the turf determines when the turf will be established.

What to do to a lawn and what to add to a lawn, therefore, depend on what kind of soil is present and what your expectations for your lawn are. Keeping these points in mind will help you decide what is best for you, as you read through this list.

As a general rule, the best dollar you can spend on a lawn is to have the soil loosened up and tilled to a depth of 4 inches. This process breaks up compaction and eliminates pockets of different soils. This mixing of the soil helps make it more uniform. You will have fewer areas of the lawn that are either dryer or wetter than the rest of the lawn.

This rutted up lawn is typical of most new homes. The soil needs to be tilled at least 4 inches deep to eliminate soil compaction.

An equally important benefit of tilling a soil is to eliminate the presence of different soil layers. Examples of layering would be when subsoil from a basement is spread out over what will be a lawn, or soil is brought in to fill low spots. Different layers of soil interfere with water movement and root penetration. The layer slows down water movement, keeping soil pores filled with water, preventing the roots from receiving oxygen. Grass plant roots do not like to leave one layer and grow into the layer below, thus causing the grass plants to become shallow rooted, which is not desirable. Some people like to mix compost into the soil and if you do, only add about an inch because compost “shrinks” over time and if you add too much, you will find your lawn will become bumpy after the compost shrinks.

These two pictures show how normal water movement slows when it reaches a different layer. The water would rather go sideways than down.

Do you see why the common practice of adding an inch or so of topsoil to a lawn can do more harm than good?  These two pictures show how normal water movement slows when it reaches a different layer. The water would rather go sideways than down.

The only exception to number 1 is if you are on loose beach sand. A loose sandy soil is one where a person can take a shovel and easily dig a deep hole. It does little good to loosen up a soil that is already loose. Not all sand is loose sand and, in fact, some sands can be very compacted, which greatly benefit from being broken up.

High amounts of clay present mean that soil already has good water and nutrient-holding capacity. So adding topsoil does not provide a long term benefit.

If a person has a soil that does not have a lot of clay, and they have high expectations for their lawn, adding two inches of topsoil and mixing it into the soil will provide good benefits. If the topsoil will not be mixed into the existing soil, then don’t apply it, because it would be making a layer. If more than 2 inches of topsoil is added, it becomes difficult to mix it in. If a site were to receive 12 inches of soil, ideally, the soil would be mixed every two to three inches. Adding and mixing soil like this is usually only done on important athletic fields.

You can now see why it is difficult to establish a lawn from seed on sandy soils that are mostly subsoils. This soil has poor water and nutrient holding ability. Even turf professionals have a hard time growing grass on sand. Hotter weather makes this task even harder. Some landscapers spread a thin layer of topsoil and leave it on top to improve the chances of seedling survival. If the topsoil is very thick in some places, harmful layers can form. This thin layer offers no long-term benefits and increases the cost of seeding to about the cost of sod. Sod is easy to establish on sandy soils because it is made up of mature plants with growing momentum.

Sandy soils are not automatically bad. You just have to manage them differently once the turf has been established. Because they lack water and nutrient holding capacity, the interval between watering and fertilizing will be shorter than if topsoil were added. Instead of fertilizing every 6 weeks, a lawn without topsoil might
need to be fertilized in 4 weeks.

This is a seeded lawn on a sandy soil that failed. The owners gave up trying to grow the lawn from seed and had it sodded.  Adding topsoil to a poor soil and then seeding nearly equals the cost of sodding, and you still have to grow the lawn from seed.

In summary, the best thing you can do for a lawn is to till to loosen and mix the soil. Eliminate different layers of soil by mixing. If you want to add topsoil, do it for the right reasons. Seed and hydroseed are difficult to establish on sandy or poor quality soils especially during hot weather. Sod easily establishes on all soils.Facebookgoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Installing Sod In Late Fall Months (Oct-Nov)

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October, 2018

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) 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

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

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