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Do Your Roots Run Deep? What to look for when selecting a Kentucky Bluegrass Lawn.

Kentucky bluegrass has long been a favorite of homeowners and for those in the northern, cool climates, it just may be the best choice for a lawn. When looking for a Kentucky bluegrass, make sure to cover the basics. It’s important to think not only of your immediate needs, but for the length you will have the turf in use.

Here are a few key things to look for when selecting a Kentucky Bluegrass variety for your home lawn:

FOUNDATION

Much like with a house, turf is only as good as its foundation. If you build on little or no foundation, your investment will not stand up against the the elements. When you seed or sod your lawn with Kentucky bluegrass, it forms a solid foundation with its root mass. Kentucky bluegrass spreads easily through the production of rhizomes, which grow horizontally just below the ground’s surface and is unique compared to other turf species. These rhizomes provide the ability of the turf to heal itself and resist wear and tear, which helps ensure the survival of the plant, giving you long lasting stability.

In the 2018 National Turfgrass Evaluation Trial in Amherst, MA. Starr Kentucky Bluegrass (GO-2628) was one of the highest rated products trialed for wear tolerance. In May it topped the charts and throughout the summer months and into October, was still out performing most of the competition.

Other charasteristics of a solid foundation include weed supression, disease resistance and drought tolerance. For a homeowner, this means fewer inputs, more money in your pocket and the peace of mind that you are stewarding resources responsibly.

The NTEP trials are a great resource for evaluating the above listed characteristics, or you can simply look for varieties of Kentucky bluegrass that have been around for a while. This is usually a clear indicator that they check a lot of boxes. For example, Prosperity and Skye Kentucky Bluegrass have been around for 20 years now and they’re still is going strong. They’ve both ranked high in disease resistance and drought tolerance, meaning they’ll stay green long after other bluegrasses have gone dormant in the heat of the summer

This photo was taken at the Iowa Turfgrass Field Day in July 2012.  This is Skye Kentucky Bluegrass from the 2012-16 NTEP on the right next to Perennial Ryegrass, on left.  Both were under the same irrigation management; you can plainly see the benefits of Kentucky bluegrass over Perennial ryegrass in a drought situation. 

ESTABLISHMENT

How quickly seed germinates, or establishes, is one of the most important factors when selecting a Kentucky bluegrass variety for your lawn. While Kentucky bluegrass may not scream out of the ground like ryegrass, there are still some major differences within the bluegrass species in terms of the rate of establishment.

In just 28 days, a fast germinating variety like Milagro Kentucky bluegrass can outcompete other bluegrasses and because of this, manages to hold back challengers like poa annua and other weeds. (See photo below 21 days after seeding)

LONGEVITY

In an age where everything is disposable or gets updated every six months, Kentucky bluegrass continues to be a species that is the exception to this rule. Even within the species, only a few varieties are continually requested by discerning turf users.  In the last 20 years only six varieties of Kentucky bluegrass have been entered into the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program every time. They are Midnight, Skye, Award, Shamrock, Baron, and Kenblue. Of those six, Skye is the only variety that is still protected by PVP (Plant Variety Protected).  What does that mean for a homeowner? Well, when you purchase Skye or another a PVP variety, you can be confident in the consistency of performance; knowing exactly what to expect.

20 years later, Skye Kentucky bluegrass continues to be a top performer. Newer is not always better.  I have always said “It is better to use what you know, than what you think you might know.” 

When selecting a Kentucky bluegrass variety for your lawn, make sure to consider foundation, establishment and longevity. When put together these qualities will provide you with a dependable, long-lasting lawn.

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GO Turf Update

From topping the NTEP charts to several soon-to-be-released products, the future of GO Turf is looking bright!

Starr Kentucky Bluegrass Logo

Our latest release, Starr Kentucky Bluegrass (GO-2628), is already turning heads. Starr topped the charts at the 2017 NTEP Kentucky bluegrass trials. Highlights of this solid performer include rapid establishment and year-round turf density. Starr’s winter color is superior to that of many elite type bluegrasses and has early spring green up characteristics, making this bluegrass one of the best in summer performance available today.

Not only did Starr stand out on the NTEPs, we have several experimental varieties that were looking great in the trials as well.

You’ll notice several up and coming GO products as well as the tried-and-true, Skye Kentucky Bluegass. This elite bluegrass continues to be a favorite of sod farms, homeowners, and turf professionals and is consistently a top performer at NTEP.

Skye Kentucky Bluegrass Logo

Availability for BirminghamFiji 2Milagro and other GO Turf favorites, is looking good. Field man Colin Scott and GO Turf guru, Duane Klundt, visited production fields in late summer and reported that everything was looking great!

