Category Archives: Turf Tips

“EXTREME HEAT” What is the best thing I can do to keep my grass plants alive”

Under extreme high temperature conditions –  when the temperatures reach the upper 90’s and above –  the grass plants will begin to  shut down as a defense.  In some cases such as with annual bluegrass they often die in a relatively short period time.  One of the  most important things you can do as a turf grass manager is to try and cool the turf.  The best way I know is by a light application of water to create evaporation  cooling.  If you have an in ground irrigation system this means turning the system on to give you approximately .05” of water.  You do not want to flood the turf at this time because you can create scald and cook the grass plants.  The timing of this water application ( in this case called syringing) should be just before the hottest time in the afternoon.  When I was a golf course superintendent we would begin this around 2 PM.

 

 

Is It Too Early to Fertilize my ” Yellow /Hungry Field ?

This winter has been exceptionally wet.  February alone has recorded 10 plus inches in the rain gauge.  The warm/cold cycle continues.  The soil temperatures are cold and applying normal analysis fertilizers will be a waste of money until the fourth week in March when the Spring Solstice arrives.  The night lengths begin to shrink and the days become longer and as a result the soil temperatures begin to rise more rapidly.  When the soil temperatures reach approximately 53 degrees the plants begin to take up soil nutrients more efficiently. So now with the cold temperature what can we do?  The old standby fertilizer ammonium sulfate is a very useful tool.  This material will release a little nitrogen every time the soil temperature in the top inch raises – as with a sunny day.  Consequently, the grass plants have a little nutrient immediately available to them.  The rate to apply is no more than 5 lbs. of product per 1000 sqft.  Make this application when there is the possibility of rain otherwise you may get a temporary burn.  If this product is used later in the season it may give you a strong flush of growth which will produce more grass clippings than you want to deal with.  But now the timing is excellent.  Later in March when you  apply the balanced fertilizer  – it will do even better because a healthy grass plant can better utilize the fertilizer.

Now that the Rains have set in – it’s time to talk about irrigation systems -“What????”

That’s right.  Just as you don’t wait for the first cold spell to fix the heating system, the off season is a great time to tune-up an irrigation system.

Yes , summer is the irrigation season, and the time most of us are busy just trying to keep up with depleting soil moisture. The off season affords the time to make the adjustments that will increase sprinkler performance when the heat is on.

One good practice is to check for correct sprinkler height.  Low sprinkler heads cannot pop-up high enough to clear  the grass blades, disrupting the spray patterns and resulting in uneven coverage and poor efficiency.  Raising the head to the ‘top of grade’ will help achieve head to head coverage and help eliminate those annoying brown areas.  The process is usually a simple matter of raising the swing joint below and, or adding a short nipple at the base. Tip:  consider replacing an older head with a new longer body head to raise the height.  For example changing a 4” pop up to a 6” pop up.  Other advantages with new heads include fresh, strong seals around the stem to prevent leaks and better arc adjustment capability. 

Other quick fixes while you are at the head include re-aligning tilted heads back to vertical and checking for clogged or damaged nozzles.  You may even have time for some of the nozzle sizing adjustment you’ve always wanted to try to perfect your system.

These “Tips” are available on our website on the “Resource Page”

“What a wakeup call”

Fall over-seeding  The heavy rains which we are experiencing will probably increase the wear problems that are inevitable on many of the soil based fields.  Slice-seeding and or broadcasting seed in the thin areas and letting the players work it into the soil will pay big dividends for you.  In a prior Tip called “Winter seeding turf blends”  we mention the intermediate ryegrass blends that germinate in cooler temperatures, however for this month the normal turf type ryegrasses will be very effective.

Ideal time to fertilize your field.  This is the ideal time to fertilize your sports field – if you haven’t already done so.  The soil temperature is still warm enough to give the fertilizer maximum effectiveness.  The fertilizer you apply should be designed to encourage the root development you need throughout the cool season.  By so doing – giving you the assurance healthier turf next spring.

These “Tips” are available on website on the “Resource Page”

Please note:  On  our “Resource page” we have added two Bulletins  – both are a cooperative effort of Oregon State University, Washington State University and University of Idaho.  They are: Construction of Sand-based, Natural Grass Athletic Fields  and  Maintaining Sand-Based Natural Grass Athletic Fields.  You should find both of these bulletins very helpful.

There are certain timely practices that we have found that make managing both turf grass and synthetic fields easier and produce favorable results.  We are sending these “Tips” out throughout the season and try to match the season with the practices.  If you  have others on your staff that you would like to receive these “Tips”  please contact us through  my  email.

Are we “Aquatic” Turf Grass Managers?

