Installing Sod In Late Fall Months (Oct-Nov)

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– Article Updated October 28, 2020 – 

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 EST

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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 Turf Farm Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Field - photo taken 9/16/20

Red Hen Turf Farm Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Field – photo taken 9/16/20

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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Doing a Simple “Tuna Can” Sprinkler Audit … IS THE WAY TO GO!

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So, when was the last time you made sure that your lawn sprinkler system is programmed and watering as accurately as you think it is?

… Especially if you’re seeing brown grass in your lawn?

In this article, we’ll go more in-depth, beyond our previous blog article, “Irrigation, droughts – and strange weather … HOT, DRY SUMMER TURF TIPS from Red Hen Turf Farm“, so be sure to check that one out, too! This previous article explains, for one thing, that an established cool season grass lawn in our part of the country (northwest Indiana / midwest) will need 1 to 1.5 inches of irrigation each week depending on weather, soil type, slope, etc.

But how can you really know that you’re sprinkler system is programmed with this goal in mind?

TIP: If you’re reading this and you’re NOT in the Northwest Indiana area, check with your local Cooperative Extension Service office for precise weekly watering recommendations.

Here’s something many people find surprising… When rains are not part of that irrigation, you’re never going to get as good results as Mother Nature. Natural rainfall reduces the need for SUPPLEMENTAL IRRIGATION, but irrigation is always just that – SUPPLEMENTAL. When considering how long to run your sprinklers, you’ll want to adjust to account for rainfall. A good old-fashioned rain gauge will come in handy for this. To figure out how long to water your lawn during a week when it rains, subtract the number of inches of rainfall from the weekly watering need to get your new weekly watering figure and do the rest of the calculations we’ll be describing below normally.

In “Irrigation, droughts – and strange weather … HOT, DRY SUMMER TURF TIPS from Red Hen Turf Farm“, we went into in a good amount of detail on how you have a few options on how to approach watering your lawn during a hot, dry, doughty period, and how it makes a difference whether you’re dealing with a fully established lawn or sod / seed that is new or has been in your yard for less for than a year. We’d also recommend checking out the experts at Purdue’s excellent guide, “Irrigation Practices for Homelawns,” HERE

Beyond the information to come below, both Red Hen’s article and Purdue’s Irrigation Guide discuss how the time of day you’re watering, slopes, soil compaction, new seedings / new sod, the choice of letting your lawn go dormant, and more should also be considered.

It’s near the end of August of 2020 now, and here in northwest Indiana, we’ve had a very hot and dry summer, which is stressful on any fully established yard, but when it comes to newly laid sod, it can be quite the task to do all you can to water your sod when it’s trying to re-establish it’s root system in its new home.

Based on the calls, texts, and photos we have been receiving during the hottest, driest, parts of the summer from concerned customers, probably 90-95% of the lawn problems and brown / yellow spots are caused by lack of water, and so often it comes down to a sprinkler system / irrigation issue.

LEFT: Turf has been irrigated during a drought. RIGHT: Turf turning dormant.

Though you might water for the amount of time your sprinkler system has been programmed for… say it’s 30-40 minutes, and you feel it should be “enough,” maybe you’re seeing brown or yellow spots. If this is happening, do you know how many inches of water each individual sprinkler head is putting down?

In other words, have you checked your sprinkler system and/or performed a “Sprinkler Audit” or “Irrigation Audit” or what we sometimes call the “Tuna Can Test”?

Surprisingly (and frustratingly) even a new sprinkler system can have heads that are not operating as you’d want them to!

The thing is… it’s impossible to determine the distribution of water by looking at your sprinkler system while it’s running. It will look fine unless you test it out more methodically.

That’s where a simple Irrigation / Sprinkler Audit can help bring any issues to light.

