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|Posted on October 1, 2014 at 4:22 PM||comments (284)|
Okay, troops. At ease. Let’s talk MULCH. Mulch is important. It is not only aesthetically pleasing, it serves some purposes. Aesthetically, it neatens the appearance of your landscape. It makes your AO (Area of Operation) look more squared away. Mulch really makes your landscape look like you care about the appearance of your quarters or facility. The more functional roles of mulch are: suppressing weeds, retaining moisture, insulating the soil and diminishing soil erosion. As mulch decomposes, it helps soil structure and fertility.
There many types of mulch. Opinions on mulch are just as plentiful. How your landscape “looks” is totally up to you. For example, I’m not a big fan of dyed mulch. Why? Because, eventually, the color goes away. The colorants are NOT harmful. But the colors will fade. The type of mulch you need to use does have some considerations. Does your choice of mulch remove nutrients? Does it change the pH of the soil? Could it be harmful to pets?
First off, I’ll give you my “high speed” recommendation. For my customers in the US Mid – Atlantic Region, I always recommend shredded cedar. I think this is the best. Shredded mulch “locks” together better when the mulch begins to settle. But it still allows good water penetration. Shredded mulch stays in place and decomposes faster than chips. And, the scent of cedar is very pleasing to humans but not very pleasing to pests. Those are my big reasons. The color is usually a tan or light brown which works well with many landscapes.
Just like any other mulches, there are some drawbacks to cedar mulch. The first drawback is, although it takes a long time to decompose, as it decomposes it removes nitrogen from the soil. Okay; so monitor that. You may have to fertilize your plants. This is a good opportunity for some organic fertilizer application. Secondly, cedar can get real dry in the summer. That can possibly, maybe, pose a fire hazard in some areas. If those conditions exist, wetting your cedar mulch may be in order.
Shredded cypress is my second favorite. Some folks are saying that the increased use of cypress mulch has resulted in the increased harvesting of cypress trees in the south Atlantic and gulf coast states of the US. That doesn’t sound like a good thing. But cypress mulch is pretty awesome. It does not remove nitrogen and has all the benefits of cedar mulch. However, folks that care about the wetlands in Louisiana and Florida are really concerned about the unsustainable logging of cypress down there. Some of these experts are saying all the “old growth” cypress is now gone and what’s left are newer trees and the new trees do not have the same desirable benefits as a mulch as the old trees did. So, I’d say, stay away from the cypress, if you can. The cypress forests in our south protect our wetlands and our wildlife.
Some folks in my area use fallen leaves. That’s okay. Shredding them would be better. But, remember, some leaves will alter the pH level of the soil. In most cases it will make the soil more acidic. But its an easy way to use those leaves in the fall.
In fact, that’s when you should put down your mulch – the fall. Its after the growing season. Clean out your beds. Remove all the dead annuals and perennials. Do your pruning. (Be sure to WEED!) Then mulch. It is also a good time to square away your edging.
In another blog post, I discuss using grass clippings as mulch. That’s just as lazy (but acceptable) as using leaves. But, do not use grass clippings from a lawn that has been chemically treated. Definitely don’t put that in your vegetable garden! The chemicals (herbicides, pesticides) may harm desirable plants. You’ve seen me type this a million times – Leave the grass clippings on your lawn! Grass clippings are 90% water by weight. When they are left on the lawn they dehydrate quickly. They are also high in protein and are rapidly decomposed by bacteria and fungi. Grass clippings contain about 4% nitrogen, 2% potassium and 0.5% phosphorous. Other studies have shown that grass clippings can equal up to 3 applications of fertilizer – WITH NO ADDITONAL COST OR WORK! Make sure the clippings are chewed up fairly small – get a mulching mower or a mulching attachment to your mower. It is environmentally responsible!
Wood chips are sometimes free from tree companies or local units of government. Sometimes you have to go get them. Sometimes they will dump a big pile in your driveway. They take up nitrogen and are acidic. Just better hope the trees did not have any poison ivy. And, walnut tree chips have some chemicals that inhibit the growth of many plants.
Straw is sometimes used. I’m not a big fan. Straw can easily blow or wash away. Straw can also have a good deal of weed seeds. It breaks down slower than leaves or grass clippings. You will see straw used as mulch in newly seeded turf areas. That’s normal.
Pine needles are very popular in the south. They also increase acidity but they stay put rather well. Hey, if you got conifers, pine needles look…well, natural around those trees.
Bark nuggets are not my favorite either. They do not stay in place. They wash away easily. And, worst of all, they can become direct fire projectiles if picked up by your mower. But, perhaps in some areas where there isn’t a slope, you don’t mow and heavy rain is not a factor, these could be a choice. Pine bark is the most common.
Cocoa hull mulch is popular. Its got great color, texture and aroma. But this easily blows away. It decomposes slowly. Cocoa hulls are poisonous to dogs and cats and can grow mold on the surface.
Gravel or rock is okay. Guess it depends on what kind of “look” you are going for in your landscape. They do not breakdown, do not need to be replaced, but, they do not help the soil. Better make sure this is what you want. Removing this stuff is awful.
Don’t use rubber. That’s usually from old tires. That has lots of zinc and other stuff that can wreak havoc on your soil. Newspapers are too weird and landscape plastic or fabrics look terrible. Plastic and fabrics are also real difficult to remove when the time comes.
