In case you hadn't noticed it, given the exceptionally mild conditions.....
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In case you hadn't noticed it, given the exceptionally mild conditions we are currently experiencing it just about winter!  Yes .......this is hard to fathom when ambient daytime temperatures are still 21 - 23oC and we're still applying sunscreen on a daily basis! However, the late summer conditions refuse to budge and we're still shifting irrigators daily on the turf farm which is bizarre given that in the previous 30 years of turf production Finelawn has never previously operated the irrigation system in the month of May.  Surely this has to be a "wake up" call for all those climate change skeptics!  However, the sun follows its annual pattern regardless of the daily weather pattern and consequently daylight hours are diminishing rapidly which means that plant metabolism is slowing down appreciably.  This is more noticeable in warm season grasses such as couch and kikuyu rather than the traditional cool season grasses. So ...what are the priority tasks that need to occur at this time of the year;
  • Some over-sowing can still occur as the ground temperatures are still warm enough to trigger rapid
  • germination.  Please be advised that Tall Fescue in particular will become increasingly more difficult to germinate as ground temperatures decrease.
  • It is really important to manage water applications very carefully at this time of the year.  Typically, irrigation systems are well and truly turned off by now however, soil water is still limiting meaning    that irrigation is still a necessity in some areas.  The key is not to overwater as it is important to ensure that the soil is not overly wet or saturated going into winter as this hinders winter growth rates and can create further problems.
  • Mowing management is still important in late autumn particularly if growth rates are high. I recommend to continue with a short mowing interval until these growth rates decline.
  • If the lawn is being mown more regularly then it will be important to replace the nutrients lost and removed as clippings.  Therefore, this is an important time to maintain fertility levels particularly both the nutrients potassium and nitrogen which are more mobile than either sulphur or phosphate.
  • Warm season grasses such as couch and kikuyu will respond very well to light applications of gibberellic acid over the cooler autumn months.  They will also retain their colour and look significantly more attractive if this is accompanied by regular nitrogen treatments. Note that gibberellins are naturally occurring plant growth hormones that act to increase growth by increasing cell elongation.
  • Autumn rains normally bring a flush of unwanted broadleaf weeds.  These should be controlled now so that turfgrasses have ample opportunity to re-colonise these areas before winter.  If this treatment is delayed it can lead to a proliferation of poa annua later in winter.  For cool season grasses common treatments include products that contain 2,4 D & dicamba (sold as Banvine) dicamba, MCPA & mecaprop (sold as Broadsword) or a combination of Picloram and Triclopyr (sold as Triumph, Victory, Brushkiller).  Pease note that for warm season lawns that are comprised of couchgrass, seashore paspalum or kikuyu these latter products cannot be used as they will cause significant damage to these lawn species.
So....Why is my grass looking so average at this time of the year?
Last month I listed the rainfall data for the previous six months which highlighted that many districts had received significantly less rain than historical averages.  I have updated the data in this latest table.  This clearly indicates that those dry conditions have continued unabated for the past six weeks.

(To date)
Auckland rainfall 2015 - '16 44 81 27 128 98 28 32 3 441
Auckland-Historical average (mm) 105 71 84 71 68 61 78 32 570
Hamilton rainfall 2015 - '16 (mm) 40 115 33 75 67 34 40 7 411
Hamilton - Historical average 105 95 118 79 83 61 73 30 644
Wellington rainfall 2015 - '16 27 60 36 96 29 22 34 35 339
Wellington-Historical averages 117 91 86 77 97 90 94 38 695
These figures clearly display that the amount of rainfall for the past seven months is significantly less than the historical averages. This is generally in keeping with the weather pattern that accompanies an El Nino weather system.  But, I think that the most interesting aspect of this data is the length of time this effect has persisted.  Normally, in the north island, the El Nino effect causes short but extreme drought conditions which then  abates and normal weather patterns resume.  Yet in this instance the effect has lasted quite considerably longer and is becoming quite extreme.  The Wellington region for instance has had less than half its annual rainfall for the past 7 months and the normally reliable Waikato has received only 60% of its historical average over that same period!  What is of further concern with these low rainfall figures is that water tables will not have been replenished and this could have significant implications next summer particularly for those areas that rely on relatively shallow ground water wells as their source of water.