OUR PREDICTED MAIN TAKEAWAY once you complete your Sprinkler Audit: After following the steps to do an Irrigation Audit, you’re likely to discover that the areas that are browning are probably being skipped by irrigation, or not getting enough water. Adjustments you make will likely take 2-3 weeks to make an observable difference in your lawn, especially with Kentucky Bluegrass. Red Hen’s Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod will likely bounce back quicker than our Bluegrass Sod (HERE’s MORE on the main differences between our 2 types of sod)

Here are the basic steps for a Simple Sprinkler Audit / Tuna Can Test:

  1. Put out 10 to 12 containers of the same size in a zone, placing them in both in the green areas and the brown/dying areas. Tuna cans or plastic cups work great!
  2. Run your irrigation system for a set period of time. For instance, 10 minutes, or 1/6th of an hour, would be a good amount of time for this Sprinkler Audit.
  3. At the set period of time, promptly turn the heads off, and take some time to get down and really look at your sprinkler heads…
    • Is each one popping up out of the ground, perpendicular to the ground?
    • Is each head functioning properly?
    • Any heads that are not popping up fully or are tilted will lead to non-uniform distribution of water.
    • If you’re watering around curves, it is probably going to take some adjusting so that all areas are covered.
  4. Now, look at how much water is in each of the cups.
    • Are there any vast differences of the amount of water collected in the cups? If so, go back to that area with the sprinkler heads and take another close look.
    • Are you noticing a correlation between a head that is not functioning properly and the limited water output?
  5. Now measure how many inches of water the cups are showing that you’re putting out during this time period.
    • Let’s say for this test, you have applied 1/4 inch of water in 10 minutes. Based on this output, if you were to run your system for 30 minutes), then 1/4 inch X 3 (since 10 minutes X 3 = 30 minutes) means you’d be putting down .75 inch of water per each 30 minutes of running your sprinkler system. To get 1.5 inches per week, for this example, you’d need to run it twice a week for 30 minutes.
    • As stated above, right now, between rain water and irrigation, most lawns will need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water/week if you want to keep it greened up (versus letting it go dormant).
    • Even if you choose to let your lawn to dormant, you’d need 1/2 inch of water every two weeks just to maintain hydration to the grass plants’ crowns. (Again, refer to THIS RED HEN ARTICLE for more details on different approaches to watering during hot, dry periods)
  6. Start again with step 1 for any other zones you have that you’d like to test out.
  7. REPEAT OFTEN???!!!! It’s a good idea to do this type of Sprinkler Audit at least once a year, and more often if you’re noticing possible issues such as mysterious brown / dying areas. Even if you’re sprinkler system is new, it’s a good idea to test it out.
Sprinkler Audit Math Example

Remember that this Sprinkler Audit is showing you the results of one single application of water. If your cups are not equally – or uniformly – filled, this means that over a period of months or years, some parts of your lawn may be getting twice as much (or three times as much) water as others. This can add up to 10 inches annually versus 20 inches, or 10 inches versus 30 inches. A difference as small as 1/4 inch during each irrigation cycle can add up to dozens of inches per year.

Even if you’re running your sprinkler system twice per week for … say… 30 minutes because that’s what you feel should be right, it may not be enough water. Take into account that the type of your sprinkler head affects how much water is being put out during your 30 minute rounds. Generally, rotor heads will take a longer time to put irrigation out, so depending how how much water your Sprinkler Audit shows you’re putting out, you may have to run these for three times per week to achieve the desired inches of watering per cycle.

Besides determining how uniform your sprinkler system heads are putting out water, and the output levels, other factors to consider when facing browning grass in the midst of an especially hot, dry summer include, but are not limited to:

  1. Areas of your lawn in full sun versus shade tend to need more watering
  2. Areas exposed to extra heat coming from nearby sidewalks, concrete, stonework, or perhaps even a white or light-colored fence that is reflecting sunlight / radiant heat onto your grass can make a bigger difference that you’d think, so if you’re seeing browning in these areas, you’ll need to adjust for more water.
  3. Hilltops tend to dry out faster than lower areas, so they will need more water.

When comparing Red Hen’s 2 types of sod, Kentucky bluegrass may take 2-3 weeks to recoup and start turning green again. On the other hand, tall fescue will tend to bounce back quicker from a droughty period.

