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The Lawn Guide
Sapphire Buffalo

'New Content'

By Todd Layt

1. Mowing a lawn in a shaded area

There is no reason a lawn can’t be mown at 2 different heights. Areas that receive a lot of sun can be mown at a height that the contractor and/or homeowner is comfortable with, but in areas that receive more shade, it is vital for a lawn to be mown at a longer length, a height of 50mm is the minimum, but we do recommend a height of 60-70mm. The reason the higher mowing height is recommended in shady areas is the extra leaf area is required to help the lawn survive.

Of course there are others things that can be done in conjunction with the higher mowing height to aid in the lawns survival. For example if the shaded area is a result of tree shade you can prune trees at the suitable time of year to reduce shade and also keep fallen leaves off the lawn, we also suggest selecting a variety of lawn that has a higher shade tolerance, and try to reduce the wear the area receives. If the turf variety yourself or your client has is failing in a shaded area, you may want to try over planting with Viro Cell® Lawn of a more shade tolerant turf variety such as Sapphire® Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘B12’ PBR, which thrives in full sun to 70% shade (in low wear areas). Viro-Cells are small cell grown plants which can be planted in the existing lawn, and will gradually take over in the shade.

The more shade tolerant turf varieties require at least 2-3 hours of sunlight a day, so if the area receives less than this you may need to consider a lawn alternative such as Silverlawn™ Liriope muscari ‘LIRSS’ PBR or Isabella® Liriope muscari ‘LIRF’ PBR. Both of these Liriopes will tolerate up to 90% shade and can be mown with a catcher mower once a year to be kept tidy. You may even want to consider another alternative such as a garden of Mondo or even paving.

2. Promote a Deeper Root System

Long deep infrequent watering promotes deeper root systems, as opposed to frequent shallow water, which encourages shallow root systems and weaker plants and turf. Providing relatively tough plants and turf varieties (warm season, not cool season types) are used, heavy, weekly watering is adequate for most parts of Australia, even in summer. Sandy soils may require watering more often than this, but for most other soil types it is better to water heavily, at least 50mm once per week in summer.

3. This simple tip will save you time

It’s always irritating when you are mowing a lawn and you come across a piece of rubbish, well this really simple tip will save you walking to the rubbish bin multiple times. Tie a small bag on to your lawn mower, now whenever you come across rubbish simply put it in the bag. Over a week this could save you 50-60 trips to the bin. It’s even worth having a rubbish bag on board ride on mowers too.

Another handy tip is for when you have to pick up leaves, rather than having someone hold the bag open, or struggling trying to get the leaves in on your own, simply use the handles on a wheelbarrow to hold the bag open, once the bags full you can put it in the wheelbarrow, again saving you trips to the bin.

4. Slow the rapid summer growth of a lawn

The heat of summer can be hard for lawns, but the heat added with a little rain can make turf grass grow at a crazy rate. One of the best ways to reduce summer mowing is to either install or talk your client into installing a moderate summer growing lawn, such as the less upright growing Palmetto® Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘SS100’ PBR, a good slower growing couch variety, or Empire™ Zoysia japonica ‘SS500’ PBR.

If you have to mow a super-fast growing lawn such as Kikuyu, a well-watered fescue lawn, or one of the faster growing Buffalo varieties such as Sir Walter Buffalo, you may want to consider trying a dose of Trinex. This turf growth regulator will assist in slowing the rapid summer growth of a well-watered moderate growing lawn, and can often cut mowing frequency in half. This can be particularly useful for mowing contractors, who either struggle to keep up with all their client’s during the summer months, or get paid by the month rather than per mow. By using Trinex at times of the year when lawns grow faster, lawn maintenance contractors may be able to make more money. With lawns growing at a slower rate you will be able to take on more clients, instead of mowing lawns once per week, you can reduce visits to once every 10 – 14 days, giving more time for more customers.

Another way to use Trinex to make more money is to charge customers a monthly fee to mow their lawn, based on a yearly contract. You can explain to your client that on average they will pay for 25 mows per year, but you can treat the lawn in special ways, which will reduce the amount of mows required. This will allow you to share the savings a little with your client, but most importantly increase the cost charged per mow. Trinex can also save both time and money for golf courses, parks and gardens departments and sporting oval maintenance companies.

