Posts

Turfgrass Response to Mowing Pt. 2

Recently, we discussed the impacts mowing can have on your grass. While it is necessary for a well-maintained lawn, we must consider its impact. A key question is… what length should I keep my grass?

The lower you maintain your grass, the higher the maintenance requirements. Shorter roots of low maintained grass are affected more rapidly by high heat. Low maintained grass must be mowed more often than higher maintained grass. Using the one-third rule, never remove more than one-third of the grass at a time.

 How Much Blade Length Should Be Cut at a Time

The general rule for mowing is to never remove more than one-third of the total blade length at a time. To remove more causes more stress on the plant.

For example, if you are maintaining your Bermudagrass lawn at 1.5″, you will be cutting the grass again when it puts on only half an inch of growth. If your Bermudagrass is maintained at 1-inch, then only one-third of an inch of growth puts you back on the mower. When the grass is actively growing the mowing frequency may be every few days for grass maintained at 1-inch or every week for higher maintained grass. Compare this to golf greens which are mowed daily. 

What about pastures or low maintenance fields? Since you may be only cutting the grass as hay on pastures and then letting it grow back to its longest reach before cutting again, the grass will remain the same thickness.

 Why the One-Third Rule

The goal is to do the least amount of harm. Removing only a third of the grass blade at a time helps keep all the functions of the plant operating efficiently. If you maintain your grass at 2-inches but wait until it reaches 5-inches before mowing, you are removing well over half the blade. Remember, the first inch of grass above the soil surface is the crown identified as white in color. From the crown, grass blades grow upward and roots grow down into the soil. The action of cutting off too much tissue shocks the grass and this occurs at the expense of the roots. Root growth may stop all growth for a considerable time if too much of the blade is cut. If a drought sets in or a heat wave, your grass may suffer. 

I used to maintain my father-in-law’s grass for him. He would always insist that I mow it very low so it will take longer to grow back so less mowing is required. I am sure his intention was for me to do less work. I would tell him it is not healthy for the grass and I would just mow it more often. I have found over the years that many people think the same way. If this is your habit of mowing, what is happening is the grass puts all its energy into regrowing long blades and it never thickens. You eventually end up with a very weedy lawn and your grass is of very poor quality.

 Meaning of Scalping

Most people consider scalping as cutting too low exposing the white color of the grass crown. Most of the time the grass will recover, but may suffer if this is repeated too often. The definition of scalping is not only removing grass to the soil level, but includes removing too much tissue that causes an undesirable effect. An example is removing 4″ of grass blade length to bring it back to a 2″ height in a single cutting. This can still be considered scalping. As stated, it can shock the grass and force it to use stored nutrients to recover. The grass must then be forced to produce enough carbohydrates through photosynthesis alone to keep up with daily functions since its reserves may be partially depleted. 

lawnsite.com

 How to Mow Overgrown Grass

If your goal is to take over-grown grass and bring it back to the proper height, this is one way to do it. Start by only cutting off a third of the blade length at a time. Wait for a few days and cut again only removing a third at a time until it reaches the desired height. In between mowings make sure you are irrigating as needed and paying close attention to the appearance of the grass. If there is a problem then halt the mowing until you investigate the cause. You should make sure your blades are sharp to shorten the healing time.

This idea of watching grass appearance is important. Most turf managers who regularly maintain at lower heights know grass is more stressed than higher maintained grass. The grass appearance after mowing, along with the grass color, weather, moisture and other factors affect the grass more quickly. The lowest maintained grass, which are golf greens for example, have short roots that can overheat so heat is a concern. The grass temperature is often taken (literally) and syringing with water is often performed to keep it cool. Diseases are more common on lower maintained grass. Daily mowing, heat stress, spoon feeding nutrients and disease occurrence are some reasons why Bentgrass is considered such a high maintenance grass.

 Exceptions to the Rule

Perennial Ryegrass: P. Ryegrass has proven to be, in some regards, an amazing grass. As a stand alone grass, its primary range is in the Transition Zone. But, it is the best grass in the south for growing in dormant Bermudagrass and on Bermudagrass golf greens.

