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

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by Lisa Courtney, Customer Support, Red Hen Turf Farm

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

So, what is thatch?

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

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

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

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

EXCESSIVE THATCH may:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Purdue’s experts also offer this advice:

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

***

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

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

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

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


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More Adventures in Installing Sod – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes you just have to wait to see what happens.

Grass is funny like that.

It takes time to grow.

October 30 – our tall fescue turf is looks amazing!

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

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

Until next time,

~Michelle & The Red Hen Crew!Facebookpinterestlinkedinmail

Holy Mole-y!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Michelle Sadowski, Customer Service Specialist

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

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

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Crabgrass Photo by Michigan State University Extension

Crabgrass Photo by Michigan State University Extension

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

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

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

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

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

Do you want to get this weed under control?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Quick Tips to Make Your Lawn Look Its Best, The 2019 Update

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Red Hen Turf Farm PRESENTS ... 12 Quick Tips to Make Your Lawn Look Its Best

1.    Mowing 
The best height to keep grass for our area is 2-1/2 to 3 inches high. Mow when the grass grows out ½ to ¾ inch.

  • BONUSCLICK HERE for Purdue Extension’s free publication on Mowing, Thatching, Aerifying, and Rolling Turf …
  • EXTRA BONUS: CLICK HERE for The Lawn Institute’s guidelines on Mowing

2.    Fertilizing (and Liming)
The first rule of fertilizing is to read the label of the product you are using.  Two more important factors to consider when fertilizing your lawn are HOW MUCH and WHEN to apply.

Experts recommend an ANNUAL TOTAL 2-4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet throughout each growing season for most established full-sun lawns (Kentucky bluegrass; Kentucky bluegrass mixed with perennial ryegrass and/or fine fescue) in Michiana. Ideally, your annual total of nitrogen should be split into 2-5 applications, with each single application of nitrogen being about 1 pound per 1,000 sq. ft.  For established shade lawns, about half as much nitrogen is suggested.

On the flipside, how often you fertilize affects not only lawn appearance, but also its maintenance level. The more often you fertilize, the more you’ll have to mow, for instance.

About applying lime … Red Hen Turf Farm does NOT recommend that you blindly follow this annual ritual unless you have done a recent soil test that indicates you need to adjust your soil pH.   While lot of so-called “experts” recommend lime (especially in the fall) as a way of adjusting the pH of your soil to make it less acidic, we don’t agree with this advice.  The idea behind liming your lawn is that you are trying to raise the soil pH near neutral to increase the availability of most plant nutrients.  While proper soil pH is necessary to achieve a healthy, attractive lawn, most Indiana soils under turfgrass do not need liming. 

THE BOTTOM LINE:  At Red Hen Turf Farm, we feel that the reality is that every single lawn has its own unique needs, so we recommend that you do a soil test every 3 years. If you use our soil testing procedures, we’ll provide you with a kit that you’ll mail to a certified lab.  The cost is $25 for a single sample, and $10 for each additional sample. The results are sent to us and we will translate them into layman’s terms, using this
information as an important piece of the puzzle for us to create a Customized Fertilizer Program, designed just for you

  • BONUS:  Learn how Red Hen Turf Farm can help you get your soil tested AND help design YOUR Customized Fertilizer Program by CLICKING HERE … And, Yes, we do sell high quality Fertilizer, and people seem to love the results, especially at our competitive prices Here’s our 2019 Price List.

3.    Watering 
Very few people who have an “automatic” sprinkler system water turf properly. Most end up over-watering! You should water when the soil is dry to a depth of 4 inches and then water long enough to wet the soil 4 inches deep. Looking at the soil is the best way to tell how moist it is. Invest in a soil probe! Avoid watering in the late afternoon or early evening.

  • BONUS: Check out Purdue Extension’s free publication, “Irrigation Practices for Homelawns” by CLICKING HERE
  • EXTRA BONUS: CLICK HERE for The Lawn Institute’s guidelines on why you may want to consider letting your grass go dormant during periods of drought or more extreme heat, such as what’s typical in late July / early August in the NW Indiana / surrounding regions.

4.    Shade 
There is no grass that likes shade. Turf is poor in shade for two reasons:

  • One is lack of quality and quantity of sunlight present and
  • The other is reduced air movement that keeps sun or wind from drying wet leaves.

