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

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 CrewFacebookpinterestlinkedinmail

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

Facebookpinterestlinkedinmail(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.Facebookpinterestlinkedinmail

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

FacebookpinterestlinkedinmailEvery year around this time, it always feels like SUMMER is FLYING by.  

We’ve been getting lots of questions about Grass Seed, which we DO SELL in addition to our 100% Kentucky Blue Grass sod and our Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod, and many other lawn care products (including fertilizer).

Red Hen Turf Farm - Grass Seed

IDEAL TIMES TO PLANT GRASS SEED

Did you know that there are certain times of the year that are better to plant grass seed than others?  If not, you’re not alone.

It turns out that in our part of the country, often the BEST TIME to plant Cool Season Grass Seed is in the LATE SUMMER / EARLY FALL.

Specifically, in the northern-third Indiana, August 15th through September 15th is the ideal time period to plant Cool Season Grasses.  (One exception to this rule would be if you have a heavy shaded area due to trees, in which case you might want to consider a winter or spring seeding when the leaves have fallen and more sunlight can reach your soil bed.)

Why plant grass seed between August and September 15th?   Well, according to Purdue turf expert, Zac Reicher, planting turf grass seed in northern Indiana within this late-summer / August 15th – September 15th window offers several advantages:

  • Air and soil temperatures are more moderate, which improves seed GERMINATION.
  • It typically rains more frequently, which helps reduce (but may not eliminate) extra watering … this also improves your chances for successful seed GERMINATION.
  • Grass seedlings face fewer pests than they do in the spring or the hottest parts of summer, again improving GERMINATION.

WHAT IS GERMINATION

A FEW TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR ODDS FOR BETTER SEEDING RESULTS

First, let’s talk about what method of seeding or over-seeding you might consider.  Many people try to simply cast the seed by hand or by using a spreader and leave it at that.  But is this the most efficient way?  The answer is NO for several reasons, including the fact that rain or wind will likely carry much of this seed away and it will never grow.  Or much of it will become a yummy meal for wildlife.  Also, without giving the seed a thin layer of soil over the top to grow in, there’s a good chance your rate of success will go way down.  You can rent a slit seeder or a core aerator at most local garden centers.

We recommend using either a slit-seeder to plant your seed, or using a core aerator first and then seeding into the cores.  These methods protect the seed from being carried away, and provide the much needed soil bed for the seed to germinate.

Let’s go a little deeper…

New grass seedlings have poorly developed root systems, which means they cannot effectively absorb nutrients from the soil.

For this reason, it is important to WATER and FERTILIZE PROPERLY after seeding to encourage germination and establishment.  

  • Fertilizer Application #1 – Do this right after planting your grass seed.   We recommend using 12-12-12 (or another starter fertilizer).  The rate of application will depend on the species of grass you are planting.  You should also water 2-3 Times each day while the seeds are in the process of germinating.  Apply enough water to keep the soil moistened. When you see the new grass plants (seedlings), you may reduce the number of times you water.
  • Fertilizer Application #2 –  4-6 weeks after planting (depending on the type of grass seed you’ve planted).  Use some more of the starter fertilizer that you applied in the first application.  Again, the rate of application will depend on what kind of grass you’ve planted.  Continue to water as needed to prevent the soil from drying out. However, be careful that you do not keep the soil saturated, leaving your new grass vulnerable to pests and diseases.
  • Fertilizer Application #3 – Do this 4-5 Weeks after your 2nd Application (once again depending on the type of grass seed you’ve planted). Our 25-0-10 fertilizer would be perfect for this 3rd Application. Or, for the 3rd Application, you could apply a broad leaf herbicide if needed to control broadleaf weeds (such as our 22-0-5+Trimec+Iron). On the other hand, if you’re dealing with grassy weeds, they are difficult to kill with herbicides, so proper mowing is your best choice for controlling them.

FOR MORE DETAILS BEYOND WHAT WE INCLUDE BELOW, ALONG WITH OUR 2019 PRICING INFORMATION and APPLICATION RATES, CLICK HERE

PURCHASING GRASS SEED AT RED HEN TURF FARM

Here at Red Hen Turf Farm, we sell several varieties of grass seed by the pound, which is handy whether you have a very small or very large area to plant.  Contact us for prices and recommendations based on your specific needs and goals.  Some of your choices include:

100% Kentucky Bluegrass Seed … 

This sod-quality seed will match our most current variety of Kentucky Bluegrass sod in production. Seed can be used to patch small areas in existing sod or seeding a large area next to sod. 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 IN 50 LB BAGS, OR IN BULK BY THE POUND.

Rhizomatous Tall Fescue (RTF) Seed … 

This seed will match our No Net Rhizomatous Tall Fescue sod in production. Again, like with our 100% Kentucky Bluegrass, sod-quality seed, the RTF seed can be used to patch small areas in existing sod or seeding a large area next to sod. This seed takes 7-14 days to germinate.  AVAILABLE IN 50 LB BAGS, OR IN BULK BY THE POUND.