You may be wondering how Perennial Ryegrass can be used on golf greens since they are maintained so low. Bermudagrass greens, like other varieties of Bermudagrass, go dormant and turn brown in the winter. In the summer months these greens can be mowed daily at 1/4″.  Perennial Ryegrass that is overseeded on greens in winter can be mowed at 1/2″ without harm to the grass (Dr. Nick Christians, Fundamentals of Turfgrass Management). 

Researchers do not know exactly why Perennial Ryegrass survives this low mowing, but it is the only one that can be used in this way. In the spring, even lower mowing to 1/3″or 1/4″ helps to remove the Perennial Ryegrass and the Bermudagrass greens take over again. 

Centipede Grass: Centipede grass starts to decline if not mowed. It thrives when it is maintained at lower heights. Mowing heights are from 1″ to 2″ (be sure to read your variety specifications) and if maintained higher this can lead to diminished quality.

 How Turf Formula® and SuperCal® Help

Turf Formula®and SuperCal® work together to make your soil better for plant growth. Aside from a natural increase in nutrients, disease pathogens are lowered. University of Missouri/Columbia found that 35% of Brown Patch Pathogens were reduced in 24-hours. Many of the soil microbes, such as protozoa, feed upon pathogenic microbes that infect plants. Pathogenic microbes can reach a threshold where disease pressure reaches the point of infection, but using Turf Formula® can help keep them under control.

This duo is sure to make a difference and improve your turf this growing year.

Russ James
AgriGro Turf Specialist

Question? Contact us. 




AgriGro Turf Products

Overseeding Bermudagrass with Perennial Ryegrass

 The Science of Overseeding Bermudagrass with Perennial Ryegrass

One of the highest performing grass species is bermudagrass. With over  50 actively grown varieties around the world, bermudagrass is a favorite in hot, sunny locations from home lawns, fairways, even golf greens. All varieties of Bermudagrass can excel in the sun and heat where other grass types fail. The number of months it stays actively growing is determined by where in the country it is planted. Bermudagrass has a wide growth range that extends from the deep south to the top of the Transition Zone.

In Southern states, the DOT (Department of Transportation) plants bermudagrass along roadsides since it is a low maintenance turf that does extremely well, even in hot, dry locations. Mowing is performed as the only maintenance. However, on the high end of the spectrum, high maintenance sports turf with improved or hybrid varieties have been used due to their beauty and ability to endure heavy traffic.

 Bermudagrass Behavior

Like most warm-season grasses, as winter approaches and soil temperatures drop, bermudagrass goes dormant. In the northern reaches of its range, the active growing time may be no more than half the year.  The tan-colored dormant grass will remain unchanged until spring when the weather and soil temperatures warm again. The problem is that dormant bermudagrass does not provide a quality playing surface for golf or on sports fields. To fix the problem, some sports turf managers will begin overseeding the dormant grass with Ryegrass. 

Of all the species of warm-season grass, only bermudagrass can survive unharmed when overseeded in the fall. Overseeded bermudagrass allows for a better appearance and play on golf courses and better turf quality for team sports than playing on dormant bermudagrass alone. Bermudagrass is the primary grass here and it is the one that a turf manager is primarily concerned about. The overseeded grass, while well cared for, is always temporary but needed.

 Seed of Choice for Overseeding

The grass of choice for overseeding was Annual Ryegrass in years past. However, the current choice is Perennial Ryegrass. Dormant bermudagrass can easily revive after a winter of fertilization, irrigation, and other maintenance requirements needed to maintain the ryegrass. The same winter treatment can weaken or injure centipede, zoysia, or other warm-weather species. It has become a common practice for many golf courses and even some homeowners to overseed the bermudagrass in the fall with perennial ryegrass or annual ryegrass to provide a green color in winter.

 Why Perennial Ryegrass is Preferred

You may wonder why Perennial Ryegrass is preferred, especially since it is a perennial and not an annual. Perennial Ryegrass is used as a stand-alone year-round grass but is mostly restricted to the transition zone. It can’t handle the high heat of the southern summers or the extreme winter cold of the most northern states. It is used in the south as a winter grass. 