Please, no “mulch volcanoes”. Improper mulching kills trees and shrubs! I’m serious. A mulch volcano is when inexperienced troops pile mulch around the base or stem of a tree or shrub. Placing mulch high around the base of a tree often leads to softening of the bark, disease, fungus, and pest infestation. Proper mulching should be more like an “artillery impact crater” – with the tree in the middle. Okay, okay – so you may not have ever seen an artillery impact crater. How about a doughnut? Ever seen a doughnut? You want water to be able to run down the tree trunk and into the ground, not away from the tree. And, you want water around the mulched area to possibly drain inward as well. Two to four inches of mulch should about do it. Here’s a nice document from the State of Maine:
In one home I had, I did something I later regretted. I decided to put paving stones around my beds. I “elevated” some of my beds. Then I put down a weed blocking fabric and then I covered that fabric with some red lava rocks. (Yes; red lava rocks. It was a phase I was going through.) It looked good for about a season. Maybe not even that long. Everything began to unravel, literally. Removing and disposing of all that stuff was really painful. And, it eventually made my quarters look like Mosul in 2004.
I say, stick to the natural wood mulches. It will make your life easier and make your beds very pleasing to the eye. Unless you have the time, money and resources for a mini Versailles, and André Le Nôtre is your gardener, keep it simple.
|Posted on August 29, 2014 at 1:30 PM||comments (769)|
I've been running into a fairly significant problem this summer. I've encountered a great deal of POISON IVY (Toxicodendron Radicans)lately. I’ll also include in this discussion poison oak and poison sumac. All of this stuff is mean. My wife came in contact with some in our yard. I had a coworker who almost had to go to the hospital because of it. I am just as susceptible. It is some terrible stuff. Some horticulturalists are saying the cultivars of poison ivy out there now have become MORE toxic than in earlier years, citing increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And, the poison ivy is not just along some remote fence line, way in the back, behind a shed. The poison ivy is right there, in a front yard bed, growing through the existing landscape. How do we deal with, and hopefully get rid of, poison ivy?
The first method would involve what we call “cultural” methods or controls. That is the practice of modifying the growing environment to reduce the prevalence of unwanted pests or plants. First of all, this method may expose you to the toxin. If you are susceptible, you would need to wear protective gear (gloves, long sleeve shirt, breather/mask, etc.). No gaps in clothing. You can also get exposed to the toxic oil “Urushiol”, the plant’s sap, from clothing, tools, or other objects that have been in contact with the plant. You will have to “disinfect” anything that comes in contact with the plant. That is, anything you want to use again. Even dead plants can get you scratching. When it is hot out, you’re perspiring and your pores are open, you are really vulnerable.
Repeated cutting of the plant back to the ground surface will eventually starve the root system and the plant will die. However, repeated cutting increases the chances of exposure to the toxic oil.
Hand-pulling, grubbing or hoeing poison ivy out of the ground are difficult, but can work with small infestations. These techniques are rarely successful on infestations that have been established for two years or more. Best results will be achieved when soils are wet. Pulling roots from dry soil is futile. Eradication will only be achieved if all portions of the underground rootstocks (rhizomes) are removed from the soil.
Then there is “chemical” control. Remember what I said earlier in this blog about SELECTIVE herbicides? Selective herbicides kill specific targets, while leaving the desired plants relatively unharmed. BLUF (Army talk for: Bottom Line Up Front): There is NO selective herbicide that kills poison ivy and does not harm anything else. That selective herbicide simply does not exist. There are some “old wives’ tales” out there regarding treatment; vinegar, coffee, hot water. I’m going to try to keep this somewhat scientific.
Several herbicides can be used to eradicate poison ivy over time. One of the most effective active ingredients is “Triclopyr”, a selective herbicide that kills broadleaf plants but does not harm grasses. But, I say again, it is not FULLY SELECTIVE. It is also good with conifers but it may harm other plants. One common example is Ortho's “Brush-B-Gon” Poison Ivy Killer or Ortho's “Kleeraway Grass & Weed Killer”. The best tactic is to look on the herbicide label for the active ingredient triclopyr. Another selective herbicide possibility for poison ivy control includes products that contain combinations of the active ingredients dicamba and 2,4-D. These are two out of three of the main selective herbicides for broadleaf weed control in lawns (the third being Mecoprop-p). These two active ingredients are commonly packaged together in a variety of broadleaf lawn herbicide mixtures. Each of these active ingredients (triclopyr, dicamba, and 2,4-D) is a selective herbicide that can be used safely on grasses to control or suppress broadleaf plants like poison ivy. However, due to the potential for volatilization and off-site movement, these herbicides should not be applied in locations where other sensitive species grow in close proximity to poison ivy. The other sensitive species could be any woody ornamentals; from azaleas to boxwood.
Glyphosate is another active ingredient that is effective on poison ivy. That is the active ingredient in “RoundUp”. But, glyphosate is a NONSELECTIVE herbicide unlike triclopyr, dicamba and 2,4-D. A nonselective herbicide kills everything and anything. Glyphosate can kill both grass and broadleaf plants, so care must be taken when using this product near trees, shrubs, flowers or other desirable species.
Either selective or nonselective herbicides should be applied during periods of rapid poison ivy growth to ensure maximum kill. One of the best times to apply herbicides to poison ivy is just before the plants are blooming. Although you may apply any of these herbicides at the right time and in the right amount, keep in mind that poison ivy is a tough perennial plant with thick, woody rootstocks, and therefore re-growth and new sprouts are likely to occur. If this is the case, be sure to make repeat applications during the same season or in the following year to achieve complete eradication. Whenever you use any herbicide, be sure to read and understand instructions on the herbicide label before making an application.
I talked about this before, but here’s a review. You may need to know these definitions: Contact herbicides destroy only the plant tissue in contact with the chemical. Generally, these are the fastest acting herbicides. They are less effective on perennial plants, which are able to re-grow from rhizomes, roots or tubers. Systemic herbicides are translocated through the plant, either from foliar application down to the roots, or from soil application up to the leaves. They are capable of controlling perennial plants and may be slower-acting, but ultimately more effective than contact herbicides.
Glyphosate is a systemic herbicide. So is triclopyr, dicamba, and 2,4-D.