Here’s a sneak peek at some other products on the horizon from GO Turf. Ask your GO sales rep for more information!

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The Need to Overseed, Think Green

Many who care for warm season turf look upon winter over-seeding with a certain amount of apprehension, perhaps thinking the practice a necessary evil. Northern-dwelling snowbirds flee their colorless environments back home with visions of a picture-perfect green oasis in their heads. They rarely consider the hard work involved to make those dreams a reality prior to their arrival.

Demand for year-round green is here to stay, therefore so is winter over-seeding. Fortunately, this process has advanced considerably in the last decade with faster germination rates, increased tolerance for saline environments, and transition timing dialed in to occur precisely with the return of warm weather. There are several cool-season ryegrass varieties to choose from to meet the needs of every environment where over-seeding is practiced. Over-seeding methods have also become more sophisticated, efficient and effective than ever. Today, preparation and timing the seasonal weather change are the biggest challenges. So how can you be ready when the time comes?

Being Prepared Creates its Own Opportunities.

Hopefully we can provide some guidance in preparing for the transition. There is more to winter over-seeding than the color. When bermudagrass goes dormant, it becomes more vulnerable to traffic and wear. As the roots draw upward and the leaves dry out, it doesn’t take much to kill the plants outright. Come spring, as the bermudagrass starts to green up again, you may find your turf area riddled with patches and stripes of damaged turf, even uglier to the eye than a sea of yellow grass. A winter bed of ryegrass can absorb the wear and tear of winter activities and protect the fragile bermudagrass underneath. This can reduce the chances of long-term damage to your turf, however wear and tear isn’t the only predator out to kill your bermudagrass. The winter temperatures can take a heavy toll on your bermudagrass turf. Cool season grasses, such as ryegrass, tolerate occasional frost with much greater resilience and in general provide a layer of protection from the elements. So, any damage your winter Ryegrass sustains will be gone forever with the return of spring, leaving behind a healthier crop of the summer Bermudagrass.

An insidious problem with overseeding is that it may retard the growth of your bermudagrass in the spring. Ryegrass that proves a bit too robust may wear out its welcome when bermudagrass is ready to revive, choking it until there’s nothing left when the ryegrass finally dies. Traditionally, chemical treatments along with proper mowing and maintenance, have ushered out the ryegrasses at the proper time. Today new varieties, bred specifically for over-seeding, are reducing the need for expensive treatments.The right variety of ryegrass, like Barbados perennial ryegrass, transitions out largely by itself just as temperatures rise to a bermudagrass-friendly level.

Today New Varieties, Bred Specifically for Over-Seeding, are Reducing the Need for Expensive Treatments.

In the Southwest, where water supplies are limited, the use of effluent water had become increasingly common. This coupled with saline environments, have been a major obstacle to successful over-seeding in the past. This problem has been alleviated by new cultivars like Fiji II perennial ryegrass with its improved salt tolerance at establishment and growing stage. Other varieties that work exceedingly well for over-seeding are Belize, Oahu, Perennial Ryegrass.

Another well-known over-seeding concern is annual bluegrass (poa annua). It often finds its way into lower priced ryegrass blends, and creeps in on its own during the cold months. If your bermudagrass is severely thinned by vertical mowing, and your winter ryegrass is slow to establish, poa-annua can invade and spread quickly. Fortunately, this offensive plant can be controlled (albeit not altogether eliminated) through sound cultural practices. When high-quality ryegrasses are properly applied they will maintain dominance, preventing poa annua from getting a firm grip on your turf. Pre-emergent herbicides can certainly come to the rescue if need be, but the better solution is to employ an over-seeding variety, such as the ones previously mentioned, which germinate quickly and hold the ground until spring.

The weather may be with you or against you, the bermudagrass may be too quick to sleep or too slow to revive, and who knows what else may interfere? The best defense is a good offense, as they say. Use the best seed available, adopt rigorous overseeding practices that are right for your turf and its environment, and be on the ready to react to conditions as they change. Being prepared creates its own opportunities.

Before you begin overseeding, be sure your equipment is in good repair. Since timing is a factor in smooth transition, delays due to improperly maintained equipment can be costly in both time and money. You may need to sharpen the mower blades frequently to maintain the quality the cut. Check your irrigation system to make sure that each head is working properly. This ensures uniform coverage of the turf. Preparation of the seedbed is as important to the success of over-seeding as it is to the establishment of new turf. In fact, poor seedbed preparation is one of the most common causes of a poor over-seeding experience. Seedling diseases and thin stands of grass are the result of excess thatch, compacted soils, and weeds in the seedbed. All of which can be avoided through proper maintenance and preparation.