To be fair, in years past, annual ryegrass was used on sports fields and golf courses, but the problem was annual ryegrass (i.e. Italian ryegrass) was not as developed as a turfgrass. It didn’t possess the qualities needed to make a fine home turf or sports turf. Sports managers moved to Perennial Ryegrass due to its better turfgrass qualities. Managers had to factor in the grass being a perennial and how it would increase the time and effort in maintaining and removing it. The payoff was how Perennial Ryegrass was undeniably better in every way. Compared to Annual Ryegrass, Perennial Ryegrass is a much darker green and is less coarse than Annual Ryegrass. Plus it can endure traffic better, grows quicker, and will last longer into the spring. Annual Ryegrass often begins to die back before the manager desires it to, leaving behind a less than desirable lawn full of clumps of pale and dying grass and a lower quality playing surface. While Perennial Ryegrass is not an annual grass, in this case, it is being managed as an annual.

In many areas of the country, Annual Ryegrass is still what is planted, especially by non-professionals. It doesn’t require the knowledge of turf management compared to Perennial Ryegrass.  In southeast Texas, I did a search of all the farm and landscape stores in a 20-mile radius and most of them had Annual Ryegrass. In fact, I found it was the only cool-season grass any store sold. While planting Annual Rye is far easier, it can’t come close to the beauty or quality of Perennial Ryegrass.

While planting Perennial Ryegrass will provide a much better quality turf, it also requires more skill and knowledge of both bermudagrass and Perennial  Ryegrass growth habits. Turf managers understand the goal is to encourage the bermudagrass to recover in the spring while at the same time ensuring the Perennial Ryegrass is dying back. The window is short and timing is crucial. Southern states use a combination of cultural practices and specialized herbicides at just the right time that will eliminate the ryegrass without harm to the bermudagrass just as the bermudagrass is recovering from dormancy. Northern states most often use specialized herbicide almost exclusively.

 It Begins in the Fall

In the fall as Bermudagrass is transitioning from growth to dormancy is the time to overseed with a Perennial Ryegrass variety that grows best in your area. There are currently about 120 varieties being tested or grown as turfgrass.

The rate of seed spread recommended for golf courses is approximately 12-lbs per 1000-sq. ft. over thick, dormant bermudagrass. Determine the correct amount between 12-lbs and 15-lbs for thin bermudagrass or where bermudagrass and shade meet.

You will need to water the seeds lightly two to three times each day until it germinates. Keep in mind you are not watering the grass, but are just putting enough water down to keep the seeds moist. Ryegrass is a quickly germinating seed that can sprout as soon as 3-days after planting.

Every grass species has a temperature range and conditions in which it is said to reach maximum growth potential. For most cool-season grasses, the best growth temperature is 60 to 75-degrees. For warm season grasses, it is 85 to 95-degrees.

 When to Plant is Crucial

The timing of planting the seed is just as crucial as removing it. Planting ryegrass too early before dormancy is setting in or removing it too late in spring can cause serious harm to bermudagrass. If the Ryegrass is allowed to stay too long after bermudagrass should be greening up, you are risking injury because the ryegrass will shade the bermudagrass. Some managers will delay killing the ryegrass because in the spring it looks so good. But bermudagrass is the primary grass. Bermudagrass injury can start where the full sun is reduced by as little as 30-percent.

Here is one of the dilemmas that must be addressed. Emerging bermudagrass from dormancy to full recovery is a slow process. It can take as long as 120-days from emergence to full recovery. In Missouri, there are about 6 to 7-months of growth from emergence, dormancy, to full recovery and back to dormancy again. It depends a lot on how long into the spring the winter fights to stay around. Lately, that has been as late as May. Plus, the temperature when bermudagrass is emerging from dormancy is also the best temperature for ryegrass growth.