A couple more trade names are “Crossbow” (a 2,4-D/triclopyr combo), “Triple Threat Broadleaf Weed Killer” (2,4-D & Mecoprop-p), “Weedmaster” (a dicamba plus 2,4-D mixture) and “KLEENUP” (Glyphosate)
Some of the more “earthy” horticulturists use “St. Gabriel Labs' Poison Ivy Defoliant” (Clove Oil, Sodium Laurel Sulphate, Vinegar, Lecithin, Water, Citric Acid, and Mineral Oil).
You could do a “mix” of cultural and chemical control. Like cut the main stem just above the ground and try to pour the herbicide right down on to or immediately adjacent to the main stem. Try not to pour too much so it leaches into the root systems of nearby plants.
Herbicide application by “painting” (like with a brush) on to the leaves is suitable for some locations.
Never burn poison ivy. If the smoke gets in your lungs, that’s a trip to the emergency room.
Finally, there is a radical solution. But, I guess it is not that radical if you have a real severe infestation. You could transplant your all of the desirable plants out to another location, really nuke the area with an herbicide, and then bring the plants back to their original location. Fortunately, the herbicides I mentioned do not have a long life in the soil. It is not like you’d have to keep your plants elsewhere for several months. Obviously, this has to be done during the growing season wherever you are and there must be ample time for the plants to re-establish themselves.
I guess there is one more possible method of eradication. Goats love poison ivy. You could get a goat.
|Posted on July 30, 2014 at 3:05 PM||comments (69)|
This goes back to what I said in my “Heat Tolerance” and my “Shade Tolerance” blog posts. This is where the age old conflict between turf and trees comes about. If you want some decent turf under your trees, you will probably have to trim or prune your trees. I’m sorry tree huggers. That’s just the way it is. That’s a fact, Jack.
Some of you know that I got my horticulture certification in January of this year (2014). So, here I go with my horticultural hat on.
Not only does trimming and pruning your trees help your turfgrass, it is healthy for your trees to keep them trimmed and pruned. Allowing the base of a tree or shrub trunk to remain damp, cool and shaded can bring about cankers, root rot or other problems…problems for the tree AND the surrounding turf. Letting your trees get too “full” may look wonderful and provide great, cooling shade. But it can also make the tree act as a sail when high winds occur. That’s when you start getting big branches breaking off and fall on your home, vehicles or other property. Leaving dead branches in your trees can affect the health and overall vigor of the tree. Dead branches could allow disease to spread throughout the tree, and, again, those dead branches can become projectiles or spears in a storm. Leaving trees in a forest to Mother Nature’s care is fine. Trees in a landscape need definitive care.
I’ve also said this before in this blog – you can NEVER underestimate the value of air flow. Air flow is absolutely critical to all plants. It is critical to trees, shrubs and turf. It keeps things cool and also helps things dry out. Pruning a little can also let the sun in to other plants that are below a canopy…..giving the smaller guys a chance for survival.
Some of you may be familiar with the term “dead-wooding” a tree. In order to maintain the over-all health of your trees, the specialized trimming procedure of dead-wooding is critically necessary. The term dead-wooding is referred to as the removal of dead, dying or diseased branches within the tree. Not only providing resistance against issues such as insect infestation, dead-wooding will also create a safe and sanitary environment for all of the trees in the vicinity and provide an aesthetically pleasing tree. Dead branches should be removed at the trunk, or actually at what is known as the “branch collar”. The cut should generally be as vertical as possible.
For some of the smaller branches (when the branches are less than, let’s say, two inches in diameter), one can hold on to and support the branch and make one single cut. For larger branches, one should use the “three point cut”. The first cut should be 12 to 18 inches from the limb's point of attachment. The pruning cut should be an undercut made 1∕2 way through the branch. This pruning cut is very important because it relieves weight from the branch collar and prevents accidental tearing of bark from the tree’s trunk when the limb is removed. The second pruning cut should be made on the outside of the first cut (i.e., farther from the trunk). Cut all the way through the limb from the top down, thus removing the weight of the branch. The final cut should be made next to the tree's trunk outside of the branch collar. Cut from the top down and cut all the way through the remaining branch stub. The branch collar should be left intact. DO NOT cut the branch flush with the tree's trunk. A proper cut avoids large wounds, and allows the tree's wound to close quickly.
There are also procedures called “thinning”, “crown thinning” or “crown reduction”. Crown thinning is a process by which the crown (the top, semi-circular area of the tree outlined by the circumference of all the leaves and branches) of the tree is reduced by removing branches – this will always be dictated as a percentage i.e. ‘25% thin to canopy’. By carrying this out, the “sail area” or canopy of the tree becomes thinner allowing wind and sunlight to pass through, thus solving two problems – more light to the area surrounding the tree and a reduction in branch failure due to strong winds. Thinning is removing small branches inside the tree and generally avoids leaving large wounds on the tree in question, leaving the tree less susceptible to bacterial diseases.
My big trees are pruned up to the first major “split” or “branch collar”. That’s at least 30 feet up in most cases. My shrubs are also pruned up…at least 3 to 6 inches. Some of my large shrubs or small to medium trees are pruned up a few feet. Again, allowing for sunlight, airflow and decreasing relative humidity.
As I mentioned earlier, arborists will say that trees and turf will compete for resources. I agree…if you do not intervene. As I’ve also said before, I fertilize both my trees and my turf. Arborists will say you have to have a bedded mulch area all the way out to the drip line of the tree. If I did that, I’d have no turf. My entire property would be one huge mulched bed for all my big trees. Sorry. I just can’t do that. So, I take special care of my large trees, just like I do for my shrub and turf areas. Although I have turf growing right up to the base or trunk of many of my large trees, I make sure my trees and turf do not compete for resources.