Trinex 120 ME Growth Regulator is available in 5 litres from Turf Culture 0413 587 682, or in 1 litre bottles from our online store.

Apply as per the label dose rates, some varieties may need lower dose rates than others, two applications should last the whole summer.

5. Lawns in water restriction times - establishment and maintenance

Although there are still currently water restrictions in some parts of Australia, they are of a far lower level and less limiting than 10 years ago. But in saying that the Australian climate can be unpredictable and there is always a chance that periods of severe drought will again push your state into higher levels of water restriction. With this in mind, we would suggest establishing a warm season turf such as Buffalo, Zoysia, Couch, etc. and not a cool season grass such as Fescue. The majority of good warm season turf varieties will survive periods of drought.

Whether water restrictions are in place or not, we always recommend establishing your new lawn in spring, autumn or winter. But if you must establish your new lawn in summer during water restrictions we highly recommend top dressing the lawn immediately after it is laid, this will allow the lawn to survive up to 2 days between waters, however it is still generally better to water the lawn daily for the first 2 weeks. Most water authorities will often make exemptions for the establishment of new lawns and gardens, so it is worth checking with them.

So what are the best methods for top dressing?

• Use either a specialised weed free top dressing mix or a washed sand.

• Spread the top dressing over the top of the lawn at a depth of about 4 to 7mm, rubbing it into the lawn with the back of a rack or lawn level. Ensure that at least 1/3 of the leaf is poking through the soil.

Water crystal can also be mixed in with the soil at the preparation stage prior to the turf being laid, this will also help the turf survive the dry times better. Once the lawn is established, weekly watering will be sufficient, but ensure that they are heavy watering periods rather that shallow water applications, this will promote deeper roots and a healthier lawn. Mowing the lawn at a longer length will also help the roots grow longer, providing a more drought tolerant lawn. In periods of drought, only use complete well balanced fertilisers, preferably slow release, other fertilisers can have a higher nitrogen rate, and too much nitrogen will make the lawn more water hungry.

With most warm season turf varieties, it is generally fine to let them brown off, provided they are at least 1 year old, as soon as they get water again they will come back. The exception to this is some of the weaker, shallow rooted Buffalo varieties. If you choose a Buffalo, try to stick with the more drought tolerant forms such as Palmetto, Sapphire or Sir Walter, these forms are extremely drought hardy and are excellent for surviving water restrictions. You can check out what water restrictions apply in your state by looking at your water authority’s website.

6. Establishing Turf

Is there any wonder turf sometimes gets transplant shock. When you think about it, turf is a natural living product, that has been ripped out of the ground via a harvester, stacked on pallets, and generally delivered within 12 hours of harvest, although sometimes it could be as long as 24 to 36 hours. It is then laid on the ground, often the ground is hot and dry, sucking the moisture from the turf. And if it is a hot windy day the turf will dry out very quickly. As a result of this, some parts of the turf may get holes or thin out, leaving bare areas. But with all things considered is it really so strange that this happens?

What you are actually doing after your turf is laid is not only helping it to establish, but also helping it to recover from the stress.

The key to a successful transplant is to not let the turf dry out for the first 10 days at least. In cooler climates this may simply mean watering it every day or so, where as a hotter climate, that is dry and possibly windy, it may mean that you need to water up to 6 times per day for the first week. Basically if the turf looks like its drying out, water it. Once you see lots of little white roots shooting from the turf, you can reduce watering slightly. To check this you simply lift a section of the turf a few days after laying, continue to monitor until you see them, and once the turf becomes difficult to lift, you can reduce watering appropriately. You should always be a fussy waterer when you first lay your new turf.

If you cannot water to these requirements, due to water restrictions etc. try lightly top dressing the turf (only for warm season grasses), click here for more information on establishing and maintaining a lawn in water restrictions.