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 IN 50 LB BAGS, OR IN BULK BY THE POUND.

Greenskeeper Premium Shade Mix Seed …

While no grass loves shade, this blend has varieties that exhibit better growth habits in partially shaded areas. For more information, visit the “Grass In Shade” section of our website. AVAILABLE IN 50 LB BAGS, OR IN BULK BY THE POUND.

Greenskeeper Super Shady Seed …

NEW 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 IN 25 LB BAGS, OR IN BULK BY THE POUND.

Greenskeeper Valu Plus Mix

An affordable option, good for rapid establishment.  Primarily consists of ryegrasses, with some Kentucky Bluegrass and Creeping Red Fescue.  AVAILABLE IN 50 LB BAGS

Greenskeeper Low-Mow National Links Mix

Consists of low-growing fine fescues well adapted to the harsh conditions of golf course roughs and bunker faces. Left unmown, this formula provides maintenance savings, erosion control, and adaptation under varying soil conditions.AVAILABLE IN 50 LB BAGS ONLY

P-105 Princeton Kentucky Bluegrass

A compact-type variety.  Excellent durability for meticulous sports fields, landscape professionals, golf course fairways, tees and roughs.  Best traffic tolerance among commercial Kentucky Bluegrass. Adapts to wide range of soils and climatic conditions. AVAILABLE IN 50 LB BAGS ONLY

What’s more, if you don’t see what you are after, we may be able to special order the seed you need. Just let us know the seed specifications you have and we will do what we can to get it for you for a reasonable cost.

READY TO TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE ABOUT SEEDING?  TAKE OUR QUIZ by CLICKING HERE

LEARN MORE

  • Contact Red Hen Turf Farm … Whether you’re a recent customer, a customer from years or even decades ago, or you’re simply looking for information or pricing, we’re here to help.  What’s more, regardless of whether you end up purchasing anything from us, we genuinely enjoy talking with and educating people.  Give us a call (574-232-6811) or drop us an email (turf@redhenturf.com).

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Straight from the RED HEN FAQ VAULT – If it’s BROWN, Mow it DOWN … and More EARLY SPRING GRASS TIPS

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Red Hen's 1st 2018 Harvested Pallet of Kentucky Bluegrass Sod - WINTER IS HOLDING ON STRONG!

Red Hen’s 1st 2018 Harvested Pallet of Kentucky Bluegrass Sod – WINTER IS HOLDING ON STRONG! Harvested 4/9/18

You’ve noticed that in the winter months, your lawn’s grass typically will turn brown, right?  This is a normal response to winter conditions — your grass has simply gone into a dormant or resting stage.  Though your grass may look dead, it is alive and is waiting for the air and soil temperatures to rise in late March to early April.  Once this happens, the turf color will begin to green up and start growing again.

So what can you do besides wait for warmer days?

Well, if your grass tips are brown, go ahead and mow them down.  That’s right … By doing an early spring mowing and removing the brown tips off of your grass, this naturally brings out the greener grass blades, and it may even help to stimulate growth. While you’ll still need to plan on simply giving the grass more (WARMER) TIME to green up, a good mowing certainly won’t hurt, at any rate.  For an established lawn, remember to mow grass to 3 to 3.5 inches high, which makes it less prone to insect, disease, and weed problems.  In general, you should mow frequently, cutting off no more than a third of the height each time.   Also, by mowing frequently and only when grass is dry, this will prevent clumping, and allow for leaving the clippings on your lawn. Save yourself time and money by NOT bagging or raking up your clippings.  The grass clippings will break down and return valuable nutrients to the soil — in a way, it’s Mother Nature’s Free Fertilizer … However, if you do end up with clumps of grass clippings, you will want to rake, bag, or mow again so they don’t smother / shade the grass.

What else can you do?

An early spring application of fertilizer may do wonders in speeding up the green-up of your lawn.  As I write this on April 12, 2018, the ground is no longer frozen, so it’s a fine time to start off with either a Fertilizer + Crabgrass Pre-emergent (like our 13-0-5). By around May 1st depending on when we start seeing consistent 60+ degree days, you may decide to treat for broadleaf weeds with a Fertilizer + Broadleaf Post-Emergent like our 22-0-5.

TIP:  Remember, if you’re planning on doing some Spring Grass Seeding, as a general rule you will want to keep any herbicides away from those areas.

Not sure what approach to take?  Every year is different, and every yard is different… Give us a call and we can chat about different options.

Understandably, every spring, we get a dozen or so calls from customers who sodded their lawns last year with Red Hen’s 100% Kentucky Bluegrass Sod, because they are worried about how UNGREEN their lawns are while their neighbors’ (non-Kentucky-Bluegrass) lawns are already coming out of dormancy and greening up.

Compared to the perennial ryegrasses and fescue grasses that are typical in our area, Kentucky bluegrass sod needs MORE time, MORE warmth, MORE sunlight, and MORE nutrients to GREEN-UP in the spring. This is simply a natural result of the genetics of the Kentucky bluegrass sod.