Let me say a few words about tree roots. In the fifth paragraph of my “Shade Tolerance” blog post, I talk about how far tree roots can extend. My point was to describe the rather large area under your lawn that can compete with your turf for resources. Here, I just want to give you some guidance on dealing with exposed large tree roots. In my yard, and in many yards in northern Virginia, Maryland and DC that have real big trees, there are exposed roots. These roots can be a real hazard to mowing. My neighbor hit a tree root once with his mower and it caused several thousand dollars in damage to his mower– more than the value of the mower! This is another reason to mow high. When I mow at 4 inches or higher, I can clear all the exposed roots.
Try to avoid cutting or pruning any roots for your large trees. You are risking structural damage to the tree, also risking an invitation to disease and either stressing the tree or you could kill it altogether. We know the rules of thumb regarding tree roots: (1)most roots are in the top foot of soil, (2) tree root systems can extend out 2–3 times the dripline, (3) roots can extend out about 1.5 times the height of the tree, and (4) more than 60 percent of the absorbing root system is beyond the dripline. We now know that trunk diameter is a more accurate means of computing root spread (for unobstructed trees). However, trunk diameter calculations may not be very accurate for conifers, palms and even some very mature trees.
If you really have to cut some roots, calculating the “Critical Root Radius” (CRR – Also called a PRZ – Protected Root Zone) of a tree is very helpful. The CRR (radius, not diameter, in feet) is calculated by measuring the diameter (not radius or circumference) of the trunk (in inches, not feet) at four and one-half feet from the ground and multiplying by 1.5. A tree with a five-inch diameter trunk (at the four and one-half foot level) will have a CRR of 7.5 feet. So, definitely do not cut roots within that radius of 7.5 feet. If you must violate theCRR/PRZ, the tree would require extensive treatment and monitoring for at least two years afterward. I would say cutting any roots at any distance should require additional treatment and monitoring.
Another rule of thumb is: If you remove or damage more than 25% of the root system of a tree, it will have devastating results. Never cut roots during the growing season or in the heat of the summer. Trees are already stressed at that time. Cut or remove roots in the fall or winter. And, finally, try to cut them sharply, or straight. Torn or jagged cuts will not regenerate new roots nearly as well as precise cuts.
Another consideration for determining the area to be mulched around a tree may not be out to the dripline. It is at least to the CRR/PRZ, if not further.
If the issue with the exposed roots is just mowing or tripping, things like that, then the best thing you can do is cover the exposed roots with soil. Covering them with no more than 2 inches of loose topsoil would be fine. You don’t want the soil too deep or to become too compacted. One of the reasons the roots are coming to the surface is for more oxygen. You do not want to impair oxygen access by burying the roots too deep.
I think that about covers tree care for now. Stay tuned for another topic with my horticulture hat on.
|Posted on July 23, 2014 at 3:56 PM||comments (98)|
|Posted on July 22, 2014 at 3:12 PM||comments (92)|
I'm finally getting around to posting some pictures of customers' yards AFTER Tuomey Turfgrass has provided the appropriate leadership and guidance.
These are some pics from Bill's townhouse. He has an end unit. Bill is a retired naval aviator. So, he's very detail oriented. His house is in Lorton, Virginia. His lawn gets a great deal of sun. But, he keeps it very well. I did analysis for him two years ago and his lawn has gotten better each year.
Here's Gerry's yard. Gerry is down in Stafford, Virginia. You can see the "before" pics of Gerry's yard in my blog post "Lawns we are working on..." Gerry knows what he's doing. But, he sort of uses me as an "independent consultant".
Gerry already has a good idea what's going on with his lawn. He just validates it by having me come around. The earlier pictures in the blog post I just mentioned were taken when I did his lawn a little over two years ago. These are some current pictures. Things are really looking great, Gerry.
This is Curtis' landscape. I did his lawn last year. I took this video about a year later, in the early summer of 2014. Curtis is in Woodbridge, Virginia. I think Curtis' area is looking outstanding.
Below are some pics of Jay's yard. If you look in my blog post, "Lawns We Are Working On....." (http://www.tuomeyturfgrassconsulting.com/blog/2013/03/03/Lawns-We-Are-Working-On.aspx), you will see some pics of Jay's yard from my first visit. Jay has done some outstanding work. He is also very kind. In his email to me, he said, "Thanks. It is your magic formula that did the trick." It is not magic. It is good, solid soil management. That's what I do. And, I train my customers to do the same. Like many of my customers, for a couple months, in the late spring into the early summer, Jay has to mow his lawn twice a week. He complains about it. Isn't that like complaining because your ice cream is too cold?
|Posted on July 1, 2014 at 4:49 PM||comments (109)|
Face the facts. There is no turf that is 100% shade tolerant, meaning turfgrass will not grow in a “dense”, “full” or “heavy” shaded area. It just does not exist. All plants need at least some sunlight in order to flourish. There are some “high speed” hybrids out there. Genetically engineered turfgrass. Yes; only in America. Like turfgrass made in a test tube or something.
Some “dense shade” seeds say on the bag that you have to have at least 3 hours of sunlight. Is that dense or full shade then? Full shade and full sun are easy to define. Full shade basically means that the shade lasts all day long. Very little or no direct sunlight hits the plant at any time of the day. Full sun is just the opposite. That means the sun hits the area all day long. These other terms (dense, full, heavy, partial) are sometimes more difficult to define. It depends on who you talk to.
I have seen where they say at least 25% of all existing turf is growing under some degree of shade. Understanding the shade environment is critical to mission success in this situation. Now, I may say some blasphemous things for us turf lovers in this blog post, but, I think you all now know for certain where my loyalty lies. Yet, as I’ve said in a recent blog post, I also believe that one can achieve concord with one’s turf, trees and shrubs. It’s a give and take, a balance. Sometimes it’s more like walking a tightrope.