7. Safe Chemicals for Buffalo Grass

Understandably, a lot of contractors are unsure what chemicals can be used on Buffalo turf varieties, mainly due to the fact that some Buffalo varieties can be harmed by some chemicals, whilst others are not. Current trials are being conducted to help clear up any confusion, but in the meantime the following information may help.

• Bromicide MA – the main chemical used to kill broadleaf weeds in Buffalo. It works well on most Buffalo varieties, including Palmetto, Sapphire and Sir Walter. If you are spraying ST85, ST91 or ST26 you may need to be more careful with the rates, and should also expect some burning. ST varieties growth rate is also significantly slowed after spraying with this chemical, which could cause an issue in some areas. We recommend not spraying this chemical on a hot day, it is better to spray in the cool of the evening or on a cooler day.

• Ronstar G – this can be used on all Buffalo varieties. It is a pre-emergent, which basically means it stops weed seed from germinating. It can be very helpful in areas disturbed by construction, for the planting of Viro-Cell lawn or runners, or for use on recently laid turf and even established turf in weedy areas.

• Pentamthylene – this is another pre-emergent, but can only be used on well-established turf. This chemical does tend to slow the growth rate down, and on young it does encourage aerial runners.

• Poa Chek – this can also be used on Buffalo to help remove winter grass.

8. Managing Thatch in Turf

Walking on spongy turf can be annoying, this is effect is cause by a build-up of thatch, and can even lead to scalping when mowing. By reading this you will ascertain ways to avoid too much thatch, or at least how to control or fix the issue.

The best way to avoid thatch is to install a turf variety that is low thatch. Some of the varieties available that are less thatch are Palmetto and Sapphire Buffalo’s, Greenlees Park Couch, Empire Zoysia and even Kikuyu, although there are many other reasons why Kikuyu should be avoided. Some of the varieties that tend to thatch quite badly are Shade Master Buffalo and Santa Ana Couch, although in cooler climates like Melbourne, Santa Ana makes a reasonable lawn, but in warmer areas it thatches like crazy.

Even the good lawn varieties can thatch in the right conditions, so what are the best management practices to avoid a thatchy lawn?

• Frequent short mowing – If you can mow at least once per week in summer periods (10 to 14 days with Empire Zoysia) to a height of about 30 to 40mm, you will find you will have less thatch build up. Although in shade a much taller mowing height is required.

• Avoid excess nitrogen – try to avoid the use of excess nitrogen. Use a good slow release fertiliser where possible and try to limit fertilising to just twice per year.

• Seaweed Extract – an occasional application of a seaweed extract such as Kelpak, which is low nitrogen, will stimulate microbial activity. This will help breakdown the dead organic matter that creates thatch.

• Watering – try not to over water the lawn. This unnecessarily increases lawn growth and thatch development.

• Trinex– some believe that an application of Trinex can help, slowing the lawn growth down, resulting in less mowing, and therefore reducing thatch build up.

But what can you do if you have already found yourself with a spongy, highly thatched lawn? Well there are procedures that can fix the problem.

• Dethatching Machine – you can hire a dethatching machine, this will quickly take care of the problem.

• Scalp the lawn – we know this sounds drastic but a simple way to dethatch is to severely scalp the lawn and remove the clippings. Generally the lawn will start to look good again after a couple of weeks, but avoid doing this in winter in cooler climates, and off course this can only be done warm season grasses, not cool season grasses such as Rye and Fescue.

• Top Dressing – this is an old time recipe that still works today. You can lightly top dress the lawn with a sandy soil, making sure the leaf is still poking through the top dressing. Try to avoid doing this every year, as over time levels around path etc. will be changed.

9. Removing Kikuyu and Couch from other lawns

Let’s say you have a beautiful Buffalo lawn, or some other fantastic type of lawn, but unfortunately some untidy Couch or Kikuyu has crept in, what do you do? Yes this is frustrating but unfortunately there is really only one sure way to get rid of it, and that is to spray that section of lawn dead with Round Up (Glyphosate). Where ever the Couch or Kikuyu is growing you will need to spray that area making sure that every bit of the targeted grass is sprayed. It is a good idea to water the lawn for a few days before spraying, the Round Up will kill much better when a plant is healthy. After a couple of weeks you will find a dead area, now the fun part begins. If your lawn is Palmetto Buffalo, Sapphire Buffalo or Empire Zoysia you can simply purchase Viro-Cell lawn and patch up the dead area, this method is quick and simple, but if you have another turf variety or are unable to get the Viro-Cells there are other options. Firstly you could try pulling out some runners from other parts of the lawn and plant them in the bare area, or secondly, you can turf the patch, and fully patch the area instantly. If you have a cool season grass, such as Fescue, you have the choice to either turf the patch, or reseed.