Fortunately, many year-round maintenance practices can help keep your turf in good shape for over-seeding. Begin with light vertical mowing in late summer to reduce the thatch in your bermudagrass. Continue this practice into the fall, while the growth of the bermudagrass slows. Aeration and topdressing, both in late spring and late summer, reduce thatch and help prepare the seedbed while improving the turf surface. However, do not aerate after September 1, as it promotes germination of poa-annua. Reduce your nitrogen levels about four-to-six weeks before you begin your over-seeding program. Instead, use fertilizers high in phosphorus and potassium. This will decrease the bermudagrass’ ability to compete with the newly emerging winter turf, and it will help it brace for the coming winter weather by forcing it to store essential carbohydrates. The above guidelines should be sufficient to prepare your turf for winter over-seeding. However, depending upon your local climate, it may be necessary to apply a broad-spectrum fungicide a week or two before you begin. This will reduce soil-borne organisms that attack your seedling ryegrasses.

Proper Seedbed Preparation is the Key to Success with any Over-Seeding Ryegrass Variety. Timing is a Close Second.

There are two techniques available to force Bermudagrass into dormancy. The first is to deprive it of water, then scalp it. Reduce your watering schedule by half for a week, and then stop watering altogether. Don’t forget to take care of your trees, shrubs, and other landscaping elements though! Within a week to 10 days, you’ll be ready to begin the mechanical operations of scalping: Mow the grass to a height of 3/8 to 1/2 inch. Use flextime harrows or a steel rake to stand the grass back up for additional scalping if needed. Repeat this procedure two-to-four times until the bermudagrass has been sufficiently thinned allowing your ryegrass seed to reach the soil easily. About 50% of the surface should be laid bare. The debris generated by this procedure should be collected and hauled away. The removal process is a very important step.

The second technique for nudging your bermudagrass into dormancy involves the use of chemical growth retardants. This method requires keeping the bermudagrass actively growing for a week to 10 days before applying the retardant. This allows the turf to readily absorb it. Once applied, immediately shut off the water. This will prevent the bermudagrass from re-growing for about 30 days and give the ryegrass an opportunity to establish.

Proper seedbed preparation is the key to success with any over-seeding ryegrass variety. Timing is a close second. Your seed dealer should have tables suggesting ideal over-seeding dates for your area, but the most reliable gauge is the temperature of the soil. According to the research conducted by leading seed breeders, the optimum time is when the soil temperature ranges between 72 and 78 degrees (F.), at a 4-inch depth. Typically, the air temperatures will be 80 to 85 degrees by day and 60 degrees by night when the soil is ready. One or two degrees too warm or too cold can make a one-to-two-week difference in establishment timing so watch closely. Once you’ve identified the typical time these soil temperatures occur, plan to plant your seed. Remember, soil temperature is a critical factor.

Uniform seed distribution is essential to establishing a healthy stand of winter turf. During the seeding process, periodically check your seed bin to ensure proper seed distribution as not all varieties are of similar size or purities. Accurately calibrating your spreader and distributing the seed from several directions ensures uniform distribution. To keep from spreading seed to unwanted areas, carpets and mats may be placed along the edges of the seeding areas for nice clean lines. Once you have spread your seed, lightly top-dress with sand or a topdressing mixture. Next, smooth into the turf by dragging a brush or carpet in a zigzag or shifting oval pattern. This process moves the seed into place for vigorous germination and allows use of the turf while the ryegrass establishes. Use about 1/3- to 1/2 cubic feet of sand per 100 square feet. Topdressing immediately after seeding can result in four to five times more turf cover in the first four weeks! Follow immediately with thorough watering, taking care not to create standing water or water-soaked areas as this may make them prone to disease. Continue with frequent light watering while the seed establishes, and follow recommended schedules for establishment and usage throughout the winter. Light watering two or three times each day, for 7-10 days, should deliver the desired results.

Seeding Rates Seeding rates can vary widely depending on variety and desired results. Here are common standards often used by golf courses:

  • Fairways: 400 to 600 pounds per acre,
  • Roughs: 300 to 400 pounds per acre,
  • Tees: 35 pounds per 1,000 square feet,
  • Greens: 25 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Demand for Year-Round Green is Here to Stay.