Growing anything in the shade is tough. Restricted light inhibits carbohydrate production…the primary process of photosynthesis. Without adequate carbohydrate production, plant health and vigor decline. Even if SOME light penetrates a shade canopy, that light can be altered. The leaves of the trees can intercept the light. What light does penetrate the shade canopy can be of inferior quality.
One consideration is tree roots. Where I live in northern Virginia the trees are huge and the tree roots are huge too. Not only do these tree roots provide a serious hazard to mowing, if they are above the surface, they also compete with turfgrass for resources (water & nutrients). I have some trees on my property that are at least 100 feet tall or more. At chest height, the trunk diameters are two to three feet, some in the area are even larger. It is important to remember that the root system of the tree can go as far out as the “drip line”. A tree drip line is the area defined by the outermost circumference of a tree canopy where water drips from and onto the ground. That is the minimum radial spread of a root system. Some species of trees have root systems that are 1.5 to 2.0 times their heights. Therefore, the competition for resources can spread far beyond the shaded area. I have also read in some journals that certain species of trees may have roots that exude substances toxic to turfgrass. I will get into some more detail about tree roots in my next blog post.
What are some of the other factors in the shade? Well, without certain levels of direct sunlight, soil and air temperatures can be 15 to 20 degrees (F) cooler than adjacent areas. Wind movement may be restricted. This can produce temperature and humidity layers in the shaded area. The layering of humidity and temperatures, along with reduced air movement, may allow moisture to remain in the shaded area. Remnant moisture can increase the chance of disease development.
What can we do, what management practices can we implement to improve shade tolerance? As I’ve stated in so many blog posts before…species selection. Which turfs tolerate shade better? Note that I am NOT saying, which species can grow in the dark.
Here is the order (from most tolerant to least tolerant of shade) of turfgrasses for warmer regions of CONUS:
Saint Augustinegrass would be great because it can handle up to about 70% shade. But, it has lousy cold weather tolerance…and shade can make things fairly cool. And, I probably would not list Bermudagrass. Its lousy without almost full sun.
But, you read in the first paragraph of this post how I talked (joked, really) about certain hybrids. There are some Bermudagrass hybrids that have been developed to grow better in shade. One of those cultivars is TIFGREEN. Some others are TIFGRAND, TIFWAY, andTIFEAGLE. These can do well in 60% to 70% shade…or maybe 5 hours a day. (Still not 100%!) Don’t get your hopes too high. There are very few growers of these hybrids and these are really only for athletic fields and golf courses. There are not too many private residences that have these hybrids in their yards.
There are many other Bermudagrass hybrids; like PATRIOT, LATITUDE, RIVIERA, YUKON. But the ones above are the ones that are geared towards shade tolerance.
Zoysia and centipedegrass do okay. OAKLAWN and TIFBLAIR are some centipedegrass hybrids. Zoysia is good where low temperatures are a concern.
In the cool regions, the order (from most to least tolerant) of shade tolerance turfs are:
Some cultivars of Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue and Perennial Ryegrass
As with any recommendations, you need to know the capabilities and limitations of each. The fine fescues are good but the area needs to be cool and dry. Bentgrass requires lots of maintenance. Kentucky bluegrass has many hybrids that work; BIRKA, GLADE, NUGGET and BRISTOL, to name a few of the 36 or so. Mixing Kentucky bluegrass with a fescue can also work for shady, dry areas. Rough bluegrass is good for cool, wet conditions. Ryegrass would have to be re-seeded each year.
So, that covers the species selection. What about the management principles to help the turf tolerate shade? If you’ve read my blog before, none of these actions should be a complete surprise. For the same reason you should cut high, as I’ve recommended before, you should cut high in the shade. You want to maximize the area of the turfgrass leaves to sunlight for photosynthesis. My irrigation recommendations also remain the same; water in the morning, deeply and infrequently. Avoid too much nitrogen fertilizing. Use about half as much, or less, than you would use in your areas that have full sunlight. In addition, keep an eye out for any disease. Disease loves shaded, damp areas. Keep a look out for powdery mildew or leaf spot.
Turf under lots of shade will NEVER be really thick and verdant. If you are seeking absolute victory in this battle, you better be ready to withdraw and hopefully live to fight another day. If you decide to withdraw, perhaps other ground covers may be the way to go. Myrtle, English Ivy, Asiatic Jasmine, Creeping Fig, Ajuga, or Pachysandra might meet the requirement. Keeping it green and aesthetically pleasing is still a victory. I know it only too well…these are tough decisions.
|Posted on June 3, 2014 at 3:01 PM||comments (146)|
One big difference between heat stress and cold stress is cold stress can have an impact on warm season turfs AND cool season turfs. Whereas heat really only affects cool season turfs. Warm season turfs usually thrive in warm weather. As logic might dictate, cool season grasses are a little more tolerant of cold temperatures than warm season grasses.
As I’ve said many times in this blog, you got to select the species that is best adapted for the region you are growing the grass. That is not only the turfgrass adaptation zones (See my blog post on: “Turfgrass Adaptation”), but it also means the immediate environment…your yard…your playing field. Is there poor drainage? Is there lots of shade? Is there only direct sunlight? What is the annual or seasonal rainfall? What is the use of the stand or area – high use or low use? You have to look at all sorts of issues.
I will list below the cool season turfgrasses that are most tolerant to the least tolerant of cold stress:
The warm season turfgrasses most tolerant to least tolerant of cold are:
As I mentioned earlier, drainage is important. Drainage is even more important in the case of cold tolerance. Okay; it is bad to have your turf submerged for long periods of time. Now, imagine your turf not only submerged but that water also freezes. And, it is a nice long, deep freeze. Not good. Keeping turf excessively wet or frozen is a primary reason for cold weather kill.
