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February / March Newsletter containing important pricing information!
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Since our previous correspondence the political face of the globe has changed.  John Key has resigned for a more leisurely and in my opinion at least, well deserved existence in the balmy temperatures of Hawaii, the UK faces Brexit under the leadership of a new Prime Minister who is indeed a woman (Yahoo!) and for better or worse Trump is now the purported leader of the "free world". Now, I have no understanding of what that last phrase means ...... what for heaven's sake is the free world .... does it costs money to be a human being in Russia, Somalia or Afghanistan.  I think not and are they free to clean their teeth and go to work in the morning .... I probably think so. Are they free to be follow Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, Papal Christianity or the Prophet Mohammed.......  maybe not in some parts of Central Asia, the Middle East and the Lower Caucasus.  But, just maybe being President of the US of A isn't as all encompassing and powerful as in the post WWII era when this term originated. What I do know is that the sun will come up in the morning and it will be scorching hot and this will have implications for your lawn!!    
 
So, here are a few tips to assist in caring for your lawn over this next period;
 
  • Water management is the key to retaining a great lawn over the summer months.  I have covered the basic principles of irrigation management later in this publication.
  • Again, please be wary not to over fertilise your lawn particularly using nitrogen at this time of the year. I don't like to see temperate grasses "pumped up" with too much nitrogen during dry periods because nitrogen drives growth and the result is more pressure on what are likely to be diminishing soil water resources. This can increase the amount of moisture stress in the plants. Additionally, as temperatures increase more soil nitrogen does become available naturally as a result of mineralisation from organic matter in the soil. This is driven by an increase in microbial activity which increases with elevating soil temperature as long as sufficient moisture is available.
  • For lawns that are located on steep or sloping sites or for lawns that have been established on sandy or peaty soils it will be useful to apply a wetting agent. These soils types become hydrophobic which means they repel water once they get dry.  This can be applied using normal spray equipment and is essentially just a surfactant that allows the water to be absorbed into the soil.
  • Fine Fescue lawns should be very carefully managed over summer.  In the instance that the fine fescue cannot be well irrigated it is wise to restrict activity as much as possible and this implies avoiding using fertilisers, herbicides and avoiding mowing whilst the plants are suffering from heat and moisture stress. You will find that it does not grow if it is not watered and it is therefore preferable not to mow it during this time as this activity will just increase the stress on those plants. These issues are less important in cooler southern climates where the levels of heat and humidity are less extreme. If the lawn is irrigated ensure that the water is applied in the mornings and not the evenings.
  • Mowing in summer should ideally occur in the cool of the morning to avoid damaging the turf and preferably should occur after the dew has lifted.
  • Warm season grasses such as couch and kikuyu will respond very well to light applications of nitrogen over the warmer summer months.  Kikuyu in particular will "colour up" and look significantly more attractive if it receives regular nitrogen treatments.  The use of a slow release fertiliser such as Turf Gold is the easiest and most convenient method of achieving these applications.
  • Warm season grasses should be mown very regularly over summer otherwise they tend to become quite spongy and thatchy.  This is particularly true for kikuyu if it receives a lot of moisture during hot conditions. In these circumstances it pays to scalp it occasionally to remove some of the thatch build up otherwise you end up with a lawn that the lawn mower literally sinks into which makes pushing it quite difficult!
  • Also keep an eye out for flocks of starlings on your lawn as this is a clear indication that the lawn has an insect issue.
  • In very humid conditions such as those currently being experienced try to avoid applying water in the evenings  as this practice will assist in promoting fungal disease.
  • If you've been on holiday and your lawn has been left long and un-mown, then there are some practical tips on getting your lawn back into order.  It is recommended that no more than 20% of the total leaf area is removed per cut.  So, if your lawn is long it is wise to mow it every few days until it gets down to the recommended mowing height.  This is a far better approach in terms of plant health.
I have re-printed this article in this issue because many clients have had difficulties with their lawns this summer as a result of the dry conditions.  In these circumstances the accuracy of water application is even  more essential.
  • It is recommended that watering is conducted in the mornings. NOT in the evenings ...... please!
  • These applications should be completed prior to 8.30am during summer before the temperatures heat up.
  • Avoid ponding as the water heats up in these areas and scorches the turf.
  • Water applications should be designed to replace the losses incurred by evapotranspiration.  This is the  amount of water lost daily as a result of evaporation from the soil and water lost from the plant as transpiration. This rate is published daily in both newspapers and on-line. 
  • In hot, windy conditions this can be up to 6mm per day although 4mm per day is more typical in summer.
  • Measure the amount of water that is being applied.  This is most easily achieved by placing a flat sided bowl such as a plastic ice cream container on the lawn before irrigating and the measuring how much water has been applied during a normal irrigation cycle.  I have found over the years that most people are surprised at how little water they have actually been applying!
  • If your lawn appears to develop a blue or purplish hue in the afternoon then it is recommended that you apply what we call an injection of water at the hottest part of the day (between 2.00 - 4.00pm).  This is not designed to irrigate the lawn but rather to remove the heat from the surface via the cooling effects of evaporation.
  • Start your irrigation application before the signs of moisture stress occur.  In this manner it is far easier to maintain the soil moisture levels as it is far more difficult to re-elevate moisture levels once they are already at a critical point.
  • It is better for the plants if water is applied daily rather than the "old adage" of intermittent deep watering.
  • If it appears that the water is running off the surface of the lawn rather than soaking in then it would be wise to apply a wetting agent.
  • If your property contains large trees be particularly vigilant of those areas in close proximity to those trees as they typically have a large number of surface based fibrous roots that will compete with your lawn for moisture.
  • Finally, I recommend that most irrigation systems should be fitted with a rain sensor.  These relatively inexpensive pieces of equipment activate when it rains and relay that information back to the controller which subsequently turns off until such a time as the rain stops or the moisture levels decrease.  At this point they turn the controller back on again.  Very simple, very effective and very protective of our scarce water resources!  Talk to our office if you would like more information. 
The causal agent for Dollar Spot is Schlerontinia homoeocarpa and all turf grass species can be affected. This disease is a common occurrence in the top half of the North Island and it generally occurs when the plant leaves are wet for extended periods of time particularly from mid-spring until autumn. Poor management is generally a critical factor in its propagation. Lawns that are either low in potassium and nitrogen or either poorly drained or poorly irrigated tend to be characteristic of areas that commonly have issues with this disease. Generally, well fertilized and well managed lawns tend to be immune to this pathogen.
 
