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Winter is on it's way out.....
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FINELAWN NEWSLETTER - AUGUST 2015
At last winter is beginning to lose its grip on our part of the world.  The day length is increasing, there's a little more strength in the sun and the daffodils are flowering. All these indicators mean that Spring is on the way.....and we can still ski for the next three months.....even better!
 
So what does this seasonal change mean for your grass plants?  I've compiled a list of some pointers that could require attention over the following month.  Please note that these tips are specific for the type of lawn described. For instance treatments that are intended for warm season grasses such as kikuyu and couchgrass do not apply to other grass varieties;
  • Remove the grass clippings with each and every mow as wet clippings will leave holes in the sward at this time of the year.
  • If you struggle to get cleanly cut leaf blades over winter because the grass is soft then apply Muriate of Potash at 2.5kgs per 100m2 and this problem will be alleviated. Ensure that this product is well watered in otherwise it will burn the grass.   
  • Couchgrasses will still retain their colour over winter in warmer areas particularly if they are treated with small amounts of gibberelic acid and liquid nitrogen..
  • If you haven't already done it then August is a good month to selectively remove weeds from your warm season lawns such as couch an kikuyu. I recommend using Atrazine @ 25mls per 100m2 to remove most broadleaf weeds and Kerb at 20mls per 100m2 to selectively remove poa annua and other foreign annual grasses.
  • August is a great month to scalp warm season grasses which will act to remove a lot of the dead and decaying litter in these swards. Ensure that you use a catcher to remove all the litter and afterwards apply a heavy dressing of a nitrogenous fertiliser to promote rapid re-growth.
  • Watch out for any signs of the fungal disease red thread which is often prevalent at this time of the year. If observed then immediately supply a nitrogen rich standard release fertiliser such as Turf Supreme, keep mower blades clean and restrict traffic on the lawn which will help to prevent its' spread.
Species watch:  Couchgrass
Typically these species ( Cynodon dactylonj sp.) are blue-green in colour, prostrate and both rhizomatous and stoloniferous.  The leaves tend to be hairless and relatively short although stolons can measure several metres in length.
 
Internationally, couchgrasses are one of the most important turfgrass species. Indeed, it is one of the preferred species for both golf and recreational surfaces in both Australia and the USA.  If you have ever watched the US Masters at Augusta on TV then you will have witnessed firsthand how great these grasses can look.  In the USA they are generally referred to a Bermudagrasses which sounds far more exotic and sexy than couchgrass and this name is becoming increasingly commonly used in the southern hemisphere.  
 
Just like Kikuyu the typically creeping habit makes it invasive and for that reason many home gardeners still regard it as a weed and under this guise it is often referred to as twitch. It is endemic in many coastal areas and regions with sandy free draining soils. This endemic species which is also known as Indian Doub, as it is believed to have originated from East India and it is characterised by being relatively coarse with quite thick stolons relatively to the more refined and more recently introduced cultivars. As a species it has been intensively bred over many years particularly in the USA and Australia and as a result there is a multitude of cultivars that have been developed for specific circumstances. Many of these new generation cultivars are cynodon transvaalensis crossbred plants which also renders them infertile and as a result they need to be vegetatively propagated.  This normally achieved by either using turf or via the transplanting of stolons.  Stolons are commonly referred to as runners and they are the creeping strands that are seen above the ground. These plant types also grow a mimicking underground version of this structure and these are referred to as rhizomes. 
Photo displaying the typical growth habit of couchgrasses
In the cooler climates characteristic of New Zealand these couchgrasses have a tendency to display dormancy in winter and can take on a grey or greyish brown hue in winter. The length of this dormancy is dependent upon the cultivar and the location of that lawn. They prefer full sun locations and in warm locations couch makes a fabulous lawn. Their stolons make them ideal in binding together sandy or erosion prone surfaces and with appropriate management they make a very attractive and durable lawn.  This characteristic also makes them useful in sports surfaces as the creeping and intertwining nature of the stolons and rhizomes assist to bind the surface together and retain its integrity under heavy wear circumstances. Many of the newly redeveloped sports fields in the Auckland region in particular are using couchgrasses. But they are also being used further south in both Wellington (Marist St.Pat's ground) and Christchurch. Only time will tell if these warm season grasses will adapt well to those cooler environmental conditions and many in the industry are doubtful that these introductions are appropriate. Couchgrasses are also very useful in golf courses as the creeping nature of this species rapidly repairs divots. 
 
Couch is available as seed, turf or stolons. As a result of the intensive plant breeding programs that have been conducted with couch the varieties that are available are quite diverse in their colour, winter hardiness, growth characteristics and ease of maintenance. On that basis, it is recommended that chosen variety is visually assessed prior to purchase to avoid disappointment. As a general rule the seeded varieties tend to be a little coarser than the non fertile hybrids that are commonly propagated as turf.  The varieties that are currently grown in NZ as turf include AgriDark, Legend, Windsor Green and  Finelawn. However, there are other varieties that have been brought into NZ in earlier times and these include Santa Ana, Tifton turf and Tifton Fine.
 
Stolon or vegetative transfer is a popular methodology with this type of species. It involves the harvesting and collection of stolons, followed by spreading and either planting or simply rolling them into a newly prepared area. This can be done either manually or using specific machines called sprig planters.
A sprig planter in use on the University of Tennessee ground.
 