You need to ensure not only surface drainage but also subsurface drainage. Both of these considerations are directly linked to the “type” of soil you have. What percentages of sand, silt and clay do you have? Sand is porous; clay is not very porous. What this means is you may have to do some civil engineering on your property. You may need to change grades, install drains (french drain, perimeter drain, filter drain, collector drain, interceptor drain, fin drain, weeping tile, blind drain, rubble drain, rock drain); that sort of thing. That usually involves digging, laying of sand or gravel; maybe even some landscape fabric and installing some sort of pipes and/or grates/basins. This is not an inexpensive endeavor. And, do us all a favor, if you do this yourself; call Miss Utility before you even think about touching a shovel.
Judicious use of nitrogen fertilizers also applies here. I’ve written about getting a soil test to find out your requirements, seasonal or monthly applications, etc. In the past, my discussions about nitrogen fertilizers have been regarding its affect on the environment. Well, in this case, excessive late season applications of nitrogen can increase the lusciousness of the turf. That’s very nice, but it makes your turf more vulnerable to disease. And, if the turf is too succulent, it will be more susceptible to low temperature stress as well.
Also, with regard to fertilizer, maintaining adequate phosphorous and potassium levels is important. Potassium is especially critical to ensure cold weather tolerance. Some studies have shown that the balance or ratio between NP & K is very important. Cool season grasses show good cold hardiness if the N to K ratio is about 2:1 or 3:1. Warm season grasses should be fertilized in late fall with something like a 4-1-6 NPK ratio for good cold weather tolerance.
Finally, more topics I’ve already laid out for you – mowing high and maintaining a low level of thatch also help with cold weather hardiness. Mowing high increases photosynthesis capability and helps grow deep roots. While reducing thatch helps the soil surface dry out better and you won't have that moist layer remaining cold and have that layer freeze.
Next, I will get into shade tolerance. This also goes back to my earlier topic where I discussed “turf or trees” in my “Heat Tolerance” blog post.
|Posted on May 8, 2014 at 3:26 PM||comments (323)|
Here in the CONUS turfgrass transition zone (See my blog post on “Turfgrass Adaptation”.) the conditions are lousy for cool season turf and warm season turf. It gets cold enough in the winter so warm season turfs go dormant. And it gets hot enough in the summer so cool season turfs go dormant. Its really NOT ideal for either type of turfgrass. Living in the north, deep south or out west makes turfgrass cultivation and care a little easier.
This is the time of year when I get a lot of questions about how heat affects our turf. Most of the time when there is heat stress on the turf there is also drought stress, and vice versa. So I usually lump those two situations together. But, first let me talk about heat stress.
As I’ve stated in other blog posts, the most favorable temperature for cool season grasses is 60 to 75 degrees F. But, many turfgrass species vary in their tolerance of heat. Perennial ryegrass, annual bluegrass and rough bluegrass will feel the effects of heat stress sooner (or at lower temperatures) than tall fescue.
I tell all my customers in the DC, MD & VA area to have tall fescue. Tall fescue has the best high temperature stress tolerance than any of the other cool season grasses. Depending on watering, it may go dormant in the middle of the summer. That’s fine. And it remains green all winter. I like that.
I mentioned this in an earlier post as well – species selection is key when starting out. Don’t plant warm season grasses in Wisconsin and don’t plant cool season grasses in Louisiana. Ever wonder why you can’t get St. Augustine grass seed easily in your favorite garden center in Maine? That’s because it won’t grow well there. You’d be wasting your money…and the seed. But, in the transition zone – sometimes those decisions are not that clear.
I will list below the cool season grasses in order of the most heat tolerant to the least heat tolerant:
After species selection, two other important factors are soil moisture and air movement. Keeping the soil moist and the air moving over the turf helps the turf cool itself, enhancing its own, natural transpirational cooling ability. Ever see a nice golf course using fans on the surface? That’s what they are doing…helping the turf cool itself.
Think about the concept of “evapotranspiration” or ET. Not the movie about a little alien. ET is the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the Earth's land and ocean surface to the atmosphere. Evaporation accounts for the movement of water to the air from sources such as the soil, canopy interception, and bodies of water. Transpiration accounts for the movement of water within a plant and the subsequent loss of water as vapor through stomata in its leaves. Evapotranspiration is an important part of the water cycle. An element (such as a lawn or tree) that contributes to evapotranspiration can be called an evapotranspirator. This is how plants cool themselves. Just like humans, if plants can’t cool themselves, bad things start to happen, usually resulting in death.
Now, above, I used the word “moist”. Don’t be confused. I mean moist for cooling purposes. See my blog post on “Irrigation”. Air flow has a distinct relationship with irrigation or watering. Moist does not mean submerged. Too much water, or having water pooled on your turf can result in disease. If your water runs off, or puddles on the surface, you are applying to much….too quickly.
Another consideration is the landscaping around the managed turf area. Are there things like plants, fences, or other “obstacles” that may block or minimize the movement of air over the turf area? Air flow is important to all plants.
I know this may conflict with other aesthetic or values based beliefs regarding landscaping. One such conflict is “turf or trees”. It is the never ending discussion between guys like me (a turfgrass warrior) and the arborists (tree huggers – literally). Turf guys will have turf growing right up to the base of a tree. The arborists will say that the turf is taking much needed nutrients from the trees. The tree guys will say you have to have a mulched bed all the way around the tree out to each tree’s drip line. Listen, if I had beds like that for every large tree on my property, I’d have no turf.
Maybe I was digressing, but, I believe trees, shrubs and turf can coexist in complete harmony. You just have to have a vision and you have to have an operations plan. Hey, I fertilize my turf and I fertilize my trees and shrubs. I cut my lawn and I prune my trees and shrubs. I take care of them all. Unfortunately, sometimes, you may have to make some tough decisions. Those decisions are also sometimes based on funding, personal preferences, prioritization and what is best for the plants. If you have to aggressively prune an area of trees and shrubs for your turfgrass – so be it. And, God forbid, if you have to surrender a portion of your turf area because of densely planted trees or shrubs – that’s your call too. Its a tradeoff. (Surrender is not a frequently used term in my vocabulary.)