This is a topic that often draws discussion at our office. Should lawns be comprised of a blend of turf varieties or should lawns be retained as pure stands of one single variety.?
There are advantages and disadvantages with each approach.  It is true that up until the 1970's the standard New Zealand lawn regardless of where you were living was a blend of New Zealand Browntop (Agrostis tenuius) and Chewings Fescue (Festuca rubra sp.).  As a result the thought of blending different species to create a lawn is firmly embedded within our Kiwi psyche. Many professional companies that sow lawns perpetuate this philosophy by continuing to use blends of seeds.  The cynic in me suggests that this is simply self serving because they typically add ryegrass in particular to most blends because it germinates and establishes very rapidly which pleases the client and assists in securing a rapid payment!  However, what are the long term issues associated with a blended lawn? I will discuss this shortly.  Another attribute given to the theory of a blended lawn is that certain species will dominate in certain circumstances.  So for the average home lawn there are a variety of conditions such as shaded areas, drier areas that receive full sun, parts that get more wear and areas that are effected by trees and shrubs.  So certain species may perform better  in each of those circumstances. Also some species are more resistant to chewing and biting insects so the theory is that at if there is a range of grasses in the mix that some will always survive the onslaught of these wee critters!  Lastly, there is a theory that different grasses will complement each other.  For example the promoters may suggest that fine fescue is ideal to blend with ryegrass because the fine fescue will fill in the gaps in the more open sward that typifies stands of pure ryegrass. This is one of a number of blends that are quite commonplace in the retail seed market.
So with all these benefits attributable to a blended sward what are the advantages of establishing a monoculture of one species instead? In broad terms the answer is "simplicity of management".  By retaining one species it is simple to both prescribe and apply herbicides for the removal of foreign grasses and weeds.  As soon as the lawn is blended the raft of options available for this purpose diminishes rapidly or become nonexistent because these chemicals tend to be quite species specific.  For example if you add fine fescue to ryegrass you cannot use ethofumasate (sold as EXPO) to remove poa annua as this will severely inhibit the fine fescue and likewise you cannot use Haloxyfop -P- Methyl (sold as Ignite or Gallant) to remove foreign grasses as this will also kill the ryegrass. So the options for control become far more limited.
Note that we are talking about species rather than cultivars in this instance. Cultivars are referred to as selected plants within the species.  So for instance there are over 200 register cultivars of ryegrass and each of these have been selected and bred for certain specific characteristics within that species. What this does mean is that you can  have a performance range within species by using different cultivars without having to mix species.  Actually, it is quite common to blend cultivars of one species and this is particularly true for ryegrasses.
Secondly, each species requires specific management techniques and a blended sward will inevitably compromise lawn management because of the need to juggle the requirements of each individual species.  So for instance, one species will grow more rapidly than others at certain times of the year and they will therefore need more frequent mowing and more fertiliser at this time. This may not suit the companion species.          
Lastly, the "singular" appearance of a monoculture to most is far more preferable from an aesthetic basis.  In other words monocultures that display one colour and one texture are far more pleasing to the eye.
I guess our agronomists came to this conclusion years ago and we haven't produced blended turf varieties for in excess of 20 years and despite occasionally raising this issue at management team meetings the answer for us is always the same.  We want to be able to provide simple solutions for our clients when or if they request information or have a problem that requires solving.  However, if our continued research indicates that some species are compatible from both a management and appearance perspective and we believe that it will enhance the quality of the product then we would proceed down this path.
Tasmanian Grass Grub (Aphodius tasmaniae)
This is also known as the pasture cockchafer and is a native of south eastern Australia however it is now also common in New Zealand. It was first discovered at a site in the Hoon Hay Valley near Christchurch in 1920 although it wasn’t discovered in Auckland until the 1960’s.  They are most usually found in northern NZ, coastal Taranaki, Hawkes Bay and the Canterbury Plains.   The beetles are black in colour, are approximately 10mm -12mm long and slightly narrower in shape than the black beetle with the distinguishing feature being a brown head capsule and a distinctive waist in front of the wings. The adults emerge in large numbers from January through until late March normally in the evenings and at this time they are strongly attracted to lights.  It is at this stage that they lay their eggs. The larvae hatch after 4 - 6 weeks and they live in burrows from which they emerge at night to feed on leaves. Although these larvae closely resemble the New Zealand grass grub in appearance they actually behave more like Porina caterpillars.  The majority of damage occurs through the winter months from May through until October. There appears to be a correlation between high numbers of larvae and dry soil conditions. High rainfall and wet soil through the winter months is thought to have a profound effect on larval numbers as their burrows flood and become uninhabitable. This insect is mainly a pest of cool season grasses rather than sub-tropical or warm season species.  In most instances they are more of a problem in pasture than lawns but some damage can occur.  Given the extremely dry soil conditions that are being experienced throughout much of the north island this autumn these insects may be more of an issue than is normally the case.
Spectacular Transformation...
Normally here we would feature photos of a job from start to finish - this month the images are of the results of spraying lawn with the incorrect product or rates.  The Finelawn Landscape team fixed it up with awesome results!
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

A brief supply summary is as follows;

Tall Fescue turf is available now.  Despite unprecedented demand we have good stocks in front of us 
Kikuyu is still available now although our stocks are being rapidly depleted as demand has been higher than anticipated this late in the season..
Couchgrass is available now.
Seashore Paspalum  is not available as we have sold all our stock.
Fine Fescue turf is expected to be available shortly.  We understand that many people have been waiting for some time for this turf variety.  Unfortunately, the very dry autumn conditions we have experienced have slowed down the maturity of this turf more than we could have anticipated. 
Creeping Ryegrass turf will be available in 3 - 4 weeks.  Again, we apologise for any inconvenience this delay may have created.
Please note that the season for establishing warm season grasses is rapidly coming to a conclusion.  As a guide we typically stop supplying these products at the end of May although given the currently mild conditions this will most probably extend into June this year.
Auckland Transport Rate Increase...
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.
Company News...
We are currently in the process of securing consent for our new offices which are located on our new turf farm. We expect to relocate to the new premises early in Spring. We will keep you posted closer to the time.
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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