It can often be mistaken for “red thread” as the characteristic small round shaped areas of lawn that are generally indicative of dollar spot are also similar to the symptoms of grasses that have been infected with red thread. 

The symptoms are numerous small bleached spots which may coalesce to form large irregular patches. These spots may vary in area from the size of a one dollar coin up to 50mm. Recovery is usually rapid as the roots are not affected. If the lawn area is susceptible to dollar spot over summer then aeration will be of assistance in its prevention.
 
In the first instance, control can be achieved by applying a soluble nitrogenous fertilizer. Ensure that this fertilizer is applied prior to impending rain, during rain or alternatively water the lawn thoroughly after application. Ensure that watering occurs in the morning on susceptible surfaces so that the leaf tissue is dry during the evenings..  We observe this fungal disease most frequently on lawns where the irrigation management or water application is incorrect. Typically, this may be as a result of frequent but small water applications.  In this situation the turf is still suffering from moisture stress even though the plants are being kept wet intermittently during the day. The other technique we observe that leads to Dollar Spot is evening watering. In this instance the leaves remain wet of the duration of the and this in association with high temperatures and humidity creates an ideal situation for the propagation of fungal spores. Another situation where this disease is frequently observed is where summer dry patch occurs.  This occurs when the underlying soil becomes hydrophobic and therefore repels applied water. Dollar spot then occurs as a secondary effect of the plants receiving insufficient moisture in the root zone.
 
This disease is most prevalent from December through until March.  This disease can be thwarted by rectifying these management issues and this is the recommended response rather that applying a fungicide.
Known as Black Field Crickets or simply field crickets. They are generally found on clay soil types over summer when cracks in the ground profile create an ideal environment for them to live. The crickets live in these cracks or holes in the ground and emerge to feed on the leaves of the grasses often severing leaves and taking them back to their burrow to eat. They take the closest plants first and as a result a bare patch around their home is very evident. The majority of the damage is visible over the summer months from January until April. They are visible during the day and move quickly when disturbed by foot traffic.  I have noticed a lot of cricket activity over February this year particularly in the Auckland region where the clay soils have cracked appreciably as a result of the dry conditions that have prevailed over the last three months.

Increase the watering regime to swell the soil and decrease the incidence of cracks on the soil surface. Apply bait. This is normally in the form of treated wheat or barley. Note extreme care should be taken with the use of this bait as it is poisonous if ingested by pets or children.
Changes to turf transport:

In an effort to improve our on-site distributions we have recently changed our transport provider in both the Bay of Plenty and Auckland regions.
 
Bay of Plenty Customers;  The turf is now being collected directly after harvest and being dispatched straight  onto site. This outcome is that the turf will always be on site when your staff arrive the next day.  This should be vastly more efficient as you will no longer have staff on site awaiting turf deliveries. Please note that the turf has always been harvested the day before delivery as there has been some confusion with clients who think that the turf is now going to be older prior to installation.    The depot for return of pallets is now STL Transport, 15c Amber Cres, Judea.  Please advise STL you are returning them for Finelawn/Les Harrison - then as usual advise our office of their return.

Auckland Customers;  Finelawn has engaged the services of an alternative cartage contractor whose Auckland morning deliveries are only pallets of Finelawn turf.  Deliveries are commencing at approximately 6.00am to ensure that the turf is delivered to site as early as possible.  Additionally, these trucks can now be tracked from our office in real time so that the accuracy of our delivery predictions has been enhanced. It is anticipated that these changes will lead to a vastly superior delivery regime.   The depot for return of pallets is now STL Transport,198 James Fletcher Drive, Otahuhu.  Please advise STL you are returning them for Finelawn/Les Harrison - then as usual advise our office of their return.     
 
If you have any queries  regarding these changes please feel free to contact our office.
Turf Supply and Price Increases:
As is typical at this time of the year, we announce our prices for the coming season - Retail price is effective immediately - Trade price effecting 01 April 2017.  We have been able to retain the same prices for the past couple of years, however increasing costs have forced us to make some moderate adjustments for the coming year.  Note that these increases in price of turf are somewhat moderated by a decrease in our cartage rates for both the Auckland and Bay of Plenty regions.

If you have any queries, please feel free to contact the office directly.

 
Turf Type Trade Price (per m²) Retail Price (per m²)
Ryegrass $7.50 $9.00
Creeping Ryegrass $7.50 $9.00
Fine Fescue $7.50 $9.00
Tall Fescue $7.50 $9.00
Common Kikuyu $7.50 $9.00
Finelawn Couchgrass $8.50 $10.00

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 www.finelawn.co.nz

Brief supply summary as follows:

Tall Fescue turf is available now. 
Kikuyu is available now.
Couchgrass is available now.
Seashore Paspalum  is available but the crop has been pre-ordered
Creeping Ryegrass is available now
Fine Fescue turf is expected to be available when weather conditions become cooler in late Autumn
Copyright © 2017 Finelawn Ltd, All rights reserved.


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