I will be discussing cold tolerance next. And, another topic soon to follow is shade tolerance. This topic regarding the “conflict” between turf and trees also applies to dealing with shade.
|Posted on April 2, 2014 at 12:50 PM||comments (175)|
There are many positive aspects of growing quality turfgrass. Not just the aesthetics or bragging rights….although that can be fun. Many of those positive aspects are related to the environment. Some aspects are even more directly related to our quality of life and our health.
Our Congress has a rather low approval rating. The US Congress approval rating hasn’t been above 20% in several years. The approval rating was at an all time low of 9% in November of 2013. Starting out 2014, it is now about 13%. But, congress has managed to get something right. A recent farm bill noted, “Tree plantings and groundcovers, such as low-growing, dense perennial turfgrass sod in urban areas and communities, can aid in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, mitigating the ‘heat-island effect’ and reducing energy consumption, thus contributing to efforts to reduce global warming trends.” Hooah!
Now, just a few words on the “heat Island effect”. The US EPA describes this effect as: built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas, sometimes referred to as “heat islands”. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8 to 5.4 Degrees F warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22 Degrees F. Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, like air conditioning costs; air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions (more on this later), heat-related illnesses, mortality, and water quality.
Many communities are taking action to reduce urban heat islands using four main strategies: 1) increasing tree and vegetative cover, 2) installing green roofs (also called "rooftop gardens" or "eco-roofs"), 3) installing cool—mainly reflective—roofs, and 4) using cool pavements. Turfgrass clearly fits into strategy 1. Turfgrass maybe even fits into strategy 2 as well. But, do me a favor, before you start laying sod on the roof of your house; please consult a structural engineer.
Troops, your turfgrass can conduct many missions. Turfgrass helps purify the air we breathe, plays a major role in carbon dioxide/oxygen conversion and helps control soil erosion. Your turf can aid in water purification and water conservation. Turf can also increase soil fertility and control temperature.
One of my favorite American figures in US history, President Theodore Roosevelt, once said, “Grass is what saves and holds the water that keeps life good and going.... It keeps the falling rain from flushing away. Blades of grass take water from the air and transpire it into the ground. That works the other way around too. Because grass blades help put water back into the air so that rain can fall again.” What a guy. He’d have my vote.
Imagine a world without turfgrass. Ever have a picnic on asphalt? Try to teach your child to walk on gravel? I’ve played rugby on some lousy fields. Imagine playing rugby in a dust bowl? I played once on artificial turf. Bad idea. I’m going to run through the benefits of turfgrass and provide you with some very interesting data. Next time someone hazes you about your lawn, tell them some of this information.
Oxygen Generation – The “greenhouse effect” is related to climate change. The greenhouse effect is a process by which thermal radiation from our planetary surface is absorbed by atmospheric “greenhouse gases”, and is re-radiated in all directions. Since part of this re-radiation is back towards the surface and the lower atmosphere, it results in an elevation of the average surface temperature above what it would be in the absence of the greenhouse gases. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Greenhouse gases greatly affect the temperature of the Earth; without them, the Earth's surface would average about 59 Degrees F below the present average of 57 Degrees F. So, the theory is, the Earth’s temperatures will rise as these gases increase. The results are melting ice caps, rising seas, marine species extinction, loss of potable water availability, poor food security, shifts in food production areas and changing weather patterns.
The second and third order effects could be unfavorable changes in human health, displacement of certain people, with critical changes to infrastructure and territorial integrity. Not to mention the availability of suitable water and proper farmland becoming a national security risk and perhaps the source of future conflicts.
A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released on March 31, 2014, says the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans.
Turfgrass Warriors, our turfgrass can be on the forefront of this war against climate change. Our turfgrass needs carbon dioxide to survive. It replaces carbon dioxide with oxygen. Turfgrass is such an efficient carbon dioxide converter that a 50 foot by 50 foot plot of turf can meet the oxygen needs for a family of four. The air is cleansed by the process of Photosynthesis. This process produces compounds used for plant growth while releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. All the trees and turf along our country’s interstate system produce enough oxygen to support 22 million people.
Air Purification – In a thick lawn, there are at least 6 turfgrass plants in each square inch, 850 in a square foot and about 8 million in an average lawn of 10,000 square feet. A single grass plant can have 387miles of roots, so, an average size lawn can have some 3 billion miles of roots. With this extensive and intertwined root system, turfgrass is estimated to trap 12 million tons of dust and dirt from the air annually. Smoke can also be trapped. An acre of turf can absorb hundreds of pounds of sulfur dioxide during a year and can reduce ozone, hydrogen fluoride and perolacetyl nitrate. Perolacetyl nitrate is some real bad stuff in smog. It is more stable than ozone and can dissolve more readily in water than ozone. It can also be transported in the atmosphere a real long distance. Our turf can filter all of these things.
Erosion Control – Up to 90% of the total weight of turfgrass is in its roots. The root system I described earlier can also reduce erosion and control harmful runoff. Studies have shown that turfgrass reduces runoff 10 times better than other crops or groundcovers. A given turfgrass area can reduce nitrogen runoff 190 times better and phosphorous runoff 54 times better than those other crops or groundcovers.
Temperature Modification – All plants play a role in climate control. But, our turfgrass is the best. Each blade of grass is like a mini evaporative cooler. An acre of turfgrass, in the summer, will lose about 2,400 gallons of water through transpiration and evaporation which can dissipate approximately 50% of the accumulated solar heat for the same area. Studies at Texas A&M have demonstrated that turfgrass will reduce surface temperatures by 30 to 40 Degrees F in comparison to bare soil; and by 50 to 70 Degrees F in comparison to synthetic turf. The front lawns of just 8 average houses can provide the cooling effect of about 70 tons of air conditioning.
