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APRIL 2016
Gee..... what happened to the month of March and the end of the financial year?? This is a particularly busy time of the year on the turf farm and March kinda' came and went without a newsletter being published bad!
So, autumn is now upon us accompanied by cooler day time temperatures and that distinctive nip in the air in the evenings and early in the hoo!.....I already miss summer!  However, this is a great time of the year to address any issues on your lawn So, here is a list of some recommended activities;

  • It is important to manage water applications carefully at this time of the year. Many districts will  have received sufficient moisture to allow irrigation systems to be turned off.  However, in several areas ground water is still limiting meaning that irrigation is still a necessity.  The key is not to over water as it is important to ensure that the soil is not overly wet or saturated going into winter as this hinders winter growth rates and can create further problems.
  • Mowing management is important in autumn and particularly through April as this is a time when plants tiller profusely. So, the more often the lawn is cut over this time the denser the lawn will become.
  • If the lawn is being mown more regularly then it will be important to replace the nutrients lost and removed as clippings.  Therefore, this is an important time to apply a fertiliser dressing also.
  • For cool season grasses this is a great time of the year to correct any areas damaged over the summer months. Often this may involve over-sowing with additional seed.  This can be applied using a tractor mounted seed drill, however for most residential sites this process is a manual proposition as the areas are too small to access with tractor driven equipment. The best results occur once the height of the existing lawn has been gradually reduced over several mows. Remember that the "rule of thumb" is to remove no more than 20% of the total leaf area per cut.  Then the area should be scarified using a rake.  Apply the seed and a light dressing of freshly screened topsoil or turf sand is then advisable.  Complete this task by applying another layer of seed and finish by rolling and compacting the treated area using a garden roller.
  • Warm season grasses such as couch and kikuyu will respond very well to light applications of gibberellic acid over the cooler autumn months.  They will "colour up" and look significantly more attractive if this is accompanied by regular nitrogen treatments.  This will promote growth later into the winter season and the extra gibberellin also tends to improve the colour characteristics of the turf.  Note that gibberellins are naturally occurring plant growth hormones that act to increase growth by increasing cell elongation.
  • Keep an eye out for flocks of starlings on your lawn as this is a clear indication that the lawn has an  issue with grass grub larvae.(which is covered in further detail alter in this newsletter).
  • Autumn rains normally bring a flush of unwanted broadleaf weeds.  These should be controlled now so that turfgrasses have ample opportunity to re-colonise these areas before winter.  If this treatment is delayed it can lead to a proliferation of poa annua later in winter.  For cool season grasses common treatments include products that contain 2,4 D & dicamba (sold as Banvine) dicamba, MCPA & mecaprop (sold as Broadsword) or a combination of Picloram and Triclopyr (sold as Triumph, Victory, Brushkiller).  Please note that for warm season lawns that are comprised of couchgrass or kikuyu these latter products cannot be used as they will cause significant damage to these lawn species.
So why is my grass looking so ... 'average' for this time of the year?
Many customers have recently expressed concern that their lawns still appear as though they are suffering from "ill thrift" despite cooler temperatures and the onslaught of autumn.  A brief look at the following rainfall data from Metservice highlights a very likely issue!
Auckland rainfall 2015 - '16 (mm) 44 81 27 128 98 28 406
Auckland - Historical averages (mm) 105 71 84 71 68 61 460
Hamilton rainfall 2015 - '16 (mm) 40 115 33 75 67 34 364
Hamilton - Historical averages (mm) 105 95 118 79 83 61 541
Wellington rainfall 2015 - '16 (mm) 27 60 36 96 29 22 270
Wellington - Historical averages (mm) 117 91 86 77 97 90 563

These figures indicate that the amount of rainfall for the past six months is significantly less than the historical averages. This is generally in keeping with the weather pattern that accompanies an El Nino weather system. Of more importance is the very dry conditions that have persisted since the end of February and this recent lack of rainfall is effecting both turf growth and the rate of recovery from dry summer conditions.  Interestingly this pattern has been consistent over all of the north island with the exception of the Far North, the Coromandel & the Bay of Plenty. In these later districts rainfall from the end of December onwards has been well above average. It is for this reason we have recommended that irrigation in many areas needs to continue because soil moisture levels are extremely low for this time of the year.
Perennial Ryegrass