If any questions come to mind after reading this article and the links we’ve included, let us know!

To chat by phone with one of Red Hen Turf Farm’s knowledgeable customer service team members, the number to call is 574-232-6811. (Our Business Hours are HERE)

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Irrigation, droughts – and strange weather … HOT, DRY SUMMER TURF TIPS from Red Hen Turf Farm

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On 6/15/20, a few updates were made to this Blog originally published on 8/2/18.

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The last few months we’ve been hearing, “This sure is a strange season.”   It certainly was an unusual start to the 2018 year.  We had floods in February, snowstorms in March and in April we never thought we’d see the trees turn green.  But are we really having especially strange weather, or are we just hoping for normal weather to let mother nature do all the work for us?

Let’s look at the weather facts from this year, gathered from our main weather source: NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).  In February 2018, we hit a record-breaking 8 inches of precipitation.  Rain, coupled with a huge snow storm, melted snowpacks and led to extreme flooding, causing cresting of local rivers. I think we all remember this event and some are still feeling the effects. Click: here for an article about this historic flooding.

This picture was taken on February 27, 2018, showing one of Red Hen Turf Farm’s many flooded fields.

In March, everyone was trying to recoup from the February floods. We received snow showers for the first half of the month.  It was a pretty cold month with temps averaging around 34 degrees.  Typically, around this time, we are all looking forward to spring and the green up of trees and grass.  But nature didn’t green up like it did the prior year and it remained pretty cold.  In fact, it seemed like “greening up” took 3-4 weeks longer compared to last year.  The strange weather had its effect on us at the sod farm as well.  Flooding and extremely cold temperatures prevented us from harvesting sod until April. Whereas last year, we were harvesting sod on February 14 (an especially early time compared to most years), in 2018 we did not harvest our first order of sod until April 9th – WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

April 9, 2018, Red Hen Turf Farm’s first sod harvest of the season. Snow and all!

As summer began to set in, throughout July our customers started feeling the effects of extreme heat and drought. Lawns started turning brown and sprinklers were constantly running.

One of the frequently asked questions we received during this hot, try time of the season was “why is my grass brown if I have my sprinklers on timers?”  Sure, auto-timers may seem like a dream. Set it and forget it, right?  Unfortunately, this is a common misconception, especially when the temperatures are above normal and/or if we haven’t had significant rain in weeks.  Sprinklers are a good supplement for water, but can never do as good of a job as Mother Nature when it rains.

In order to understand why your grass may be turning brown, you need to first consider how much water is needed to sustain a healthy, green appearance.

According to a fantastic, easy to read publication from Purdue, Irrigation Practices for Homelawns, most ESTABLISHED Indiana lawns need 1 to 1-1/2 inches of irrigation per week.  But what if you are in the midst of a drought?  You can do 1 of 2 things for established lawns.

CHOICE 1:  Allow your established lawn to go dormant.  Irrigate 1/2 inch every 2 weeks just to maintain hydration to the plant crowns.  This amount of water will not green up the lawn, but it will increase survival chances during long drought periods.   However, newly installed sod will require daily irrigation 1-2 times per day for at least a week.  After a few mows, deep and infrequent watering should be practiced.

LEFT: Turf has been irrigated during a drought. RIGHT: Turf turning dormant.

CHOICE 2:  If you decide against dormancy, keep your established lawn green by watering it DEEPLY 2-3 times per week.  Soak it deeply, morning hours are best to water, but if your only chance to water is at a different time, go for it but keep a few things in mind that we’ll talk about next…

 

Contrary to some tales, watering your lawn in the afternoon will not burn it.  It is not the ideal time to water but if it is the only time you have to water, it may just take extra time due to more wind and evaporation. Avoid watering in the evening hours.  Watering in the evening can make turf more susceptible to mold and diseases by providing the moisture needed by fungus and bacteria. Even with proper watering techniques, turf can still get heat stressed and get some brown spots. Depending on the species of turf, green up times vary.  Kentucky bluegrass may take 2-3 weeks to recoup and start turning green again.  On the other hand, tall fescue will tend to bounce back quicker from a droughty period.   