 On Southern Turf

To help bermudagrass recover favorably in southern lawns, golf courses, and sports fields, just before emergence, managers perform low mowing below the height which is healthy for Perennial Ryegrass. You are performing practices that favor the bermudagrass over the Perennial Ryegrass and allow light to reach the bermudagrass. As standard cultural practices on golf courses for removing Perennial Ryegrass, you can perform vertical slicing to encourage bermudagrass growth, add Ammonium Nitrate at high rates to help burn the ryegrass, core aerate for increased bermudagrass root growth by allowing water and air increased access to the roots, and irrigate as needed.

Some Perennial Ryegrass varieties are more tolerant of cultural practices alone and not all will die back. If this is the case you will need to use specific herbicides that kill ryegrass without harm to bermudagrass.

 Use Herbicides for Controlling Ryegrass

Herbicides that kill Perennial Ryegrass are favored over cultural practices in northern locations. This is because the bermudagrass growth season is much shorter. The time allowed for full recovery must be completed before the end of the season or your bermudagrass will decline each year. Removing Perennial Ryegrass quickly is favored over cultural practices alone since the temperatures that favor ryegrass last much longer into the spring and the temperature that favors bermudagrass is equally short.

For chemical control of Perennial Ryegrass, there are several products that have been tested and used regularly.  We will only look at three of them, but there are around half a dozen more. The tests found that of all the products that are labeled for removing ryegrass, some worked faster than others and some were more effective at removing ryegrass than others.

Kerb SC T&O Herbicide
Kerb SC T&O by Dow Agrosciences had the best results. It carries a “Caution Label” and is somewhat expensive. Two-and-a-half gallons can retail around $800. It is for use on all grass locations except home lawns (non-residential use).

Monument Herbicide 75WG
Among the top performers was Monument Herbicide 75WG. It is for professionals and sod farmers due to the way it must be sprayed. Your tank must have constant agitation from the moment it is mixed and continues even when not spraying at the time. The equipment in the label description is large equipment that is not generally used by homeowners. It comes in small boxes with packets of 5-grams each. The packet itself is dissolvable in water so you never touch the chemical.

Revolver Herbicide
This one is the most versatile herbicides for homeowners, sports fields, or commercial sites. It can be used on lawns or sports turf and can be mixed in containers as small as a gallon pump tank. It can remove most all cool-season grasses grown in warm-season grasses. It can also be used safely on bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, and buffalograss as a spot treatment only.

The cost of Revolver is less than $300 for a quart.

Read the entire label before using it. It is the law and regulates where and how it can be used, stored and the PPE that must be worn.

 How Turf Formula® and SuperCal® Help Create Beautiful Turf

AgriGro Turf Formula® increases germination rates as well as adding nutrients, enzymes, amino acids, and more that plants need. Studies show photosynthesis and the production of carbohydrates were more efficient after using Turf Formula®.

In university studies, Turf Formula® increased the beneficial microbes by 3400% in just 24 hours and by 5000% in 72 hours. This explosion of beneficial microbes breaks down soil elements into nutrients quickly. Microbes themselves add to the soil many elements needed for healthy plants.

In addition, plant pathogenic microbes were reduced by 35% in university studies performed by the University of Missouri/Columbia. Many beneficial microbes, including certain protozoa, feed only on pathogenic or harmful bacteria.

SuperCal® was added to Turf Formula® when tests were done. Microbes need calcium to achieve their highest activity. SuperCal® is over 40,000 times more soluble than lime. It is immediately available for plants to use. Calcium strengthens the plant cuticle (surface thickness) making it more resistant to diseases that enter via plant surfaces. Calcium is needed for photosynthesis, root development, and necessary for the transport of nutrients.

In lab studies, macro and micro-nutrients were naturally increased due to the action of soil microorganisms with the exception of soil salts. Too much salt can harm the structure of healthy soil. Turf Formula® helps reduce soil sodium levels. Golf superintendents have been able to reduce the inputs of nutrients via fertilizers by 35% due to the microbial action that converts soil elements into available nutrients. Order Turf Formula® and SuperCal® today.

Russ James
AgriGro Turf Specialist

Question? Contact us. 