Lolium perenne L.
This species is characterised as having bright green, keeled leaves that have a very shiny underside. A distinguishing feature is the purple or reddish emergent sheath at the base of the plant.  This turf grass is often referred to as amenity ryegrass or dwarf ryegrass to distinguish it from its cousins the pastoral ryegrasses as it does not grow nearly as quickly as its agricultural relatives.
Since the early 1970’s this species became a very popular species for use in domestic lawns and sports fields in both New Zealand and Australia because of its fast establishment, good wear tolerance and rapid recovery from heavy wear circumstances.  Plant breeders have continued to make significant progress in the development of this plant and the newer cultivars are still characterized as being fast germinating and establishing but they are slower growing, darker green and more resistant to fungal disease, particularly “red thread” which blighted some of the earlier cultivars such as “Elka” and “Imagine”.  There are now more that 200 registered dwarf ryegrass cultivars and they vary significantly in their performance features. Those that are bred for sports-fields tend to grow faster in winter and have a stronger vertical growth habit whilst the latest varieties out of Europe and the USA tend to have higher tiller densities, have finer leaf blades and grow less rapidly.  This later group also tend to be a darker green colouration. 
Ryegrasses prefer moist, fertile soils and as a lawn species persists best when irrigated and when receiving regular nitrogenous fertilizer applications. The absence of both water and sufficient nutrients often sees the plant population decrease through the summer months.  This problem is more of an issue in the northern regions where chewing and biting insects also impact on plant populations. Following a dry summer this can often result in a necessity to either over-sow or under-sow using fresh new seed to replenish the sward density.  Patently, this is easy to do in a sports-field situation, but is less convenient in a residential lawn environment, where the size of the area restricts the ability to get around with bulky machinery.  Secondly, home owners regard their lawns as permanent fixtures and the thought of regular reinstatement has led many householders to look at alternative species that do not have the same limitations. In the warmer regions of New Zealand both Black Beetle (Heteronychus arator) and grass grub (Costelytra zealandica) can do significant damage to this species. The larvae of these insects reside in the root zone and chew on the roots of this as well as other susceptible species. The outcome is that the plants have less root mass and this resultant decreased ability to uptake moisture in hot and dry conditions this can lead to desiccation followed by plant death. So whilst ryegrass can produce a magnificent lawn it is essentially a high performance species requiring high levels of inputs and in many instances this results in dissatisfaction from many homeowners as their beautiful ryegrass lawn can deteriorate relatively rapidly. It grows relatively quickly over the spring months and at this time it is important to increase the mowing frequency to develop and maintain sward density. This is particularly true from September through to November, when tiller activity is at its highest.  Removal of litter at this time is also important to avoid wet litter lying on the plants, subsequently killing them and creating holes in the sward.  It can also be difficult to keep free of foreign grass weeds, unless a regular program of pre-germination herbicides is employed.  The difficulty being that once these foreign grass species become established they are difficult to selectively remove them.  This is particularly true for agricultural grasses such as Yorkshire fog (Holcus Lanatus L.), agricultural ryegrasses (Lolium perenne L.) and annual subtropical summer grasses. Because ryegrass lacks the density characteristic of many of the other amenity species it can be prone to becoming invaded with annual winter grass (Poa annua) in particular. The seeds of this species tend to be endemic in temperate soils and the light green colouration of this grass complete with its characteristic white seed heads ensures that it appears quite prominent when set against the relatively dark green colour of ryegrass plants. Whilst it can be removed selectively from a ryegrass sward by using ethofumasate the easiest solution is to avoid its occurrence in the first instance by using this product as a pre-germination application. Poa annua which is also known as annual winter grass normally germinates after the occurrence of rains in association with decreasing soil temperatures in late autumn so therefore applications of ethofumasate prior to that time acts as a good preventative method of control. 
More recently plant breeders have released a glyphosate resistant strain of ryegrass.  The objective of this breeding program was to design and breed a cultivar that could be treated with relatively low rates of glyphosate which would provide the ability to selectively remove glyphosate sensitive weeds such as poa annua without having too much effect on the growth of the ryegrass. 
International plant breeders have also released cultivars of ryegrass that display a degree of stoloniferous growth or a creeping growth habit.   This is a major improvement for this species as this style of growth allows the re-colonisation of areas where plants have been lost through the activities of either insects or disease. Note that these stolons are relatively short when compared to truly stoloniferous varieties such as couch or kikuyu and as a result will only creep in the order of 25mm – 50mm.
So, whilst ryegrass has lost popularity as a residential lawn species in the northern regions of New Zealand over the past decade or so these latest plant breeding manipulations could see this species once again becoming popular.
Establishment Seed or Turf
Sowing rate 35 - 40gms/m²
Mowing height 25 - 40mm
Grass grub