This is a realistic question considering the 15 plus inches of rain most of Western Oregon and Western Washington has received in December along with what is occurring in January.  Most of the turf will survive this unless it has been totally suffocated.  Unfortunately the grass best suited to recover quickly will be the annual bluegrass  poa annua.  It does better with wet feet than most others.  What can we do to encourage the other turf when things return to normal?  If you have not done so consider testing your soil.  The best balance of nutrients and particularly the soil ph (for acidity) is your best offense.    If the ph is below 6.2 consider a lime application.  Pelletized lime should not be applied at more than 50 LBS/1000 sqft  in any one application because it will cake on the turf – and by all means do it during the rainy season to encourage immediate action.  When the soil ph is in the 6.2- 6.4 range  two things are occurring:  there is maximum microbial activity taking place in the soil  and  a majority of the nutrients are most readily available to the plants.  Later in the spring continue with your normal cultural practices –particularly the aeration to encourage more air into the root zone.

“The effect of low infill on your Synthetic Turf.”

The infill provides the cushioning of your synthetic field. The surface hardness ( measured by Gmax ) is almost always a direct correlation of your infill levels.  The infill levels should be measured regularly and compared to the manufacturer’ s recommendations.  How much rubber do you need?  As a rule – ½ pound of rubber per sq ft.  equates to approximately ¼” of infill per sq ft.  For example if  an 80,000 sq ft. field is low by an average of ¼” – it will take approximately 40,000 lbs or 20 super sacks of material.  It is not recommended that you apply more than 6-10 sacks at any one time – so it may take several applications to get the needed rubber down.    Please avoid putting the rubber down in wet conditions or you will have a mess.

Dry spots or Insect Damage?

In an earlier “Tip” we discussed Bill Bug damage prevention.  Unfortunately we are now observing either white grub damage or bill bug larve damage in many fields in Western Oregon. If you have been irrigating adequately and  you are suspect that you have the problem –  grab the turf in a dry spot and it will come up in your hand with no roots.  You may even be able to see the white grubs or bill bug  larve present at the tear line.  If the damage is still spotty there is probably time to treat the problem.  The internet is an ideal place to see pictures of this type of damage.

Watering “ I’m behind and can’t catch up”.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes no matter how much water you apply to your field that it only soaks into the top half inch or less.  The top thatch acts like a sponge but the water is not getting through to the soil beneath.  Ample aeration will assist in keeping this from occurring but once it happens the only thing I know that will assist in alleviating this condition is the use of soil penetrants.  These compounds can be applied in the liquid or granular form.  They reduce the evaporation of water by allowing the water to penetrate into the soil more readily.  There are some that work better in sandy conditions and some better with clay and believe it or not some work on all types of soil.  Look into this – you will be glad you did.   

As a sidelight – remember that good fertility is a great aid in the best utilization of water by the plant.  A good example of this is to observe the green spots that come about where pets urinate on an under fertilized field.

Dry field conditions

This spring has been has been relatively dry.  May is what is referred to as a deficit month water wise – meaning  that the grass plants require more water than “Mother Nature “ on the average provides.  It is for that reason that those irrigation systems should be ready to run and or running now. 

“Bill Bugs – they are here”

Possible Bill Bug Damage?

 A year ago we saw the center of a  well maintained soccer field go into stress and loose 50% of the turf within 2 weeks in July.  We assumed that it was the annual bluegrass dying due to heat stress but we were able to determine that it was a Bill Bug larve infestation that was the cause.  The grass plants roots were eaten to the point where they could not survive.  This month (early May)  the field is being treated to control the damaging Bill Bug larve.  On your computer type in “ bill bug damage in the NW” if this looks familiar – do something now.

Mild January and “Mother Nature” has jump started the grass plants.

The mild January has got things growing more than normal here in Western Oregon.  Many sports fields are yellowing enough to draw concern.  The soil temperatures have warmed to in the top ¾” to the point where the roots are actively taking up nutrients.  It is still too early to consider applying a complete fertilizer but supplying the plant with a little nitrogen at this time will be beneficial and return the color.  Applying ammonium sulfate at no more than 5 lbs/1000 sqft.  will help bring this color back.  You must be careful not to use this fertilizer if there is no rain in sight because you may get a foliar burn.   The application of the nitrogen at this time will also help your turf grass out grow any damage done from the turf disease  “Red Thread”.

Baseball/Softball: Infield skinned areas – prepare for Spring now.

The best time to work on your infield (baseball and softball) skinned area is now . The months of August and September typically have good weather with little play so that you can get work done, use the field for fall ball, and avoid the significant dangers of an overly soft field in the spring.  Following the renovation the first few rains (and irrigation cycles) will still cause the field to become soft (and in most cases unplayable).  However, the winter rains will help settle the field for play in the spring. You will still want to do a field drag and topdressing in the spring to get the field in “game shape” but the soil disturbance should ideally be kept to a minimum.  

Summer Turf Disease in the NW – How can this be ?

In the northwest  we are known for our dry summers coupled with  low humidity.  It is not unusual to receive very little rain between the last part of June all the way through September.  This year’s intermittent rain / thunderstorm events have made the turf very susceptible to what we consider the most devastating  of turf grass diseases – pythium blight.  Couple heavy moisture with high temperatures and high humidity and the conditions could not be better for disease development.  Type in “ pythium blight in the northwest” on your computer and look at the pictures. We have seen this disease already this summer and if you think you have it  – you may have to arrest it with a specifically labeled turf grass fungicide.  This disease can make an entire field unplayable in a very short order.  Cultural practices which are normal for the northwest – regular  irrigation  – not creating a frog pond – coupled with our lower humidity helps keep this disease under control.