Shop Turf Products

Fresh Herbs All Year Long

Herbs have many uses in our kitchens and homes—from fresh marinara sauces to homemade taco nights… almost every recipe is enhanced when fresh herbs are used. To enjoy them for months to come, the best time to harvest them is in mid-August before they flower but you can do this any time during the year. Follow our guide below to learn how!

Drying Herbs

#1 – Harvest

Collect a small handful of stems from your herb garden (no more than a half-inch in diameter). Make sure each stem is healthy. Remove any stems with diseased leaves or insect damage. 

#2 – Wrap

Wrap a rubber band around each bundle, make sure it is secure. The band tends to contract as they dry. 

#3 – Hang

Find a spot out of direct sunlight to hang your herbs to dry. Make sure this spot is warm, dark, and has good ventilation and low humidity (to keep mold from growing).

#4 – Spread (Optional)

There are some herbs that dry best when they are spread on a screen such as bay leaves and chives.

#5 – Wait

When your herbs feel crisp and easily crumble, they are ready to go! This process can take a couple of weeks so be patient.

Now you can enjoy the herbs you have grown all throughout the year. For the best results, we recommend using all dried herbs within one year of harvesting. You can write the date on the container to make it easy to remember. Then, make sure to store them in a dry place, away from sunlight, and throw them away if you see any signs of mold.

For the herb garden you plant or are planning to plant this spring, work in harmony with nature. Working with nature simplifies things and it comes down to understanding the importance of beneficial microbial activity in the soil, on the plant, and the huge benefits that come from this thriving microbial life.

Our all-natural prebiotic formulations work to significantly increase these beneficial microbes… up to 5000%! Containing various biomolecules that not only feed the microbes, increasing their performance, but also serving to regulate various functions in the plant for improved health. We’re adding life, all while supporting what nature has already provided. 

The healthier the plant and soil, the fewer worries you will have about pests and disease. Take a look at our products and start planning your herb garden now with AgriGro® in mind.




Shop Now

SOURCES:
Ciesinski, T. (2016, Sep). Saving SUMMER HERBS. Vegetarian Times, , 26-26,29.
HEIKENFELD, R. (2017). Coriander/Cilantro Herb and Spice All in One. Countryside & Small Stock Journal, 101(3), 24.

Winter Pruning: A Guide for Your Garden

While the winter chill is still in the air, it is time to prepare for your spring garden. A top priority on your list should be to prune your shrubs and trees before new growth and buds come to life. This is important to do in late winter or early spring because trees and shrubs are in a state of dormancy. Dormancy protects the plants from cold temperatures and helps the plant focus energy on new spring growth. So when you start the pruning process, your trees and shrubs will actually be encouraged to grow.

What is Pruning?

Pruning is simply the cutting back of old, dead, diseased, or unwanted limbs or branches of a tree or shrub. This process allows you to shape your plants before new growth happens. If there is a hole in a shrub or hedge you would like to fill, you can actually prune the area surrounding the hole to encourage new growth in that bare spot.

Tree Pruning

When pruning your trees in late winter focus on removing branches that have been damaged by harsh winter winds, ice, or heavy snows. These weak, damaged branches are more likely to break apart or tear off the tree if not removed. This could cause lasting damage to your tree. So go ahead and just remove them.

To prune your trees correctly, cut close to the trunk but not right against it – leave a few inches. Then, carefully remove the damaged branch. Make a small undercut and then slice down from above to meet the first cut. This method will ensure the bark does not tear. 

Wondering what trees need to be pruned? Here are a few to note…

  • Evergreens (spruce, fir)
  • Oak
  • Sweetgum
  • Maple
  • Katsura 
  • Hornbeam
  • Dogwoods

Pro Tip: If your trees are young, they need to be pruned earlier. This will help them grow more branches from the base of the tree.

Shrub Pruning

Pruning shrubs and hedges also help them develop and grow. The goal is to thin out old wood and remove branches so new ones can grow in. First, you want to start with branches near the ground, these can cause damage to nearby concrete walkways, be a tripping hazard, or even interfere with your house. Start there and get rid of those! Then, you can work your way up towards the top.

