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Check out our December Newsletter with hints and tips to managing your turf through summer!
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Summer is here. Yippee! ....sun, surf and loads of fun filled, balmy summer evenings!  It also means that another year just about "done and dusted"..........hard to believe really!  As a wee nipper my Mum used to prattle on about how the years go faster as you get older...and like most typical young males I didn't subscribe to her theories.........how wrong I was!   
 
Now, here are a few more pointers for lawn care over this next period of  time;
  • Apply your last pre-Christmas fertiliser application shortly. By preference, I do not like to see temperate grasses "pumped up" with too much nitrogen prior to an impending dry period 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. 
  • If you haven't already done so then I recommend treating your lawn for Black Beetle larvae as soon as possible.  Monitor farms are again recording higher than normal populations of black beetle larvae in northern regions. These larvae live within the top 25mm of the soil and chew the roots of desirable plants such as turf grasses. The result is that these plants tend to die when exposed to hot dry conditions in summer because they have a severely depleted root mass and as such they are not able to uptake sufficient moisture to meet plant requirements. Traditionally, we have recommended the use of Pyriphos granules.  Unfortunately, recent law changes mean that we are now unable to sell this product to members of the general public unless they have an Approved Handlers certificate.  So the best we can do now is to offer a service to apply an insecticide for you.  If you have some in stock you are still able to legally use it ...... but we are unable to sell it.
  • Check that your irrigation system is fully operable. Batteries in the main controller may need changing.  Most controllers have batteries to allow the program to be stored in the case of the power being turned off. Ensure that all the nozzles are clean and that the sprinkler heads are clear of vegetation and that they each rotate appropriately.  Given the forecast for very dry conditions this summer there is a high likelihood that this system will get a lot of use so it is important that it has been well maintained and it is fully operable.
  • Continue to mow your lawn on a "little and often" basis over the next 3 - 4 weeks whilst good growth rates persist as this activity will help to increase the turf density.
  • For lawns that are located on steep or sloping sites or for lawns that have been established on sandy or peaty (hydrophobic) 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 carefully managed over dry summers.  Water should be applied preferably in the mornings. 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 mowing whilst it is 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 recommendations are provided for lawns in northern regions.  This is less important in cooler southern climates where the heat and humidity are less extreme.
  • If you need to control foreign species in any grass varieties it is recommended that these treatments should occur now prior to any impending dry spell.  This is particularly true for Fine Fescue as it can suffer if treated with herbicides during hot, dry weather.
  • Mowing in summer should ideally occur in the cool of the morning to avoid damaging the turf and preferably after the dew has lifted.
  • Warm season grasses such as couch and kikuyu will respond very well to light applications of nitrogen over the 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 this application.
SPECIES WATCH - Buffalo Grass
(Stenotaphrum secundatum)
There are many grasses that are wrongly referred to as Buffalo grass. I have witnessed all kinds of species from vanila grass, kikuyu and bermudagrass all referred to as buffalo grass.  However, the turf grass that is popular as a lawn species in many parts of Australia and America that is referred to as 'soft leafed buffalo" is indeed Stenoptaphrum secundatum which is also commonly known as St. Augustine Grass. This species is also found in New Zealand usually on warm, light, sandy to silty coastal soils.  It is more commonly found in well established lawns in many of the older suburbs in the northern part of New Zealand and is known as "common buffalo". This cultivar is unimproved and is vastly inferior to the latest cultivars that have been developed by plant breeders over the past 25 years. 
A typical view of soft leaf buffalo turf.
This species is characterised as being a warm season grass that has a flattened strap like leaf. The growth is prostrate and stoloniferous and is only sometimes rhizomatous.  It forms a very durable, drought resistant, lawn which only grows quite slowly. It also has a very low allergenic rating and it is very water efficient.  Typically, it will hold its colour in winter better than either couch or kikuyu and it also tends to be more shade tolerant. Indeed some of the new cultivars are quite shade tolerant. (eg; Shademaster). 
 
A number of cultivars are extremely popular in Australia and these include Sir Walter, Palmetto, Sapphire, Shademaster and ST85.  These are all infertile hybrids and the process of importing vegetative sprigs into New Zealand is convoluted, expensive and likely to take many, many years a result of our strict bio-security legislation.  For this reason it is unlikely that any of these cultivars will make an appearance anytime soon into this marketplace. 
 
However, new cultivars are in the process of being released in the USA that are seeded types.  Here at FINELAWN we are keen to import some trial quantities and to embark on trials to determine its suitability for our climatic conditions.  Our enthusiasm is driven by the wear resistance, drought tolerance and cool season colour characteristics of this species as well as its low growth rates once established.  We also believe that its water use efficiency is a big benefit as our summers become drier and as our water resources become more restricted.  We will keep you informed of our progress.
 
IRRIGATION MANAGEMENT
At this time of the year it is useful to discuss the most appropriate way of utilising water to maximise the benefit. So, I thought I'd share some tips on how to best water your lawn. 
  • It is recommended that watering is conducted in the mornings. 
  • These applications should preferably be completed prior to 8.30am during summer.
  • Avoid ponding as the water in these area 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.  
  • 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 are occurring.  in this manner it is far easier to maintain the soil moisture levels.  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 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.
 
SPECTACULAR  TRANSFORMATION
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 is now not available. However, we expect to have reasonable stocks available in the New Year when the turf farm re-opens for business.

Fine Fescue turf is available now.

Ryegrass turf is available now.  
  
Kikuyu is getting close but a cold winter has delayed the harvest window. We will have a little stock available in December but the majority of it won't be available until January.

Couchgrass is only available for smaller volumes.

Seashore Paspalum will be available in January

 
COMPANY NEWS
The new turf farm is coming along well with tall fescue, creeping ryegrass(SRL) and fine fescue all now in situ and growing well.  We are thrilled to see this new area coming along as it will enable us next year to have more consistent production of high quality turf to enable us to more fully  meet our clients requirements.
We purchased a new 6 metre cut Tri-Max rotary mower last month to add to our fleet.  This will cut down the time taken to mow the areas we currently have in production and will in particular be a big help with developments at the new farm.  As you can imagine another 60 acres of turf equals one very big lawn to mow! 
CHRISTMAS  TRADING  HOURS
All the team at Finelawn take this opportunity to wish all our clients a very Merry Xmas at this special time of the year!

Finelawn will be closing at the end of Tuesday the 22nd of December and the office will be re-opening on Monday the 11th of January 2016.

The last orders for delivery in both Auckland and the Bay of Plenty must be received by 4pm Friday the 18th of December to enable us to book truck deck space.  The last harvest for collection will occur on Tuesday the 22nd of December.
Don't forget to find our Facebook page and hit the LIKE button please! We are always posting regular updates, reminders, product specials and any other interesting Finelawn News!  
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