(Costelytra zealandica);
Grass grub is found throughout New Zealand and has long been a problem in both farmland and domestic lawns. Historically control for this species was managed by the use of DDT.  In areas such as the Canterbury Plains where these grubs did a lot of damage to productive pasture and crops this product was even added as a standard blend to local fertilisers in the 1960's. The outcome is that many of those fields and paddocks retain high readings for traces of this product and in some instances this is restrictive to the use of this land because of the long term residual activity of the active ingredients.  
The adult beetles emerge from their pupae from October through until late December typically on warm still nights. The adult beetle are bronze in colour and they can congregate in large numbers often feeding on fruit trees and ornamental tree species.  Adults lay their eggs at a depth of 10 - 25mm in the soil and these normally hatch after a period of two weeks. The larvae which grow to a length of 25mm long are coloured creamy white with a tan coloured head.  They feed on the roots of susceptible grass plants.  Damage is normally most noticeable between March and July after which time the larvae burrow further down into the soil profile (150mm - 250mm) where they pupate.  At this depth they are difficult to control and therefore the most effective control occurs when the larvae are feeding close to the surface in the January to March period. The larvae as depicted below are quite similar to black beetle larvae although the grass grub larvae trend to be smaller and more creamy in colour.  Treatment using either pyriphos granules or acelypron is effective particularly when applied in March or April.  Ensure that at least 25mm of precipitation is applied within 7 days of treatment.
Spectacular Transformation
Some amazing images of the second stage of Kikuyu installation at this majestic property on Waiheke Island.  The guys did a fantastic job, smashing it out in less than 1 day but still requiring their rugby boots for grip on the steep slopes!  
You can keep up to date on the supply of our various turf products via our website. We update any supply issues on the “price guide" page.  To check this out go to

A brief supply summary is as follows;

Tall Fescue turf is available now.  We now have very good stocks in front of us 
Kikuyu is available now.
Couchgrass is available now.
Seashore Paspalum  is available now.
Fine Fescue turf is expected to be available within 3 weeks.
Ryegrass turf will also be available within 3 weeks.
Please note that the season for establishing warm season grasses is rapidly coming to a conclusion.  As a guide we typically stop supplying these products at the end of May.
We are very excited by our additional new turf farm.  We have just negotiated to take over a further 30ha at this site to give us a total additional area of 45ha or 112 acres in the old language.  Not only will it provide us significantly more product availability but we've also been able to trial with a few other cultivars and species to determine their suitability in our climatic conditions. We currently have three different cultivars of Tall Fescue as well as creeping ryegrass(SRL), Kentucky Bluegrass and Fine Fescue all now in situ and growing well.
Don't forget to find us on Facebook page and hit the LIKE button to follow regular updates, reminders, product specials and any other interesting Finelawn News! And remember if it's time to fertilise or you need some herbicide or seed and you don't have time to come out to our shop - let your fingers do the walking and order it online and we will courier it right to your doorstep!  
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