Make sure to never cut your shrubs or hedges in a horizontal line. This will lead to a thinning of the plants. You want to make cuts here and there, cutting some branches back hard and leaving healthy ones to grow and flourish.

Pro Tip: If your shrubs flower or bloom, you will want to wait to prune those until spring or summer.

How to Prune

  1. Gather clean, sharp tools
  2. Make precise cuts… all cuts should go back to a bud, branch, or the main trunk.
  3. Paint all cuts over 1″ to 2″ in diameter with a protective paint
  4. Disinfect tools after each cut on diseased plant… an alcohol-based disinfectant will work.

Voila! Repeat this process throughout your garden and then your trees and shrubs will be ready for springtime. When you’re done pruning, go ahead and mist Ultra® onto your freshly groomed plants. Ultra® is our organic prebiotic which helps maximize growth and production in the soil, seed, roots, and plant foliage.  This will lead to strong, healthy buds and new growth when the spring arrives.


SHOP NOW

Free shipping always.


SOURCES:
Cole, Trevor. “Spring Crop: Unsure about what to Prune Back Now?” Canadian Gardening, vol. 15, no. 2, 04, 2004, pp. 62-65.
Donald Wyman. “PRUNING ORNAMENTAL SHRUBS AND TREES.” Arnoldia. 23.8 (1963): 107–110. Print.
Old Farmer’s Almanac. “Winter Pruning Guide for Trees and Shrubs.” Old Farmer’s Almanac.

It’s Time to Start a Cold Frame

Your garden doesn’t have to suffer during the cold winter months after all the hard work you’ve put into it all spring and summer. Even outside of the prime growing season, a cold frame garden offers a way for you to keep your garden producing without investing in a full-sized greenhouse. Cold frames are a great option during the winter months.

What is a Cold Frame?

A cold frame is a box supporting a transparent top that admits sunlight and typically lifts to provide access to the garden inside. The bottom gives access to garden soil providing the ability for crops to root and dig deeper. To ensure the best location for your cold frame, choose an area that receives both direct sunlight and a well-drained location. You might want to choose a location close to the house so you’re not walking too far in the cold, winter months.

Food for thought… on sunny days, when the temperature rises above 50-degrees Fahrenheit, be sure to vent your cold frame to prevent the excess heat from wilting your plants.

Building a Cold Frame

There are many different DIY ways to make cold frames. From recycled material to things you have laying around the house – if you are looking to build a cold frame, you can do it and have your garden growing in the winter months. Here are three DIY cold frame ideas:

  • Windows: You can find old windows lying around thrift stores or being sold at yard sales! 
  • Straw bales: This is a quick, easy and low-cost way to make a cold frame. It doesn’t require building skills.
  • PVC pipe: Some gardeners prefer to be more creative with a fancier cold frame. Plus, PVC pipes provide a quick clean up at the end of the season.

Best Plants to Grow

To set you up for success, we’ve created a list of plants best to grow in a cold frame. For the best germination, identify your area’s average first frost date. To do this, first, find the days to maturity by looking at the seed packet. Once you do this, count backward to find your planting date.

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Green onions
  • Kale
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips

Don’t Forget to Add Life

When gro-ing in your cold frame, you want to make sure to give your plants the nutrients they crave. With Bountiful Harvest® your soil and plants will thrive with health, vigor and vitality that you simply can’t get from fertilizers alone. 

Bountiful Harvest® is the same field-proven, university tested formula that commercial growers have been using from AgriGro® for years, re-packaged for easy use by the home gardener. It is a 100% natural, environmentally safe prebiotic that contains macro and micro-nutrients, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, and complex carbohydrates that benefit both the soil and plants production and health.

To use, apply it directly to the soil, seed, roots and plant foliage to maximize growth and production. Then, watch your cold frame garden come to life!


SHOP NOW

Free shipping always.


SOURCES:
Miller, Elizabeth; Miller, Crow.Countryside and Small Stock Journal;
The Art of Winter Gardening. Waterloo Vol. 83, Iss. 2, (Mar/Apr 1999): 59.