Couch is normally sown at 5 – 10gms/m2 and this should be carried out during the warmers summer months from late October through to February. Stolonising rates vary depending upon the contract but are typically in the vicinity of 10% - 15%. 
 
Couchgrasses can tolerate a range of mowing heights. Some of the finer leafed cultivars are even used for golf greens and are therefore tolerant of being cut as low as 4mm.   However, in a normal residential lawn situation and to avoid significant avoid thatch build up it is preferable to cut it at 15 -20mm, though over time this is likely to elevate as the strong horizontal growth of this species tends to build up height.  For this reason it is often advisable that these lawns are de-thatched annually. However, the same result can be achieved by shaving the lawn low once annually using a rotary mower and a catcher.  This  process is best done in August or September just prior to the burst of spring growth. Follow this treatment with a high dose of a nitrogenous rich fertiliser and the lawn will soon recover and resume a darker green colouration. 
 
Couch performs best when receiving small amounts of nitrogenous fertilisers. It also responds very well to applications of Gibberelic Acid. This acts to not only improve the colour but also to keep the turf growing well into early winter.  Typically these applications need to commence in late April or the beginning of May.  Weed control is reasonably easy because most of the foreign grasses encountered will be temperate rather than warm season grasses. Typically,  Atrazine is used as a cheap simple method to remove many broadleaf weeds and grasses. A follow up application using Kerb @ 20mls per 100m2 of lawn area.   Indeed in winter when the couch is in dormancy we have also regularly used Roundup as a clean-up spray treatment.  However, I would not recommend this approach for a domestic lawn.
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Please note that products containing Picloram or Triclpyr such as Triumph, Victory or Tordon Brushkiller will damage couchgrasses.  However, one of these may need to be used in a situation where creeping oxalis becomes established.  In that circumstance, I suggest that the lawn is simply spot sprayed using one of the above mentioned products in the knowledge that the couch grass will eventually re-colonise those areas that are affected by the spray treatment.

Establishment:    Seed, stolon/sprig transfer or turf
Sowing rate:     5–10gms/m2.  Must be sown late October - late February
Mowing height:   15mm- 25mm

 
Porina Caterpillar(Wiseana spp.)
There are three species of porina moth are they are distributed variously throughout New Zealand.  The caterpillar is yellow and greyish in colouration and up to 60mm in length. The adult porina moths lay eggs on grass plants throughout the spring and early summer months.
 
Moths live for a few days and fly when temperatures above 9ºC. Peak moth flights occur from early October through until early December.  However, in some districts a second series of flights have been recorded from late December through until early February. After mating, females lay most of their 500-2,800 eggs in their emergence area. Around 30 - 50% of eggs are laid during the initial dispersal flight. Moths preferably seek grass that is more than 75mm in height in which to lay their eggs.  Typically the eggs hatch in about 3 - 5 weeks. Initially, caterpillars live on the soil surface under leaf litter (up to 12mm deep) until they commence digging burrows that are up to 300mm deep.  At this stage the caterpillars are 4 - 15 weeks of age and they are already 10-12mm long. They emerge at night from these burrows to feed. They feed from growing parts of the grass plants that are located directly adjacent to the burrow and often these create an area of damage that resembles the shape of a saucer. In areas with high populations these saucers will overlap. The burrows are difficult to see as they are generally covered by a cap.   Both the eggs and the caterpillars are highly vulnerable to heavy wear and dry weather. Once they have developed their burrow they are relatively safe from dry conditions.
 
Traditionally, Porina is a big issue in lawns located in Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Wellington and the Manawatu. Issues with Porina caterpillar damage appear to be less frequent in the top half of the north island. 
 
The best control is exerted by using the chemical Diflubenzuron.  Please note that the spray coverage should be applied evenly to short mown grass so that it can be accessed by the caterpillars.  The best results occur when caterpillars are 20 - 25mm long.  Monitoring can occur by digging spade squares at regular intervals throughout the lawn.  Tip the sods upside down are carefully pull each apart inspecting for both burrows and caterpillars.   
Spectacular Transformation
I was in Wellington towards the end of last month to check how well our Tall Fescue turf had adapted to local conditions in the Capital. This is the new Pukeahu National War Memorial Park which is located just to the west of the Basin Reserve.  It can be accessed off either Tory or Taranaki Streets and there is always parking on the access way in from Martin Square.  It a pretty cool place and I strongly recommend that you have a look at it next time you're in town or visiting our Capital City.  
'Our Place - Our Lawn'
Turf Supply
You can keep up to date on the supply of our various turf products via our newly upgraded website. We update any supply issues on the “price guide page” 
Go to www.finelawn.co.nz
Tall Fescue turf we expect that the next Tall Fescue crop will be ready for harvest before the end of August. 
Fine Fescue turf is also expected to be available by the end of August.
Ryegrass turf will be available in September.  
Common Kikuyu and Regal Kikuyu are still in dormancy and we do not anticipate having any available until the new season which normally commences in the first week of December.
Couchgrass and Seashore Paspalum  are also now in dormancy and we expect these two products to be available again towards the end of October.
 
We understand that our constant supply issues are having an impact on our clients.  We are actively looking at securing additional land to ensure that we can have more turf available.  We will keep you informed of any progress in this area.   
Don't forget....
You can find Finelawn on Facebook - where we post regular updates, reminders, product specials, photo's and any other interesting news and keep an eye on our new improved website for turf supply updates.  
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