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Take a look for helpful hints and information to help you maintain or create a lawn your neighbours will be envious of!
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Despite the balmy conditions that were still being experienced by mid - May, winter was always going to come......it was just a matter of when it would arrive!  Well, it has certainly arrived now with far colder temperatures and frosts to mark the beginning of June. This followed a period of almost monsoonal conditions in the Waikato where rain was experienced for 21 days straight! 
 
As a result of the rapidly decreasing daylight hours and cooler temperatures all grass plants will grow less rapidly and also respond less rapidly to treatments.  This is the main reason why recommendations were made in the previous months so that tasks were performed at a time when responses were easier to achieve.  The key to lawn management at this time of the year should be now more focused on managing risk;
 
  • Removing leaves is important because leaf litter left for long periods of time will kill grass plants as they suffer from lack of exposure to light in particular.
 
  • Monitor lawns for any signs of the fungal disease "red thread" which can become prominent at times when the lawn is constantly wet. The tell tale traces of red filaments are normally easily identified.  If these are observed then it is recommended to apply a standard release high nitrogen content fertiliser.
 
  • Mowing management is important as this time of the year to mitigate the risk of disease and plant losses. It is preferable to ensure that the plants are dry prior to mowing.  This may mean waiting until the afternoon or for a windy day when dew is less of a factor.   Cuts to leaf blades are far easier for the plant to seal than if they are wet. These take longer to seal and this extended period just increases the risk of fungal invasion.  Also it is important to remove litter so that clumps of wet clipping do not lie on the surface suffocating plants.
What lawn Species should I choose?
This is  a topic that seems to create endless debate largely because of individual consumer preference. However, to take a strictly scientific approach the outcome in many instances can be quite different.  I thought I'd raise this subject because of the almost fervent recommendations that are made by some people in the landscape industry. I find that many recommendations are made based on anecdotal evidence, their own personal preference counted somewhat by the turf choice available at the time.   
 
In reality the choice of turf variety should limited to a function of reasonable elimination. To achieve this a variety of questions need to be answered.
 
What is the purpose of the lawn?  

Modern turf varieties have been developed by plant breeders for one of three primary purposes being recreational, ornamental and functional.  Grasses developed for sport surfaces are designed to withstand heavy wear and they act to prevent abrasions and injuries due to their great cushioning effect.  They can be also used to provide specific surfaces for sports like cricket, golf and croquet in particular. This ability makes them ideal for many of these recreational activities.  However,  the requirements for a recreational lawn will be vastly different than for an ornamental lawn and therefore the choice of species will also change.  The recommended species for a functional lawn should take into account whether the lawn is going to have heavy or constant use or whether it is simply a low traffic area to adorn the garden.   Turf has an enormous number of functions including dust, mud and erosion control.  In cities in particular they are used to prevent heat and glare as well as noise and air pollution.  In this environment turf grasses also act as a cool, green and pleasant relief from the man-made structures consisting of materials such as glass, steel, bitumen and concrete.  Not only that but grasses are very useful  in cooling and moderating high temperatures in heavily built up cities.  In fact a lot of work has been conducted internationally on this one facet! So, firstly determine the chief function for the proposed lawn area.
 
Where is the lawn located?

The second determinant of species choice is the geographic location of the lawn. New Zealand can be split into a series of different growing zones. From Taupo south the country in regarded as having a temperate climate, with the obvious exception of the alpine zones.  However for the purposes of this exercise we are really only concerned with areas where people live. Conversely, the area located to the north of Whangarei is regarded as a truly sub-tropical zone. Therefore, the zone in between where the vast majority of New Zealand's population resides is regarded as a "Transition zone".  This in itself creates complications.  Summer temperatures and the levels of humidity experienced in this zone far exceed the optimal for cool season grasses.  For example the optimal ground temperature for ryegrass is 14oC yet this region has soil temperatures in excess of 20oC for nearly 6 months of the year!  Conversely, winter temperatures in this zone are lower than the warm season grasses are designed to withstand.  Hence, in many parts of this zone these warm season grass species go into dormancy in winter.   Therefore, in this "Transition zone" all grass species tend to be somewhat compromised. Therefore, the decision will revolve around which species is likely to be the best adapted to the specific circumstances of this site.
 
What are the specific characteristics of the site?
 
The characteristics that need to be assessed include the following features.
 
Shade - If the site is exposed to shade from large trees or buildings then the choice of species will be immediately limited. Certain species tolerate shade better than others and in particular the warm season grasses do not perform well in shady areas particularly in association with the cooler winter temperatures that are normally experienced in New Zealand.  Of all the species currently on the market fine fescue performs best is a shady environment. 
 
Salt spray - Locations close to the sea can be exposed to salt water spray.  This will burn many grass species leaving them looking unsatisfactory for long periods of time.   The only species that is immune to salt exposure is Seashore Paspalum but both fine fescue and kikuyu both adequately tolerate salt spray.  Indeed, the world renowned golf courses on the windswept east coast of Scotland such as St. Andrew's and Carnoustie are both comprised of fine fescue turf because of their ability to withstand salt laden sea spray. 
 
Irrigation - Is the site going to have an in-ground irrigation system?  Some species are far more prone to moisture and heat stress over the summer months than others and therefore irrigation is more of a requirement if these species are to be employed.  Obviously, the warm season grasses are significantly more drought tolerant than the cool season grasses but even for them irrigation should be mandatory if the site is either exposed or very sandy.   

Drainage characteristics - Is the site prone to flooding or does the soil have poor drainage characteristics.  These damp sites can be limiting from a species perspective. For instance the warm season grasses such as couch and kikuyu do not like "wet feet" and will not thrive in these circumstances.  Alternatively, is the site extremely free draining such as a very sandy site.     
 