IN GENERAL, WHEN IT COMES TO IRRIGATION SYSTEMS, avoid the set-it and forget-it approach. Rather, adjust your irrigation timers according to your turf’s needs, not yours.  Some things to consider when you’re evaluating your turf’s needs are:

  • Paying close attention to the weather will help you figure out if you need to water more or less.
  • Finding out how much water your lawn needs depends on a few factors such as species of turf, if it’s in the shade, if it’s at the bottom of a slope, and whether your grass is newly established.
  • Grass in the shade and at the bottom of a slope tends to need LESS water overall.
  • Keep in mind that NEW SOD and GRASS GROWN FROM SEED tends to need more weather overall FOR THE FIRST YEAR OR SO while it’s becoming fully established – but again, if it’s in the shade or at the bottom of a slope, adjust accordingly.
  • Yes, you read that right … Sodded and Seeded Lawns should be considered newly established / establishing for about a year or so.  Some of the calls we had this summer were about sod that was laid last fall, where the amount of irrigation was not adjusted accordingly, and they were effectively under-watering which led to yellowing or browning of the grass that was still establishing, as compared to the established parts of their yards.
  • You also may want to pay attention to the length of the lawn surrounding your sprinkler heads.
  • If the grass is too long, the water spray will be deflected and not get to where it needs to go.  Keep grass trimmed around sprinkler heads.

If you are unsure how much water your irrigation system is putting out or if it’s putting out the same amount all over, simply put empty tuna cans or rain gauges in grid like zones.  If they are not holding the same amount of water for each zone, adjustments may be needed.  You will also have to adjust timers on hills,  slopes and shaded areas as they all require different amounts of irrigation.  Set timers on hills and slopes just enough time until the water begins to run off, then stopping until it is absorbed, repeating until the desired amount is applied is recommended.   Hilltops dry out faster than lower areas so they should be irrigated differently.  Shaded areas also need less water.

Click here to read more on a blog we recently published on proper watering techniques.

Let’s recap and build on a few main points…

  • The best time to water is 4am-8am.
  • The next best time is 8am-noon.
  • Watering every day, in light/shallow waterings should be avoided and can produce unwanted crabgrass, diseases and other weeds that thrive in that environment.
  • Deep, infrequent watering is the best for established lawns.
  • Newly established lawns and lawns that are establishing over about a year or so tend to need more water overall – but again, slopes and shade can make a difference.
  • Oh, and Fertilizing and mowing should also be avoided during extremely hot and dry periods.

When the Temperatures are HIGH, RED HEN TURF FARM RECOMMENDS that you hold off on fertilizing and mowing, and plan on doing some extra watering if you want to keep your lawn from going dormant, especially with Recently Laid Sod

So whether you have underground irrigation on timers or a good old fashion sprinkler and hose, some adjustments and work still have to go into keeping your lawn green during droughts.

Questions?  Give us a call at 574-232-6811

 

A FEW UPDATES to this BLOG MADE on 6/15/20 – A HOT DRY JUNE!  

Even with types of grasses like our Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod that are technically more “drought tolerant” as compared some other turfgrasses, it’s becoming quite the “HOT TOPIC” here at Red Hen.

For more on this topic, Check out Purdue’s article, “Home lawn during drought: To water … or not?” HERE, and Purdue’s article, “THE HEAT IS ON!” HERE is another good one to read.

You might also check out Red Hen’s BLOG, “Where did the rain go? And what do I do about my thirsty lawn?” HERE. Purdue’s guide on “Irrigation Practices for Homeowners” is another great resource, HERE.

UPDATE on 8/28/20 – After a hot, dry summer pretty much for months, we have written a companion article, “Doing a Simple “Tuna Can” Sprinkler Audit … IS THE WAY TO GO!” that explains why setting it and forgetting it is not a good idea when it comes to irrigation / sprinkler systems – especially if you’re dealing with brown grass and not sure why. Check it out HERE.

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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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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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