Friday, September 13, 2013

The endophyte is near

If you haven't thought about seeding yet, you should. Next to core aeration this is one of the most important practices you can do for your lawn on an annual basis. The more you over-seed, the healthier the lawn and the less likely you'll have to deal with insects and weeds etc.

Now, don't think you can just throw any old dollar-store seed down and get fantastic results. The cheaper the seed the more you are inviting weeds to encroach on your lawn. Cost effective seed usually carries weed seeds in it, so you want to check the bag to make sure it has been tested and is virtually weed-seed free. Most "name brands" will have seed meeting this criteria.

Like-wise be careful if you are using top soil with your seed. Too many times this year I witnessed lawns seeded with bad top soil and there were more weeds than grass popping up. I use compost, or peat moss mainly because there are just too many weed-seed properties in top soil no matter how screened they say it is.

Also whether you are sowing by hand, or using a drop seeder make sure you have good seed to soil contact and the seed is uniform in your application. Too much is a waste and not enough doesn't help either. I could say, about 15 seeds per square inch, but instead, use your best judgement when raking it in.

Grass type is also very important. If you get a lot of sun you need a seed mixture heavier on the perennial rye side. We like CPR- creeping perennial rye. Ryes are the workhorse of the grass world. They germinate quickly and take a pounding from heavy traffic i.e. kids, pets.

If you are dealing with more shade, then a mix with a high concentration of fescue is more appropriate. We use Eco Lawn- a blend of seven different fescues, but you have to be patient as the germination takes longer -approx. 3 weeks. Fescues tend to be less maintenance as they are slow growers and drought tolerant. The more diverse the blend the healthier your lawn will be in the long run. A blend of fescue and rye like Pickseed's Enviro 2000 is a good choice as well.

I also advocate using very little Kentucy Blue Grass, if at all, in your seeding. Yeah it looks great, but you want seed that will delve deep roots and KBG isn't a good choice for that reason alone. You must also consider insect problems somewhere down the line. Whether grubs, or top feeding insects, they all love that grass type. You might as well yell "come and get it" once it has germinated. Ever wonder why all those newly sodded subdivisions have grass that is dead and dying a year or so after installation? You'll be told you didn't water it enough, but the real truth here is sod is 90% Kentucky Blue with it's shallow root system on crap soil that is sending out dinner invites to every insect in the neighbourhood.

If you have a rather large lawn to maintain perhaps you should consider over-seeding with clover- known back-in-the-day as the "rich man's weed." We use Huia Grasslands that doesn't flower the way Dutch White does. It's drought tolerant, is less maintenance, keeps bugs at bay and feeds nitrogen into your lawn. However if you are considering clover, hold off until next April before over-seeding.

You should also concentrate on grass seed that is endophytic. An endophyte is a naturally occurring fungus that keeps insect damage to a minimum and is mainly found in rye and fescue seed. Remember, which ever way you choose to go there's nothing I consider bullet proof and persistence of repeating this ritual every fall is the only golden ticket.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

One school year begins as another ends

Last year I did an end of season report on the lawn care class room and the products we use to control each issue.

Now, realize that this is my opinion and you don't have to agree with what I say. I mean, maybe you sell some of these products and you don't want the public knowing the truth? Personally, I embrace it, to the point I've lost a considerable dollar amount suggesting to customers, if they really want something that is absolute they should seek advice from a minimum wage employee in a garden centre south of the border.

Do I suggest breaking the law is the way to go in lawn care...absolutely not, but an exacerbated home owner should be aware of all options open to them. If I can't guarantee results they should know what can.

So here we go.

Mother Nature- C+
At first I was excited to have this student in the class when I saw the long-range Farmer's Almanac prediction of a cooler/wetter summer, but she became a playground bully around mid July and by the end of August Mother Nature had terrorized more than her fair share of lawns with crabgrass, chinch bug and cut worm. Having seen the forecast for next year as "hotter/dryer", the marks for Mother Nature look like they are headed south.

Crabgrass- D-
There is still no effective treatment on the horizon to combat this class clown who repeatedly skips school then shows up magically when the weather turns hot, causing a disruption for all the other students. Some will preach corn gluten is the way to go to tame this beast, but I have found through trial and error you'd get better results from raising your mowing height and keeping you soil temperature as cool as possible because this is one weed that doesn't care how much time it spends in the principal's office.

Chinch Bugs- D-
The sudden heat in July led to a charge of this insect across many a lawn this year. The damage was easier to spot because until late August the lawns never had a chance to go dormant. F.Y.I. no nematode trials have ever shown any effect at controling this insect, although the very same nematodes have been effective at parting you from your money. Every heard of that saying,"there's a sucker born every minute"? Looking forward to getting Met 52 in my class next year and saying goodbye to nematodes, hopefully forever.

Fiesta- B-
This student did a reasonable job this year keeping weeds in check as long as it was applied on a consistant basis, but the wet weather meant many repeated applications. It's no 2-4-D, but right now it's all we have so I give it a passing grade this year. Say, what ever happened to that foreign exchange student, Phoma Macrostoma? Weren't we promised that weed control in 2012?....Bueller....Scotts....anyone?

White Grub- A
Combined with a colder winter, a cooler/wetter spring and a dry August, grubs weren't much of an issue this year unlike the classroom disruption they've been in previous semesters. It made for one happy teacher that didn't have to rely on nematodes in 2013.

The Home Owner- B+
It's taken some time, but people are starting to understand, in order to have a healthier lawn, mowing heights have to be raised and weekly watering is needed. If you want to cut your lawn like a putting green, open a golf course. At least you'd have access to the good stuff...

...and I'm not trying to bring politics into this post. Those dunces were expelled from the classroom some time ago.