Water Conservation and Purification – Our turfgrass can purify water entering underground aquifers because of that root mass I mentioned earlier. And, soil microbes that like turfgrass also act as a filter to capture and break down many pollutants. Healthy turf locks in nitrogen and phosphorous and prevents these elements from leaching into the ground water. Leaching and runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous (along with runoff of soil sediment) mess with sub aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Chesapeake Bay and therefore, mess with my Blue Crabs and Oysters. I like my Blue Crabs and Oysters. I like to eat them. I do not want them to go away. Got it?
Soil Fertility – See my blog post about soil. Soil is composed of sand, silt and clay. Our turfgrass roots grow in between and among these soil particles or aggregates of these soil particles. Turf exchanges nutrients with the soil and absorbs water from the soil. All of this improves soil consistency. Some of the best soils in the world are where grasslands used to be.
I’ve told you to leave your grass clippings. Well, another reason for that is grass clippings are 90% water by weight. When they are left on the lawn they dehydrate quickly. They are also high in protein and are rapidly decomposed by bacteria and fungi. Grass clippings contain about 4% nitrogen, 2%potassium and 0.5% phosphorous. As I’ve been saying – grass clippings can equal up to 3 applications of fertilizer – WITH NO ADDITONAL COST OR WORK! Make sure the clippings are chewed up fairly small – get a mulching mower or a mulching attachment to your mower. It is environmentally responsible!
All of the helpers we have in soil ecology; bacteria, fungi, actinomyces and protozoa, make the turfgrass root zone their home. More than 930 billion of these little guys can live in a single pound of root zone. The carbon dioxide removed from the air by your turfgrass feeds these guys. The results are soils with much more humus. Remember my blog post on soil? Soil horizon O? (Oscar; not zero.) Okay, so it means soils with more organic matter. Here’s another thought – 100 pounds of dead organisms (like listed above) equates to a 10-5-2 fertilizer being applied.
Quality of Life – A beautiful lawn is in our DNA. Anthropologists have discovered evidence of a large savanna grassland in Africa where some of our prehistoric ancestors came from. Archeologists suggest that the Chinese had lawns more than 5,000 years ago. Even the Mayans and the Aztecs cultivated lawns.
A recent Gallup poll reported that 62% of Americans believed an investment in lawns (and landscaping) was as good as or equal to other home improvements. The investment recovery rate is 100 to 200 percent for landscaping as opposed to 40 to 70 percent for a deck or patio. Many home buyers who were polled believed proper and well maintained landscaping adds 15% to a home’s value.
In studies conducted by the University of Michigan, access to a nearby natural area (like a lawn) was related to an increased sense of satisfaction and general well being. People who actively use their lawns have higher life satisfaction and lower stress levels. Recovery rates for patients increase when their rooms overlook a nice landscaped area. Where there is a nice lawn and landscape, there is less child mortality, less suicide and less energy consumption.
Safe sports are becoming more and more of a concern. I can tell you, grass cushions a player’s fall better than artificial turf. Grass will also “give” when an athlete needs his or her cleats to slip so as to not tear or rip any ligaments in a leg. Have you ever had a “turf burn” from artificial turf? OUCH!
When a dozen raw eggs are dropped from a height of 11 feet onto a substantial, 2 inch thick, turf playing field, none broke. When the eggs were dropped from the same distance on to an artificial turf or on an all weather running track, all of them broke.
Artificial turf also requires replacement every 8 to 10 years.
I already talked about grass and its cooling capability. Artificial turf may reach temperatures of 158 Degrees F when healthy turf, at the same location, would be around 88 Degrees F.
Trees, shrubs and grass can reduce undesirable noise by 20 to 30 percent.
Rodents, snakes, skunks and other small critters are less likely to inhabit a mowed turf area, which keeps them away from your house.
A well maintained lawn can act as a fire-fighting buffer and will not sustain fire like woody vegetation may.
And, finally, turfgrass can reduce glare and light reflection around the home.
I think that about “covers” this topic. (No pun intended.) What has been under our noses, or under our feet, all these years actually has some very good benefits. It benefits us and our planet.
|Posted on October 10, 2013 at 11:56 AM||comments (460)|
Tuomey Turfgrass Consulting, LLC, is a proud sponsor of Ducks Unlimited. Ducks Unlimited is the world's leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation. DU got its start in 1937 during the Dust Bowl when North America’s drought-plagued waterfowl populations had plunged to unprecedented lows. Determined not to sit idly by as the continent’s waterfowl dwindled beyond recovery, a small group of sportsmen joined together to form an organization that became known as Ducks Unlimited. DU's basic mission is habitat conservation. DU conserves, restores, and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people. Thus far, the total acreage conserved in North America (a/o 01 JAN 13) is: 13,004,228.
On the 3rd of October, 2013, Tuomey Turfgrass Consulting was one of the sponsors of the annual "Smoker" hosted by the Alexandria, VA, Chapter of DU. We sponsored the raw bar. The event was a superb success and a great deal of fun. Support DU! Its for the Ducks...and future generations! Here are some pictures:
Tuomey Turfgrass continues to support the fine work done by DU. On Friday, 09 MAY 14, Tuomey Turfgrass was once again the sponsor of the raw bar at the Alexandria Virginia Chapter Annual Auction and Dinner. A good time was had by all. Below are some of the folks who attended. There is a good picture of the team at the Tuomey Turfgrass table. Get ready for the next event, the annual fall "Smoker" on Thursday, 02 OCT 14! These events are VERY popular. The event back in May sold out in less than 72 hours. Get your tickets early! Start checking http://www.ducks.org/events
at least a month out from the event.
Or, try this...