Hauling and Trailering Sod Safely and Efficiently #PickingUpSod #Trailering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, it is required by law.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be proactive.

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

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

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

— Jeremy and the Red Hen Turf Farm Crew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MAY REMINDER! Fertilizer, Crabgrass & Broadleaf Weed Control

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

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

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

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

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

OPTION 3 …
WANT TO BATTLE THOSE PESKY BROADLEAF WEEDS? 

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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I HAVE THE BEST CUSTOMERS!

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

And, I have some of the funniest customers around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading!

– Lisa, and the Crew at Red Hen Turf FarmFacebookpinterestlinkedinmail

What a pain in the crabgrass!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s more info from Purdue Science: Crabgrass Control

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

The Red Hen CrewFacebookpinterestlinkedinmail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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

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

Red Hen Turf Farm - Grass Seed

IDEAL TIMES TO PLANT GRASS SEED

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS GERMINATION

A FEW TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR ODDS FOR BETTER SEEDING RESULTS

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

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

Let’s go a little deeper…

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

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

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

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

PURCHASING GRASS SEED AT RED HEN TURF FARM

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

100% Kentucky Bluegrass Seed … 

This sod-quality seed will match our most current variety of Kentucky Bluegrass sod in production. Seed can be used to patch small areas in existing sod or seeding a large area next to sod. This seed takes 21 days to germinate and will be very slow to fill in. This seed will require some extra attention to establish, but it exhibits the same deep green color and disease resistance that Red Hen’s sod does.  AVAILABLE IN 50 LB BAGS, OR IN BULK BY THE POUND.

Rhizomatous Tall Fescue (RTF) Seed … 

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

Greenskeeper Custom Mix Seed … 

OUR MOST POPULAR SEED!  Works well in full sun and light amounts of shade.  This variety contains 3 types of grass seeds and each type will germinate at a different time. AVAILABLE IN 50 LB BAGS, OR IN BULK BY THE POUND.

Greenskeeper Premium Shade Mix Seed …

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

Greenskeeper Super Shady Seed …

NEW IN 2018!  If you have less than 2 hours of direct sunlight and have tried to other shady mixes with little luck, this may be the grass seed for you!  This mix contains includes 5% Poa Supina bluegrass seed – some of the highest tech shad grass seed on the market.  AVAILABLE IN 25 LB BAGS, OR IN BULK BY THE POUND.

Greenskeeper Valu Plus Mix

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

Greenskeeper Low-Mow National Links Mix

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

P-105 Princeton Kentucky Bluegrass

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

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

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

LEARN MORE

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

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