The winter turf maintenance practices will be somewhat reversed for the spring transition when warm weather returns and the bermudagrass is ready to make its comeback. As with winter over-seeding, soil temperatures are the key to smooth transitioning. Bermudagrass resumes growth when the soil reaches a temperature of 60-to-64 degrees at a depth of 4 inches, so monitor your soil and plan accordingly. When this occurs begin by grooming or lightly verti-cutting once or twice per week and gradually reduce the height of your cut. This reduces shading and helps to warm the soil, preparing the winter turf for its final exit. If the weather is cool, spike the turf every two weeks. Aerify and pulverize the plugs several weeks before you expect the bermudagrass to begin its green-up, which also helps to warm the soil. Continue with normal spring and summer aerification practices going forward from here. Delay spring fertilization until 2-3 weeks after spring green-up.At that point, resume normal recommended levels and increase the Nitrogen component. It is sometimes necessary to apply high rates of ammonium nitrate to burn down the ryegrass and speed its transition. Maintaining good soil moisture levels encourages the bermudagrass to re-establish its root system.

By observing these steps, and with a little help from Mother Nature, you’ll have your summer turf back in short order. Now you can begin to plan for next fall’s overseeding program!

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

The Need to Overseed.PDF

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Turf Research Update

At Grassland Oregon, we are excited about the future of our research efforts in turf. We continue to look for ways to bring new products to the market that are not just a repeat of what we already have. Some innovations we have, like MemphisWichita, and Olympus, have been performing well in the current tall fescue NTEP. We are also pleased to say that Birmingham is performing quite nicely in the Maryland/Virginia trials. Grassland Oregon currently has 3 new perennial ryegrasses entered in the 2016 Perennial trial (GO-141, GO-142, and GO-143). We can’t wait to see how they rise to the top! Lastly, we have entered 3 new Kentucky Bluegrasses in the 2017 Kentucky Bluegrass trial (GO-2628, GO-22B23, and GO-2425). These are varieties that will complement our current stable of SkyeProsperity, andMilagro. Please keep an eye on all of these as we are sure that they will be an enhancement to your current program, now and in the future.

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Turf Research Update.PDF

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Turfgrass- The Gift that just Keeps Giving

When we plant a lawn or a grassy area, many think about all the work that goes into it; mowing, watering, fertilizing, etc., but what we put into it we get in return, tenfold! 

Climate is controlled at ground level by turf grasses as they cool temperatures appreciably, thus working as exterior “air conditioners.” So, those hot summer days are just a little more manageable as you sit in your back yard enjoying some family time.

The air is also purified. Smoke and dust particles from the atmosphere are trapped by turf which helps keep the air cleaner. Then, when watered into the grass, they get filtered away. Pollutants, such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, are absorbed by turf grasses thereby rendering the air fit to breathe. Turf grasses are also excellent at reducing noise pollution. Noise is absorbed by grassy areas which cut down on excessive sound. This makes turf perfect for urban areas; studies have shown that when planted along expressways, grass can reduce noise 8-10 decibels.

Turf grass also gives us the gift of clean air and a clean water supply. Oxygen generation by turf grasses has a major impact in making our environment habitable. A 50’x 50′ lawn produces enough oxygen for a family of four. A dense turf can increase the infiltration of rain; reducing the run-off and re-charging aquafers deep in the ground. Reducing the run-off minimizes the risk to nearby streams from being contaminated by fertilizer and pesticides that have been applied to the lawn. Erosion of soil by water is effectively controlled by grasses as they intercept raindrops before they disturb the soil; they also slow the flow of water which minimizes soil loss.

At Grassland Oregon, we look at all of this when working to develop new turf grasses. We look for ones that establish rapidly and form a dense turf with a deep rooting system, grasses that require less inputs like water, fertility, and with lower growing heights, which mean less mowing. Products like Milagro Kentucky BluegrassMemphis Tall Fescue, and our newly released Wichita and Olympus Tall Fescues, will help contribute to this precious gift of nature. This year, thicken up your turf grass areas knowing that the little work you do now will bring great rewards years to come.

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Turfgrass- The gift that just keeps giving.PDF

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Spring Turf Tips

Now that Spring has sprung, we’ve got the tips to keep your lawn in top shape!

-Clean up gently after winter. Avoid heavy yard work until after the soil has dried out. Foot traffic and hard raking can compact or disturb soggy soil and damage tender, spring grass shoots.

-Find out if you have soil problems. Now is a great time to conduct a soil test to find out if your soil needs any attention. Early spring can be a great time to apply lime if you’ll be planting new grass later this year.

-Attack the weeds. Spring is the best time to prevent weeds by using a pre-emergent weed control, which works to prevent the weed seeds from germinating. Local circumstances vary so check the label for application date and control.

-Feed the lawn. DO NOT over fertilize in the spring. If your lawn is in bad shape, fertilize lightly with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer.

-Lastly use the proper tool for the job. Sharpen the blade and tune up your lawn mower as well as other lawn equipment. A little extra work this spring will make the rest of the year a breeze.

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Turf Tips.PDF