What is the establishment time
 
There are several methods of establishing lawns including, seeding, hydro-seeding, sprig or stolon planting and laying turf. Warm season grasses can only be sown or sprig planted in a limited season that extends from late October until the end of February. Therefore, if these species need to be established outside this time zone then turf needs to be used. Obviously this has cost implications.  By comparison sowing some cool season species in summer can be a recipe for disaster unless weeds are well controlled and water is provided on a regular basis.  If the weed problems are going to be avoided by the use of turf then the installation of an irrigation system becomes essential.
 
So the time of the year also has major implications in terms of species selection.

Client expectation
 
This can be the most difficult aspect to determine. However, it pays to clearly indicate to the end user the appearance of the species being recommended. For example whilst Tall Fescue is currently extremely popular its characteristic coarse leaf blade can appear horrific to clients particularly of European origin that are used to far finer textured lawns.  Additionally, some clients are simply requiring a low care "green" space whilst others of the more "aficionado persuasion" are seeking perfection. So, essentially customers have their own tastes and needs and the final decision on lawn species will normally be theirs regardless of the recommendations provided by the landscaper or lawn laying contractor.
Fairyrings (Basidiomycete sp.)
These fairy rings are the subject of much folk lore and myth. Unfortunately, romantic tales of fairies dancing in moonlit meadows were extinguished in the 18th Century when scientists discovered the causal agent of this relatively common disease is fungi associated with the Basidiomycete species. This disease is obvious by the highly distinguishable rings, circles or arcs of stimulated turf growth. Occasionally these will be accompanied by the appearance of mushrooms or other fungal fruiting bodies. Often the plants in the affected area can die out and this is due to the waxy mycelium coating the soil and preventing water from penetrating the surface.   This disease is most commonly observed on sandy soil types and older more established and heavily thatched lawns. In occurs most often in summer and autumn particularly when the fertilizer regime is either poor or non-existent and in the presence of large amounts of decomposing organic matter. 
 
This issue can be resolved by applying a balanced fertilizer containing a high nitrogen content and by increasing the watering frequency.  It is also recommended that the lawn is de-thatched during autumn to remove the dead and decaying organic material. The presence of mushrooms or fruiting bodies is indicative of excessive amounts of decaying material as it is on this material that the fungal spores are proliferating. So, removing the excessive litter is important for problem to abate. The mushrooms or fruiting bodies do no harm but rather just appear unsightly on the effected lawn areas.  The nitrogen in the fertilizer will also assist in decomposing this material because decomposition is a nitrogen hungry process. The use of fungicides to control fairy rings is not recommended as they tend to provide very unreliable results.
Don't forget about feeding your lawn through the cooler months with our winter fertiliser - Turf Supreme/All Purpose.  Starting at just $12.00 for a 2kg bag!  
We highly recommend a Handy Spreader to distribute the fertiliser evenly and to prevent burning.  
Remember this winter fertliser needs to be watered in!  
Call in to pick some up from our shop at 471 Airport Road, Hamilton or visit our online shop http://finelawn.myshopify.com/ and we can courier directly to your door!
AMAZING TRANSFORMATION....
Our installation team did a fantastic here on this amazing location overlooking the Waikato River.
Auckland Transport Rate Increase
This is a repeat of the same article published that was in last month's newsletter;
Our Auckland transport operator has just advised us that as of the 1st of June deliveries into Auckland will increase to $100.00/pallet + GST.  They have maintained their current price for the past 10 years so a lift was inevitable at some stage. The biggest issue they are facing is that congestion in the city has reached a point where the time taken to make deliveries has increased markedly over the past two years which has forced this price change. 
We have no option but to pass on this increase. However we will absorb this increase until the 1st of July to give our clients time to notify their customers.
Turf Supply
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 our website at finelawn.co.nz

A brief supply summary is as follows;

Tall Fescue turf is available now.  Currently the demand for this product is heading into uncharted territory. This  unprecedented demand has us a little nervous with respect to our ability supply in the period of late August and early September.  We are currently blasting through at least 0.6ha of this species per week!  An additional 21ha has been planted in this product this year and as a result we are confident about our ability to supply from late spring onwards.........but the early Spring zone has us a little concerned because current sales levels are about 50% above budgeted levels!
    
Kikuyu despite continuing demand we will discontinue harvesting kikuyu turf on the 10th of June. Please note that we have planted an additional 2.5ha in common kikuyu this year to cope with the increasing demand for this species.
 
Couchgrass is no longer available.  Whilst it is capable of being harvested it is now severely discoloured as a result of the recent repeat frosts that have been experienced in the Waikato.

Seashore Paspalum is now unavailable as we have sold all last season's stock.

Fine Fescue turf is still developing slowly and will be available in about a fortnight. 

Creeping Ryegrass turf is still slower in developing that we have anticipated. The outcome is that it will still be a couple of weeks before this product is available. Again, we apologise for any inconvenience this delay may have created.

Please note that as a general guide the warm season grasses will not be available again until the beginning of December.
Company News
Increasing demand for turf means more an increased area of land devoted to turf production.  Understandably, this also translates to more gear for the turf farm. Our Production Manager Brad proudly took delivery of a new Massey Ferguson 5609 tractor this week! This 95hp machine will compliment the 105hp MF 4505 that was purchased last year.
Don't forget to check us out on Facebook.  We post regular updates, reminders, pictures of completed work and any other interesting Finelawn News!  Just click the link below, hit like & follow us!
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