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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Every 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 2018 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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What is “proper lawn watering” anyhow? THE SUPER HOT SUMMER EDITION

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

All year, we receive lots of calls about how to water your lawn correctly.

Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a sprinkler system, unfortunately, it’s not a “set it and forget it” thing.

Need more information on PROPER WATERING TECHNIQUES in various conditions?

Check out the LINKS below for several Science-Based / Regionally-Applicable resources to help guide you.

  • Purdue’s Irrigation Practices for Home Lawns GUIDE – A great resource for general information on WATERING PROPERLY – CLICK HERE 
  • Purdue’s 2012 Article, “My Lawn is Brown and Crunchy… Is it Dead? What do I do now?” …  While now in early July 2018 we’re not officially in a drought necessarily, the information relates to high summer temps and the need to adjust irrigation accordingly – CLICK HERE
  • Michigan State University’s Article, “Helping your turf during dry and hot weather”CLICK HERE
  • Red Hen Turf Farm’s Early and Long-term Sod Care Guide – CLICK HERE
    • This is our official GENERAL GUIDE on caring for your new sod, now, and in the long term.  If you’re wondering about any of the topics covered and need more information, feel free to call at 574-232-6811, but perhaps first check out Purdue’s extensive list of easy to follow guides for homeowner lawn care at THIS LINK
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GRUBS! and Caution While Googling – 2 CURRENT HOT TOPICS at Red Hen Turf Farm

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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 – www.canr.msu.edu/home_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”

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

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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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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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12 Quick Tips to Make Your Lawn Look Its Best, The 2018 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 2018 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 … Here’s our 2018 Price List.

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 www.msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/home_lawns
  • 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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Red Hen’s 2 Choices for an INSTANT LAWN: Kentucky Bluegrass Sod vs. Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod

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Red Hen’s Kentucky Bluegrass

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

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

 

Of these 2 choices, our Kentucky Bluegrass Sod is a more popular cool-season turf grass that is specific to our Midwest region.

By far, the majority of sod we sell is our Kentucky Bluegrass Sod. 

So what are the main differences between Red Hen’s two types of Sod, and why might you choose one over the other?  We get this question a lot.

Let’s start by focusing on KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS SOD …

Kentucky Bluegrass is by far (in our opinion) the more beautiful of the two turf grasses.  It has a deep, emerald blue-green color with boat shaped blades and spreads quickly via rhizomes, (which are basically underground roots) to form a dense “knitted” type sod.

Kentucky Bluegrass does best in full sun but needs at least 4 hours or more of DIRECT sunlight per day to thrive. Kentucky bluegrass requires regular maintenance.  Routine fertilization is key to maintaining this beautiful, lush turf.

Kentucky Bluegrass has a shallower rooting system than Tall Fescue Sod.  Because of its shallow rooting system, Kentucky Bluegrass has lower tolerances for heat and drought.  This is why it is important to follow good watering habits, especially in the heat of the summer.

Every spring, we have a handful of our new Kentucky Bluegrass sod customers call us early in the spring and ask us why their sod is still brown when their neighbors’ lawns are already greening up.  Kentucky Bluegrass takes a few extra weeks to “green up” than fescues and rye grasses. This is absolutely normal for this type of grass, so it’s nothing to worry about.  You can read more about this issue in our previous blog post,Straight from our FAQ VAULT … It’s Spring, but why is my Kentucky Bluegrass Sod not GREEN yet?”

One of the best things about Kentucky bluegrass is, once it’s established – it has the ability to repair, spread and recuperate quickly from damages.

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


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

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

Red Hen’s Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod is slightly lighter in green color compared to Kentucky bluegrass.  It is a deep-rooted, cool-season turf grass that adapts well to a wide variety of soil types.  The deep root system allows Tall Fescue to tolerate drought conditions better than Kentucky bluegrass.

Many of our customers ask if we have “shade grass.”  Our response is, “no grass likes shade.” However, our tall fescue is a great heat and drought tolerant grass that tends to do well in less irrigated areas.

Typically, tall fescue grasses have a “bunch-style” growth habit without the ability to spread like Kentucky bluegrass’s rhizomatous root system.  However, with the advent of this past decade’s turf technology, Rhizomatous Tall Fescue is the only tall fescue variety with true rhizomes, which help its roots knit together, repair and spread better than regular fescue.  This helps with installation and makes for quick establishment.  Re-seeding is still necessary in damaged areas, as the turf can tend to be “clumpy” versus the tightly knit Kentucky bluegrass.

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

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

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

* * * * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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From the FAQ Vault – It’s officially Autumn … I hate raking. What do you recommend I do with these tree leaves laying around on my grass?

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Public Domain Photo by Charles Rondeau

Autumn Dry Leaves (Public Domain Photo) by Charles Rondeau

In the past few weeks, we’ve gotten quite a few phone calls about tree leaves.