On the other hand, the superior genetics of Red Hen’s Kentucky Bluegrass sod gives it excellent disease tolerance against problems like leaf spot and summer patch.  Kentucky Bluegrass is by far (in our opinion) the most beautiful cool-season grass you can buy. Once your Kentucky Bluegrass fully greens up by mid to late May, its deep, emerald blue-green color and dense, low-growing boat shaped blades can’t be beat.

More questions? Give us a call at 574-232-6811 … Thanks from Michelle, Lisa, and Jeremy @ Red Hen Turf Farm

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PREFER TO LEARN AT YOUR OWN PACE? Purdue University Extension’s Turfgrass Program offers so much free information about homeowners’ lawn care.  This is a fantastic science-based and regionally-focused resource you can feel confident about trusting.  You can explore at https://turf.purdue.edu/homeowner.html  … Here’s a small sampling of the MANY topics covered:

Establishing a Turf Area
Establishing Lawn Areas From Seed
Seeding a Turf Area in the Spring
Purchasing Quality Grass Seed for Your Lawn
Establishing a Lawn from Sod
Building a Backyard Putting Green

Maintaining a Home Lawn
Don’t Bag It
Irrigation Practices for Homelawns
Mowing, Thatching, Aerifying, and Rolling Turf
Fertilizing Established Lawns
Should I Hire a Professional Lawn Care Service?
Maintenance Calendar for Indiana Lawns
Maintaining Lawns on Sandy Soils
Animal Urine Damage in Turf

Weed Control
Control of Broadleaf Weeds in Homelawns
Control of Crabgrass in Homelawns
Identification and Control of Perennial Grassy Weeds

Disease Control
Turfgrass Disease Profiles: Gray Snow Mold
Turfgrass Disease Profiles: Pink Snow Mold
Turfgrass Disease Profiles: Brown Patch

Insect Control
Turf Insect Management
Japanese Beetles in the Urban Landscape
New White Grub Pests of Indiana
Protecting Pollinators from Insecticide Applications in Turfgrass
Moles

Pesticide Information
The Way to Spray
Pesticides and the Home, Lawn, and Garden
The Benefits of Pesticides: A Story Worth Telling

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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’s Tall Fescue (in the fall season)

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

IN SUMMARY:  Rhizomautous Tall Fescue Sod Maintenance Level:  Low-Moderate: Less irrigation and less fertilizer is needed – once established.  Avoid fertilizing in the late spring and summer (warmer) months.

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Ready to Learn More?  Looking for a Quote? Call us at 574-232-6811 or visit us our PDF library.

Or, as always, Purdue offers a wide range of free educational, research-based articles about home lawn care in our part of the country – HERE’s THE LINK

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 InboxFacebookpinterestlinkedinmail

What a pain in the crabgrass!

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When is a good time to apply a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer? This is what we’re telling our customers:

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. Remember, crabgrass pre-emergent must be applied at least 2 weeks prior to germination for it to be effective. April 1st looks like a good target date right now but that may change depending on weather conditions.  Here’s a great (real time) link 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. To prevent that second flush, simply apply another crabgrass pre-emergent to your lawn 7 weeks after the first treatment.

Here are some helpful tips to prevent crabgrass: Apply a pre-emergent 2 weeks prior to crabgrass germination. 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, do not use crabgrass pre-emergent.  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.  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 can’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. 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-emergence 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, come see us!  We have quality fertilizer in stock at great prices AND you get expert advice (the advice is free) if needed!

The weather is getting warmer so why not take a leisurely drive out to New Carlisle to  pick up your sod, seed, herbicides and fertilizer.  Also, 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 CrewFacebookpinterestlinkedinmail

Red Hen’s Grass Seeding Quiz

FacebookpinterestlinkedinmailRed Hen Turf Farm - Grass SeedHere’s a quick quiz to see if what you know about grass seeding is fact-based or maybe more based on old-wives-tales or just plain old bad habits. Simply Answer YES or NO …

Here we go:

  1. The more seed I put down, the better I will be.
  2. The best time to apply seed is whenever you have some on hand.
  3. The more expensive bags of seed are better.
  4. I only need to spread the seed around by hand or with a broadcast spreader and I will have grass in a week.
  5. You don’t need to use any fertilizer when you’re seeding.

HINT: If you have answered YES to any of these 5 questions, you might want to give us a call to find out why the answers are actually all NO. And, of course, you could always consult Purdue Extension to learn more.

P.S. Did you know that TYPICALLY in the Michiana region, August 15 – September 15 is the #1 best time to do a seeding?  BUT, every year can be a little bit different and this year, with the heat and droughty conditions, we’re thinking it will be more like September 1 – October 1.  (Source: Purdue Extension among others)

LEARN MORE:  CLICK HERE for Other Articles that Red Hen has written about grass seeding.

CLICK on this PICTURE for Tips for Improving Grass Seed GerminationFacebookpinterestlinkedinmail

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

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons user adrian.benko

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons user adrian.benko

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK on this PICTURE for Tips for Improving Grass Seed Germination

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

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

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

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

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

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