If you have Kikuyu in a lawn that requires less mowing, such as Palmetto or Sapphire, you will see that the Kikuyu will grow taller than the Buffalo. In this case you can one of the following 2 methods of removing the Kikuyu, they are more time consuming but will save you killing a patch of your Buffalo. Both methods should be done in winter, where you can allow your lawn to grow for 3-4 weeks with no mowing, this will mean the Kikuyu will stand above the Buffalo. The first method is to paint the Kikuyu utilising a paint brush, you can paint the Round Up on the Kikuyu, a great way to avoid getting any Round Up on your Buffalo is to have a piece of cardboard under the Kikuyu. You may want to repeat this method in another 3 weeks as some Kikuyu may be missed. The second method is to actually inject the Round Up into the Kikuyu runners. Grab a runner in your hand and using a needle and syringe simply inject the Round Up into the runner in a few different spots. CAUTION should be taken with this method, ensure you DO NOT stab or inject yourself. Again this method should be repeated in 3 weeks if some Kikuyu is missed. The biggest advantage of this method is you should get absolutely none on your Buffalo.

10. The Top 2 Lawn Pests

Lawn Armyworm

Spodoptera maurita or Lawn Armyworm as they are commonly known are the larvae of moths from the family Noctuidae. The female moth can lay up to or over 1000 eggs sporadically in clusters over 4-10 days, depending on the temperature. Newly hatched Armyworms stay together and feed on the same plant until the entire plant is devoured. The larvae are generally most active in the evening or at night, with the exception of overcast weather conditions. During the day they hide under the safety of the lower grass leaves. An Armyworm will undergo 6-9 instar stages before it is fully developed, this will take 21-35 days. At a mature instar stage the insect will reach 3-4cm in length. When fully fed the Armyworm will work its way into the soil where it will pupate, emerging as a moth 10-14 days later.

Armyworm are a major pest during summer and autumn, causing severe damage to turf grass surface where they attack the leaves, stems and seed heads. There can be 2-3 generations of Armyworm during the summer and autumn period. Infestations in turf will gradually extend outwards from higher cut areas or gardens, these areas are used as egg laying sites. The serious damage is predominantly caused by the later instar stages and as the population increases. Larger Armyworms tend to move unaffected turf grass areas in groups, hence the name ‘Armyworms’. They characteristically have stripes or triangle patterns along their smooth bodies, differing from that of the sod webworm.

There are several options available to control Armyworm in your lawn. Chlorpyrifos 500, Bistar and Lepidex are effective options for controlling these pests, application should be late in the afternoon for the most effective control.

African Black Beetle

Heteronychus arator or African Black Beetle as it is commonly known is a scarab species causing most damage to turf grass in September through to February. An adult female beetle can lay up to 80 eggs that hatch in 2-5 weeks, depending on temperature. The adult actually provides little damage to turf themselves, but the larvae develop through 3 stages, each stage going deeper into the soil profile feeding on the grass roots. The first instar stage larvae feed on decaying matter near the soil surface, as they progress to the second stage they feed exclusively on grass roots. The 3rd stage larvae are about 25mm long, creamy white in colour, curled up with three pairs of legs, at this final stage they can cause extensive damage when present in high numbers. Once fully grown they build an oval chamber, empty the hind gut and become a pre-pupae, developing into a pupae in about a week. After 1-3 months an adult beetle with emerge after rain or irrigation.