People are asking, “Should they be kept on the grass, removed completely, or mulched?”

Some of these calls were from customers with newly installed sod, others have sod that was installed a while ago, and still others were calling about their lawns that were established by seed.

No matter the origins of your grass, and no matter the age of your lawn, at Red Hen Turf Farm we do NOT recommend letting your leaves cover up your grass throughout the entire winter.  

Yes, if you do enough Googling, you’ll see articles that tell you it’s desireable to let the leaves stay there, mainly because a thick layer of leaves gives wildlife a nice place to live and find food.  We disagree about this being a good idea.

In fact, we recommend you limit the advice you get online to reputable, regional websites such as Purdue University Extension, Michigan State University Extension, and Ohio State University Extension. At times, we also might use extension.org and other “land grant university” websites, although we try our “local” sources first.

When we give advice to our customers, it’s typically based on these “land grant university” / Extension websites because they only publish information that is backed up by scientific research and they pass the so-called C.R.A.P. testwhich means they are Current, Relevant, Authoritative / Accurate, and their Purpose is to provide science-backed information to the community and to fellow experts.

University of Minnesota Extension suggests that if you MUST allow leaves to cover up 10-20% of your lawn, it might be fine but leaving an excessive amount of leaves on your lawn over the winter is not advised.  WHY NOT? Many reasons, including:

  1. Excessive leaf coverage over winter will likely smother your grass and inhibit growth in the spring.
  2. Leaves shade your grass, which can prevent your lawn from being able to photosynthesize in the late fall.  Photosynthesis is crucial for plant growth because it’s the process that let’s them turn sunlight into “food”.
  3. Thick layers of leaves can smother and completely kill the turf. Removing the interference from fallen tree leaves also allows your late season nitrogen applications to reach the turf more effectively, and improves the efficacy of late-season broadleaf herbicide applications. Therefore, for optimum turf health, it is critical to remove the tree leaves, or at least break them up.
  4. Leaves, even in small amounts, can trap humidity at the surface of your turf, which may encourage snow mold diseases.
  5. The animals like mice, moles, and voles that might enjoy living in your leaves may cause more damage than usual.

So, what might you do with your leaves?

  1. Rake them up or use a blower, then either compost them, dispose of them, or use them to mulch a non-turf area of your landscape such as your garden of flower beds.
  2. Use your mower’s bagging attachment, then either compost them, dispose of them, or use them to mulch a non-turf area of your landscape such as your garden of flower beds.
  3. If the coverage is no too excessive, you can MULCH your leaves with a mower.  This chops them into small pieces that won’t smother your grass. Mulching is an especially good way to handle autumn leaves since the nutrients and organic matter will benefit your lawn and soil. To learn more about mulching leaves check out THIS LINK from the City of New Rochelle, New York, which provides information from Purdue and Michigan State Universities.

Until next time! And keep the questions coming … The Red Hen Turf Farm Crew.

 

 

 

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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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Straight from our FAQ VAULT … It’s Spring, but why is my Kentucky Bluegrass Sod not GREEN yet?

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vault-154685_640

Especially for people who sodded their lawns last year, it can be a surprise when the snow comes off and you see your sodded lawn looking very UNGREEN.

While it may be a bit annoying, this is extremely typical.

During the winter months, Kentucky bluegrass sod will go dormant, and needs time, warmth, sunlight, and nutrients to GREEN-UP. In fact, your neighbors’ grass may green up before yours simply as a result of the genetics of the Kentucky bluegrass sod.

The superior genetics of Red Hen’s Kentucky bluegrass sod gives it excellent tolerance of diseases like leaf spot and summer patch. And, as you know, it is a very attractive, dense, compact (low growing) turf with dark green color during the summer.

However, as is the case with certain elite varieties of Kentucky bluegrass, our sod can have a long winter dormancy and slow spring green-up. Cool dry weather can exacerbate this growth response. Full green-up typically occurs by mid- to late-May.

So what can you do besides wait?

An early spring application of fertilizer may very well help speed up the green-up of your Kentucky bluegrass sod. Please note that as of today (March 24th), it’s still a little early to apply fertilizer because the ground is still frozen, but we would expect that applying between April 1 and May 1 will help tremendously.

Another thing you might try is to mow the brown tips off of your grass.  This may help stimulate growth, but it will also make your lawn more aesthetically pleasing in the meantime.

I mentioned earlier that you might notice your neighbors’ lawns greening up quicker than your Kentucky bluegrass sod. This is because their lawns may be comprised of perennial ryegrass and/or some type of fescue, which often green-up several weeks earlier than the elite type of sod you have in your own lawn. Perennial ryegrass typically will have the earliest green-up.

More questions? Give us a call at 574-232-6811.
Thanks!

– Lisa, Red Hen Turf Farm

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