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February 2016 Newsletter - Finelawn Ltd
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Wow! .......isn't it like Fiji out there at the moment................30oC and really steamy!  Now that's great if you're still on holiday but it's pretty tragic if you're sweltering in a hot office back at work!  Unfortunately whilst these conditions are pleasant and favourable if you're a human being, conditions such as this are unfortunately also ideal for the promotion of fungal diseases in turf.  There are many pathogenic fungi that can cause problems in turf grasses at this time.  Periodically, I cover the more common fungal diseases in this news bulletin, however, if you require further or more in depth information then check out our website under the "disease" section for a more comprehensive explanation.
 
Now, here are a few more pointers to assist in caring for your lawn over this next month;

 
  • Water management is the key to retaining a great lawn over the summer months.  In the last newsletter I covered the basic principles of irrigation management.  In summary, watering should occur early in the morning, at a rate that meets the rate of evapotranspiration and is preferably applied daily rather than in one or two larger applications per week. Additionally, it is wise to measure the actual amount of water that is being applied.
  • 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.
SPECIES WATCH - ZOYSIAGRASS
We frequently get asked about this product particularly from more recent immigrants to New Zealand that are familiar with it from their home country.  Therefore we thought it appropriate to provide some information regarding this species as a turf grass.  Zoysia is a transition/warm season grass that is very popular as a turf grass species in Australia, Asia, Japan and the southern states of the USA.  Zoysiagrass can be categorised as follows;
- Z. japonica awhich is also known as Japanese Lawn Grass
- Z. matrella which is normally referred to as Manilagrass
- Z. tenufolia
All three are native to eastern Asia but have found favour in more recent times in transition zone climates. It has a prostrate growth habit, grows relatively slowly and forms a very dense, high quality turf. The root zone is both fibrous and deep which is why this species is very drought resistant.  As a warm season grass it will discolour in winter if it is exposed to long periods of cool weather. It will continue to grow at temperatures exceeding 15oC but will discolour and become dormant if exposed to temperatures in the range 10oC -12oC. As such it is only likely to be suitable in the coastal regions in the top half of the north island.  Because this species displays characteristics such as water efficiency,  low growth rate, non susceptibility to diseases and possess a very strong and dense horizontal growth habit that eliminates foreign weeds it is often regarded as the most "easy care"  of the warm season turf species. It is often seen used in the "rough" on fairways because it survives well without irrigation or mowing. Additionally, it creates a very soft turf upon which to walk.  In this un-mown situation it tends to grow in clumps as per the photograph below.    
Zoysia is typically propagated either by turf or sprigs but some new advanced varieties are now available as seed.
 
To date it is not available as a grass species in New Zealand and at this stage we are not aware of any intorductions to this country . However, we would be very interested in knowing if anybody is aware of the existance of any in NZ?  We would be keen to select and trial some plants because it does display attributes that would be extrremely useful for lawns in the northern and coastal parts of New Zealand (particualrly wth respect to its water use efficiency). Historically, when border controls were less rigourous a lot of plant material used to miraculously appear and there are lots of stories about various un-named individuals bringing in plant material in their socks and their suitcases.  Our biosecurity sytems have improved vastly since those bad old days!  That aside it is extremely difficult to get approval for the introduction of new grass species into New Zealand. This is largley as a result of a desire to preserve our isolated island from even more potentially damaging plant importations but more importantly as a mechanism to protect our valuable farming resources.  So,the outcome is that I wouldn't expect to see this variety of turf grass any time soon in NZ.
IRRIGATION MANAGEMENT
I included this in our December bulletin but have retained it in this issue because many clients have had difficulties with their lawns this summer as a result of the unusually wet and humid 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 preferably 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 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 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. 
DOLLAR SPOT
(Sclerotinia homoeocarpa)
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.

 
SPECTACULAR TRANSFORMATION
Take a look at just what we can transform....before....
Below -  after spraying out....
Below - Site cleared and being prepared....
Below - Let the laying begin
(after the irrigation system was installed)....
Below - The finished product!  Amazing!
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 www.finelawn.co.nz
Brief supply summary as follows;
 
Tall Fescue turf is being assessed daily. 
Kikuyu is available now.
Couchgrass is available now.
Seashore Paspalum will be available by mid-February.  This product has just received a spray treatment so cannot be lifted for another couple of weeks.
Fine Fescue turf is expected to be available when weather conditions become cooler in March.
Creeping Ryegrass turf will also be available in late March.
COMPANY NEWS
We are very excited by our new turf farm.  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. 
WEBSITE
The recently upgraded Finelawn website has now been operational for several months and we have received a lot of very positive feedback regarding the extra material.  We have added a lot more information to the categories listed under weeds, diseases, lawn species and insects. Additionally, we are continually adding more information.  So if you have issues with your lawn, I urge you to check out this solutions based website as it contains a great deal of information on how to both troubleshoot and rectify issues that are commonly encountered on lawns.  
However, if you have more specific issues or require further clarification please feel free to either contact the office directly on our Freephone number or alternatively send an e-mail to info@finelawn.co.nz
Don't forget to check out our Facebook page - hit LIKE and follow us to check up on any reminders and product specials!!!
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