Lessen shade and increase air flow for better grass. You can have either healthy grass or shade, not both…

  • BONUS: Learn more about trying to grow Grass in Shade via our website by CLICKING HERE

5.    Grubs
Most people are caught up in the hype of killing every grub. The truth is that most grubs do VERY LITTLE HARM, and it’s completely normal to have SOME grubs in your lawn … in fact, all lawns have grubs! It takes 5 or more per square foot to cause problems. Protect the environment and save some $$ by eliminating or reduce the size of preventative applications. If you are sure you have “grub problem,” there are a number of pesticides with varying efficacy depending on when you apply them.  For example, we currently carry a combination fertilizer / grub control product – 15-0-3 PLUS IMI  (“PLUS IMI” means that the 15-0-3 fertilizer has an added chemical called “Imidacloprid,” a widely used and powerful insecticide that can also affect non-targeted beneficial insects.)  We carry the 15-0-3 as well as a granular insecticide without a fertilizer “built in” called Dylox 6.2.

  • BONUS:  CLICK HERE to read our previous blog post on the topic of Grubs … especially if you think you might have a true “grub problem”, including the times of the year that are most effective for treating the affected area.

Click on the Image to Read Purdue Extension's "New White Grub Pests of Indiana"

Click on the Image to Read Purdue Extension’s “New White Grub Pests of Indiana”

6.    Moles 
The primary diet of moles is earthworms, not grubs!  Old fashioned traps and gell baits that mimic worms are the only things that work.  Tomcat mole killer is a brand that Purdue Extension recommends.

7.    Thatch 
Thatch is the dark cocoa brown material that is below the green and above the soil. It is created by the death of old plant parts that are below the mowing height. Clippings do not produce thatch! 

How much thatch is ok?  Up to ½ inch of thatch is ideal and greater amounts are bad. Increasing levels of thatch are caused by over applications of fertilizer and water.Multiple passes (8 or more) with a core aerifier in September for a 2 or more years along with management changes can reduce thatch.

8.    Dog spots 
Pick up the feces and for urine, dump some water on the spot if you observe the act. Re-seed or sod as there is no resistant grass for this area. Despite what you may have heard, we, along with Dr. Steve Thompson, DVM, Director of Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital Wellness Clinic, do not recommend changing your dog’s diet without consulting your own vet first. It is either dogs or turf!

  • BONUS: Read Dr. Thompson’s article, “Dog-Gone-It Lawn Problems!” by CLICKING HERE

9.    Weed control 
The best way to prevent weeds is to have thick turf that is mowed high and not over-watered. Grass will out-compete most weeds. By the way … moss is not an invading weed. Moss likes shade and tends to occur where turf is then (and thin turf usually ALSO accompanies shade conditions). You can’t fight Mother Nature, so the reality is that you will usually need to just live with the moss, or even give up on grass and install ornamental beds with shade loving plants. Another option is to cut down the trees to allow the grass to thrive, and you can read our website link on “Grass in Shade” to learn more.

10.    Crabgrass 
The best crabgrass preventer is to mow high and manage the turf so it is thick. TV adds scare people into applying outrageous amounts of herbicides that may not not needed! If you continually have a crabgrass problem, make a first application of a preventative herbicide in mid-April/early May, and a second application in late June. Red Hen carries Award-brand Fertilizer + Crabgrass Preventer

11.    Disease                           
Lawns that are mowed, watered, and fertilized properly have the fewest diseases. Disease outbreaks are the result of a combination of factors occurring at the same time. These factors include the presence of the pathogen, the status and vulnerability of the turf, and certain prevailing environmental conditions.  A prolonged period of hot, humid weather can cause occasional non-fatal outbreaks. The genetics of your grass play an important role in disease control. For example, newer varieties of Kentucky bluegrass (such as the ones that Red Hen Turf Farm uses in our 100% Kentucky bluegrass sod) have greater overall resistance compared to fescues, ryegrasses and old bluegrass varieties. 

To effectively control a lawn disease, first you need to accurately diagnose the problem  – BUT lawn diseases are hard to identify because the pathogens are typically microscopic.  Diagnosing lawn diseases is both an ART and a SCIENCE that requires a systematic approach. What we are able to observe is usually the RESULT of an infection, and not the pathogens themselves. In other words, if you are seeing patches of discoloration in your lawn, you could be seeing the RESULT of a lawn disease caused by a microscopic pathogen.  Another challenge to diagnosing the problem is TIME – if you can recognize the initial stages of the outbreak, this will greatly increase the likelihood that you can treat it and your lawn will recover.