Weather patterns will affect the number of ABB and can also have an effect on the potential for turf damage. For example after successive dry spring and summer periods the number of black beetles can reach plague proportions by the second year. On warm, humid spring nights during plague season, the beetles will emerge and swarm to find new feeding and breeding sites. At these times a green succulent intensively maintained lawn is attractive to beetles as they search for food. The application of pesticides is best carried out at the first sign of activity in either September or October. Meridian, Merit, Chlorpyrifos 500 and Pennside will provide larvae control, and to effectively control adults use Baythroid or Chlorpyrifos. If you require any further information please contact NuTurf on 1800 631 008.

11. Cause, Effect and Treatment of Dry Patch in Turf

The use of surfactant on low cut turf situations, such as golf course greens, is an essential part of the turf management. But, as this turf is in a high stress, low cut situation, dry patches can appear very quickly and can create an undesirable visual appearance of the turf. Dry patches are often seen in areas where the soil in particularly hydrophobic. Soils become hydrophobic when organic matter builds up on soil particles making the difficult to wet, or water repellent. Organic matter build up often occurs in the warmer months, as this is when soil microbial activity is at its highest.

Wetting agents consists of surfactant molecules, these attach to the soil particle and allow water to wet-up the soil particle, through the interaction of positive and negative charges. There are products available which offer a preventative approach to dry patch appearance, and differ in their longevity, or a curative approach. For more information on these products you can contact Nuturf Pty Ltd on 1800 631 008. Special thanks to Alexandra McCorquodale (Nuturf Pty Ltd – National Business Manager Wetting Agents) for this information.

12. Broad Acre Turf Wetting Agents

The use of surfactant in broad acre situations is actually easy and effective through an injection unit. This unit injects the Wetting Agent into the irrigation system, allowing it to be distributed over the irrigated area. There is an easy way confirm that the Wetting Agent has been injected into the irrigation system, if you place your foot over a sprinkler head and its foams up, you can confirm it has been injected.

A cost effective penetrant is Dispatch, and is used at the low rates of 2-4 litres per hectare. It will limit the amount of water loss through evaporation or run off as its primary function is to penetrate water quickly through the thatch layer and down to the root zone. This type of efficient water use is not only beneficial to the environment, but can save up to 50% in energy and water costs, and best of all is backed by a money back performance guarantee from Aquatrols.

In studies carried out in the United States, it was shown that Dispatch will keep water in the soil where it is needed, this results in better turf quality and uniformity, and another side benefit was increased nitrogen retention. With the extensive tank mix flexibility of Dispatch, fertilisers and chemicals applied to soils will also be more consistently distributed through the root zone, giving a more uniform response. You can contact Globe Australia on 02 8713 5555 for more information on Dispatch.

13. Wick Wipe Weeds in Lawns

Unfortunately there are times when weeds in lawns are unable to be sprayed out by selective herbicides. So what are you left with? Spot spraying, which can leave unpleasant dead spots on your lawn, or hand weeding, which is simply a lot of work that nobody wants to do. But luckily there is another alternative available, a Wick Wiper. There are a few options available in wick wipers, there are simply hand held wands that are filled with Glyphosate, there are more elaborate push devices, and there are even tractor or quad bike drawn implements.

The hand held device is very simple to use, all you need to do is wipe the unwanted weed with the device, making sure that you only touch the weed. If you find that the wiper drips, you can add a little starch to thicken the mixture, this will reduce the leakage. I would suggest using ½ Glyphosate and ½ water in these devices.

The larger, more elaborate tractor towed or walk behind devices will need more thought prior to using them. These are designed to take out the faster growing weeds that often plague slower growing turf areas. These devices can be used to successfully take out weeds such as Summer grass, Sorgum and even Kikuyu from slower growing Buffalo lawns. If you let the weed grasses grow taller than the desirable turf, set the wiper at the right height so that it is touching the weeds and not the lawn, then you can start wiping. It is usually a good idea to go over it at least twice, with the second pass being at 90 or 180 degrees to the first pass, depending on the weed. You can repeat the process a week or two later to ensure you get all the weeds, you can then do one last spot weed to get any that have been missed.

Please note: Where 'New Content' is written at the top of an article this content has been added by the new owners of this website. If 'New Content' is not written, the information is from the previous site owner.

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