Rolling of Sports Fields – Rolling the dice

“To roll” or “not to roll”

Coming into spring we’ve had every type of weather condition imaginable.  The great weather in January  permitted heavy play on the fields –  then the cold snap and wet weather hit and the fields were not only  rough from play but could not be mowed which in itself has a smoothing effect.  Thus came the need for smoothing to make them safe and playable.  From a good field management stand point rolling is “frowned on”. If you feel rolling is mandatory for safety reasons and that logic is good – then be sure to relieve the compaction within several weeks if at all possible.  Relieving the compaction is done by aeration both surface top 3” and deeper 4-12”   particularly if a heavy roller is used.  Soil based fields that have been sanded regularly or sand based fields will rarely need rolling.  (The vibrating feature which some rollers are equipped with should not be used in this case)

Fall is here – Keep that field in shape

Ideal time to fertilize your field   This is the ideal time to fertilize your sports  field – if you haven’t already done so.   The soil temperature is still warm enough to give the fertilizer maximum effectiveness.  The  fertilizer you apply should be designed to encourage root the development  you need throughout the cool season.  By so doing –  giving you a better chance for a healthier turf next spring.

Fall over-seeding   The heavy rains which we are experiencing will probably increase the wear problems that are inevitable on many of the soil based fields.  Broadcasting seed in the thin areas and letting the players work it into the soil will pay big dividends for you.  In a later “tip” we will be emphasizing the use the intermediate ryegrasses which germinate at cooler temperatures for the final over-seeding of the year but for this month your normal turf type ryegrasses will be very effective.

 

 

Simple Over-seeding

During Fall sports – if at all possible- every week broadcast seed in the heavily worn areas of your fields. Some soccer clubs give their goalies a cup full of seed to broadcast after each practice session. The players will work it into the soil and when the moisture opportunities are right the seed will germinate. In fall the seed is helped more with “ Mother Nature” than any other time of year – so use her to your advantage.

Fall Fertilizing

Apply that fall application of fertilizer now – if you haven’t done so already. It is paramount to have a soil test done once a year to determine the best utilization of your dollars when purchasing fertilizers. Once you have determined what you need then match the season with the fertilizer. If you are only able to apply one application of fertilizer annually then the Fall is the absolute best time to apply it. Be sure you are supplying the grass plant with the necessary nutrients to build its root-system for the next season. If you are able to apply two applications then Fall first and Spring second. More than two per year then space the third, fourth and fifth etc applications between the Spring and Fall. Budget constraints are so intense in some cases that one or two applications have become a reality – which are better than nothing – but make managing sports turf extremely difficult.

Looks too Good to Aerate

The best soil penetrant is “Mother’s Nature’s” rain. The minute this rain stops and the hot weather arrives – be ready. As was mentioned in a previous “tip” – shallow roots (due to the plant growing in water all spring) are still being supported by rain water and are flourishing. When the fields look great it is easy to put off aeration. According to recent work done at Oregon State University concerning aids that assist in irrigation water penetration (a myriad of products and practices were tested) aerating still gave the best results. So keep those aerators handy.

Extremely wet March – How does this affect the grass plant?

This year be thankful if you have a sand based or well drained sports field. The record setting wet March has certainly slowed down the grass plant root system development both from the super-saturated and cold soil temperature standpoints. Knowing this it would be wise to make a special effort to core aerate as soon as the conditions will allow. Introducing air into the root system will help warm the soil and thus jump start the grass plant. In fact this spring you may wish to consider an even deeper aeration to loosen the compacted layer between 4-7″. This would promote not only deeper root development but more water holding capacity of the soil – thus giving you a longer playing season into the fall.Often times when a field finally dries out after these wet conditions the playing surface will become very hard. The aeration also will assist in the safety of the field countering the hard playing surface condition.

There are certain timely practices that we have found that make managing turf grass fields easier and produce favorable results. We are sending these “Tips” out throughout the season and match the season with the practices. If you have others on your staff that you would like to have receive these “Tips” please contact us through my email.

Winter seeding turf blends

Last year I made reference to the colder temperature germinating ryegrass varieties and how effective they were. I am going to put further emphasis on this fact. We are watching some of these varieties germinate well into December. If you were to go on the belief that October 15th was the cutoff date for seeding you would be missing out on one very effective tool in the field manager’s arsenal. Seed is relatively inexpensive and to let bare areas in your field remain so all winter, without trying to encourage turf cover, will no doubt give you a stand of annual bluegrass – which is going backwards. So call your seed resource person and have them bring you up to speed on these cooler temperature germinating ryegrasses. The only drawback to seeding in the monsoon season is “not” rotting seed but seed going “down-stream”. It is for this reason that you want any seeding that is done to be pushed into the soil. Let the players do this with their cleats or again find a way to press it into the soil. I am well aware the freezing cold can damage some of the newly germinated seeds but surprising enough we still see good results when it thaws in the spring. You will be pleasantly encouraged with the results.