If you decide to start applying chemicals to your lawn without first confirming what the disease is, this can be expensive decision and can actually cause more problems.  If you think you are seeing signs of disease in your lawn, we would recommend limiting yourself to scientific research-based resources.  Specifically, for this part of  mid-west Indiana, we endorse the following:

12.    Finding Reliable Answers                      
As we have already touched on, we feel that Googling random website or following word-of-mouth advice are not reliable ways of getting lawn care information.  Everyday, we talk to customers that have been following certain lawn practices their entire lives … and so often it turns out they were mis-informed.

There are so many “urban myths” out there, especially when it comes to the 11 topics discussed above.  If you’re ready to make sure that the information you know is based on science and research, you’d be best off limiting your resources to:

  • Purdue Extension / Department of Agronomy (up-to-date, research-based information, specific to our geographical location) – Online at www.agry.purdue.edu/turf
  • Michigan State University Extension (up-to-date, research-based information, specific to our geographical location)  – Online at https://www.canr.msu.edu/lawn_garden/resources
  • The Lawn Institute – While this site is not regionally-based, in 1955, The Lawn Institute was created as a not-for-profit corporation to assist and encourage through research and education the improvement of lawns and sports turf. Since then, the Institute has been one of the most respected authorities in the world among turf professionals and scientists for monitoring, reporting, and interpreting the latest advances in turfgrass research, landscape horticulture, and agronomic science. – Online at www.thelawninstitute.org
  • Red Hen Turf Farm’s website (our info is derived from Purdue / MSU Extension and other reliable sources, including decades of experience) – Online at www.redhenturf.com
  • Red Hen Turf Farm’s Customer Service Crew, especially Turf Operations Manager, Jeremy Cooper … our contact info is below!

CONTACT US

RED HEN TURF FARM is located at 29435 Darden Rd, New Carlisle IN – CHECK OUT OUR GOOGLE LANDING PAGE – WE’D LOVE TO GET A REVIEW FROM YOU WHILE YOU’RE THERE – HERE’s THE LINK
Phone
: 574-232-6811
Emailturf@redhenturf.com
Webwww.redhenturf.com

GET UPDATES when we publish new blog articles and share other helpful, timely tips SENT DIRECTLY TO YOUR EMAIL INBOX – It’s Easy to Subscribe to Red Hen’s E-Newsletter by CLICKING HERE

Red Hen Turf Farm – The Best Turf on Earth!  We grow & sell KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS SOD HARVESTED FARM-FRESH ON DEMAND in Northern Indiana, along with GRASS SEED, FERTILIZER, WEED CONTROL PRODUCTS & MORE to homeowners, landscapers, contractors, garden centers alike

Originally posted 6/6/14, Updated 5/12/17, Updated 4/17/18

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MAY REMINDER! Fertilizer, Crabgrass & Broadleaf Weed Control

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

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

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

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

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

OPTION 3 …
WANT TO BATTLE THOSE PESKY BROADLEAF WEEDS? 

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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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

GRUBS! and Caution While Googling – 2 CURRENT HOT TOPICS at Red Hen Turf Farm

Facebookpinterestlinkedinmail— Written July 2018

When it comes to caring for your lawn, can we please use science and not what you found on Google or happen to see on a store shelf?

Now please do not get me wrong — I really like and use Google a lot. But you must consider where the info is coming from. Ask yourself: “Are they trying to sell me something or get some type of info from me?”

When it comes to lawn grass there actually is a lot of great info out there on the web. The problem is there is more bad than good.

There are four science-based, regionally-relevant sources I would recommend sticking to:

  1. Purdue University Extension – www.turf.purdue.edu/homeowner.html
  2. Michigan State University Extension – https://www.canr.msu.edu/home_gardening/lawns/index
  3. Ohio State University Extension www.ohioline.osu.edu/findafactsheet  … and of course
  4. Red Hen Turf Farm’s website www.redhenturf.com and blog www.redhenturf.com/blog

We get our info from the first three sources.

With that out of my system, let us talk about one of this year’s number one questions asked:  What do I do about Grubs?

