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Finelawn Newsletter - September 2015

The first day of September is traditionally regarded as the first day of Spring and what a magical time of the year this can be! Spring blossoms burst into life, calves and lambs are abundant in the paddocks, birds begin to noisily mate and nest and there is a general sense of new life that can be witnessed throughout our wonderful bucolic countryside. 
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.
  • A flush of germinating broadleaf weeds normally accompanies Spring.  Therefore it is recommended to selectively remove these species from your lawn at this time as it gives the remaining grasses adequate time to re-colonise those areas before the onslaught of summer. For cool season grasses such as ryegrass, fine fescue, tall fescue, NZ Browntop and Kentucky Bluegrass I recommend using either the ingredients Triclopyr and Picloram (found in products sold under the names as Triumph, Victory, Tordon Gold and Tordon Brushkiller)  or products that contain Mecoprop, Dicamba & MCPA (found in products such as Broadsword)   If applied at the appropriate rate these will be effective at selectively removing the vast majority of dicotyledenous plants (broadleaf weeds & clovers) without effecting the grasses.
  • Do not use these products on warm season grasses such as kikuyu or couchgrass. For these species either Atrazine or Banvine (2,4-D & Dicamba) should be used at the recommended label rates.
  • 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.
  • If you haven't already controlled areas of moss then get into it now using either a proprietary product or Iron Sulphate.  If the areas are relatively extensive then I suggest leaving it 7 - 10 days and then oversow those areas using the correct variety of seed.  Because soil moisture is high at this time of the year most seed varieties will germinate well at this time of the year.
Tall Fescue is a dark green, erect plant with relatively coarse leaf blades. The leaf blades are heavily ribbed and the emergent leaves are tightly rolled as they emerge from the leaf sheath. The leaves are also distinctive by having short bristly hairs on the leaf surface.
 
It originally came from Europe but was brought to America with the early settlers. By the 1870’s it was common throughout America as a pasture grass. However, because of its coarse texture and rank growth habit it was not commonly used as a turf grass until the 1950’s when its heat and drought tolerance as well as its disease resistance became recognised. Selection and breeding produced improved turf types in the 1980’s and these cultivars were finer textured and produced twice as many tillers which created a significantly denser sward.  It is now the most common turf species in America.
The typically dark glossy leaves that are characteristic of Tall Fescue
Tall Fescue has also more  latterly become popular in New Zealand particularly since the mid 1990’s when it was introduced to the market by turf producers. Indeed, Finelawn was actually the first producer to offer this as a standalone species. It is genetically dark green in coloration and tends to be quite drought tolerant when compared to other temperate grasses.  It forms a very tight, durable and hard wearing sward when correctly managed.  Another advantage is that Tall Fescue only rarely suffers from fungal disease.
 
It is slower to germinate that many other temperate species, particularly in winter. In cooler zones it grows only very slowly during the winter months, but unlike warm season species such as couch grasses it retains good colour, though the leaf tips may experience some yellowing following heavy frosts.   Care is advisable when using herbicides on this species over the winter period when growth is poor as they can severely affect winter growth rates as well as plant health and thrift. It can grow rapidly in spring and summer and mowing frequency should be increased at these times to retain sward density.
 
Tall Fescue is a highly sought after species for new lawns because of its characteristic features of drought tolerance and durability. Secondarily, it shows more resistance to both Black Beetle and Tasmanian beetle larvae once it is well established.  This is mainly because insects are sensitive to the alkaloids that are produced by the endophytic fungi that are commonly found on the turf type cultivars. It has now superceded ryegrass as the most preferable lawn species for temperate conditions. Because of its dark green colour, the annual grass weed annual winter grass (poa annua) which has a bright yellowish-green appearance does appear prominent.  For this reason it is advisable to regularly treat these lawns with the herbicide Ethofumosate (sold as Claw, EXPO 500, Ethosan or Nawtron)  to act as a pre-germination treatment.  Whilst it is quite drought tolerant the best results in terms of appearance are achieved when it is irrigated over the summer months in association with regularly applications of nitrogenous fertilisers. 
 
It has a relatively course seedhead stalk and during the reproductive stage these can be prickly to walk on after mowing, although this phase only lasts 4 – 6 weeks.
 
Because of its erect nature the mowing height should be elevated and it is recommended to be mown at 40mm – 50mm.  The recommended sowing rate is 40 - 50gms/m2.  It is preferably sown in autumn whilst ground temperatures are still relatively warm. If sown late in autumn or during winter it is notoriously slow to germinate and establish which enables the introduction of competitive species and weeds.  Likewise, if a spring planting is required it is preferable to establish it once ground temperatures have started to increase.  These establishment issues are the biggest deterrent in the use of Tall Fescue.  After establishment it is extremely difficult to remove foreign grasses and the longer the time period until germination the bigger the opportunity for these foreign grasses to become established.  Secondly, it takes far longer to establish after germination than a lot of the other temperate turfgrass species. Whilst the chemical ethofumasate is effective at preventing the establishment of these foreign species in mature swards it is not recommended to be applied on young plants as it has the effect of slowing down both the rate of germination and establishment of the desirable tall fescue plants. 
  • Establishment:   Seed or turf
  • Sowing rate:      40 - 50gms/m²
  • Mowing height:  40 - 50mm
The growth of moss in lawns is normally associated with shade, damp conditions or poor drainage, low fertility, lack of competition and can in some circumstances be attributed to acidic conditions. This is particularly prevalent problem in the winter months when ground conditions are damp and when grass growth is slow and therefore provides reduces competition for the propagation of moss. Slime, mosses, lichens  and liverworts are all included within this group. In most home lawns there are shady, damp or poorly drained areas that can be prone to this problem. 
Typical photo of moss in an old NZ Browntop lawn
Photo shows moss two weeks after it has been treated with Surrender which has Benzalkonium Chloride as the active ingredient
 
General recommendations for improvement of this condition are as follows:
  • It is firstly a useful practise to cut back or trim the surrounding trees or shrubs to provide more light if this is creating the problem.
  • Apply a moss control agent and there are many that are commonly available on the market. Most use an active ingredient called Benzalkonium Chloride and this chemical is very effective at controlling moss in lawns without effecting the grass plants. Alternatively, if you prefer not to use chemical treatments mixing Iron Sulphate with water and applying at a rate of 400gms per 100m2 will act to kill the moss. It is advisable to be cautious when using this product as it will permanently stain any hard surfaces such as concrete that it contacts as well as your spray equipment.
  • Rake off the dead moss 2 - 3 weeks after the control treatment has been applied.
  • If poor drainage is an issue then this should be addressed at this stage. This could involve simply using a pitchfork to improve the surface drainage or more invasive works.
  • Apply lime at 10kgs per 100m2 of lawn to increase the soil pH.
  • Re-establish the lawn by over-sowing with seed or installing some new turf rolls.
In many instances these areas can be quite challenging to re-establish lawn by sowing in shady areas and a more reliable result can be achieved by using turf.  This is particularly true if shade is a significant issue.
 
TRANSFORMATION
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”  - Go to www.finelawn.co.nz
Tall Fescue turf is available now
Fine Fescue turf is available now
Ryegrass turf will be available later this month    
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.
How long has it been since you last fertilised your lawn?  Order now from our online shop or pop into our showroom at 471 Airport Road, Hamilton.
Don't forget to check us out on Facebook where we will be posting regular updates, reminders, product specials and photos!
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