First, let’s talk about whether you NEED to apply any products in the first place. Almost every yard has grubs.  Most grubs do very little harm. However, most expert entomologists believe that until you reach 5-10 grub larvae per square foot, there are not enough of them in one location to do damage to your lawn, and until you are seeing 5-10 grubs per square foot, there likely is no need to even consider using chemical insecticides to kill them.  But, let’s assume you are concerned you have enough grubs to do some damage.

When it comes to choosing a product to apply, it may seem there is an endless number of choices that are for sale. I really believe many homeowners waste way too much money and time applying the wrong product. Basically, there are two main factors to look at when it comes to choosing a product to kill grubs: (1)  the time of the year you are applying it, and (2) what type of grub you want killed.

(By the way — Yes! There are different beetles that include a grub / larvae stage of their life cycles, and No! grubs are not a main food source for moles … Read more HERE.)

White Grubs Adult Beetles, IMAGE SOURCE: Ohio State University Extension's Article, "Identification of White Grubs in Turfgrass"

IMAGE SOURCE: Ohio State University Extension’s Article, “Identification of White Grubs in Turfgrass”

Generally, timing on managing grubs is important to consider, and the type of chemical you’re using is more or less effective at different times of the year.  Purdue’s 2017 article “TURFGRASS INSECTS MANAGING WHITE GRUBS IN TURFGRASS” by Douglas S. Richmond, Turfgrass Entomology Extension Specialist does into great detail about this – HERE’s THE LINK

Let’s focus on the time of year that it currently is — early July 2018.

If you put down a product that includes Merit or Dylox (Red Hen carries both), water it into the soil and follow other label directions for control of many types of grubs. You notice I said “many”.

There is a product on the market that is called Milky Spore. Now, Milky Spore is a great product, but only for Japanese’s beetle larvae. There are 7 types of annual and multi-annual white grubs that are common in the Midwest. If you believe the only beetle to lay eggs in your yard is going to be the Japanese’s beetle, then go and buy it. But not from Red Hen. My job is to save people time and money, and Milky Spore goes against both of those values.

There are more great products out there that can be applied this time of year. But we all need to read the label to save time and money. Let’s use science this year, and always consider whether the source of your information is reliable.

Until next time, Jeremy

* * * * * * * * * *

Want to Dive Deeper into the Subject of Grubs?  

  • Red Hen’s previous blog posts that include info on Grubs – CLICK HERE
  • Purdue University Extension’s article, “Managing White Grubs in Turfgrass” – CLICK HERE
  • Michigan State University Extension’s article, “What are the alternatives to grub control insecticides?” – CLICK HERE
  • Michigan State University Extension’s article, “How to choose and when to apply grub control products for your lawn” — CLICK HERE
  • Ohio State University Extensions article, “Identification of White Grubs in Turfgrass” — CLICK HERE

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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

Got Mushrooms?

FacebookpinterestlinkedinmailWe do.  Mushrooms this time of year are pretty normal, especially in over-watered lawns or humid conditions.  Common mushrooms are part of a harmless fungus that starts under your turf, breaking down organic material into nutrients your lawn can use.  Since most mushrooms in your lawn are a sign of a healthy ecosystem, it may be best just to leave them alone.  Aesthetically, they may not be very appealing to look at.  Or you may be concerned with children and pets being around them.

If you want to get rid of them, simply just rake them up, or give the lawn a quick mow.  Something to consider are watering habits.  Although watering habits may not always prevent mushrooms, you should always water established lawns deeply and infrequently and only if rain has been scarce. Light irrigation promotes shallow rooting, non-drought hardy turf, and encourages crab grass. Newly sodded lawns require water one or two times a day while newly seeded lawns will require water two to four times a day.  Most lawns in our area will need from 1 – 1-1/2 inches of water per week.  In drier conditions, the mushrooms tend to go away.

In extremely dry conditions watering your lawn anytime is more beneficial than not at all.  However, the most ideal time to water established lawns is 4am – 8am.  Although this is not the most convenient time to water for most of us. The second best time to water is 8am – Noon.  Try to avoid midday waterings.  Contrary to popular belief watering your established lawn in the mid-day sun does not cause turf to burn.  However, a disadvantage to mid-day watering may include loss of moisture through evaporation, making it difficult to thoroughly wet the soil.

For more information on Irrigation Practices visit Purdue Extension:   https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ay/ay-7-w.pdf.Facebookpinterestlinkedinmail