Practical Turf Tips - Laying, maintaining, and choosing the right turf for your situation
Originally posted here http://softleafbuffalograss.com.au/buff ... f-tips.php
Most contractors reading this know how to lay turf, maintain it, and choose it, but there are some aspects that have changed over the last few years, and this is what I would like to focus on. More weed pressure, more new turf varieties that have different benefits, and different maintenance regimes, including new pre-emergents. There is even a way to make lawns greener in winter.
Soil preparation is key. Create a loose, well-structured soil that will provide nutrients to the turf. No rocket science there. But with the popularity rising in easier to maintain and tougher turf types like Zoysia, or the change from cool climate turf in Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide to warm season turf like Buffalo, laying practices have needed to change. In these cooler climates, laying these types of turf in winter is simply not a good idea. I have seen too many lawns fail. Where possible don’t lay Buffalo or Zoysia between May and August in the south.
Queenslanders benefit from the warmer winter climates, and can generally lay Buffalo and Zoysia any time. Sydney can lay Buffalo in winter, but in the western suburbs, do not lay Zoysia at this time. Kikuyu still seems to strike in winter in cooler regions, but it will not work in shade, and needs a lot more maintenance. Also did you know research from Florida University proved that newly laid turf does not benefit from fertiliser till one month after laying? If you want to use a pre-emergent when laying new turf, Ronstar is still the best. Avoid using root pruning types like Barricade on new turf.
You guys know how to maintain a lawn, but some problems are becoming out of control. The sale of so much seeded Kikuyu in most states other than Queensland, is seeing most Buffalo lawns being badly infested within 5 to 8 years. Walk around some suburbs in Sydney, and every Buffalo lawn is being invaded by Kikuyu. Choosing a Zoysia lawn is one way to fix this problem as there are some chemicals that kill Kikuyu out of Zoysia. But for all those facing this major problem, here are some solutions. I used this program last year, and with lots of effort, I did beat the Kikuyu in my Buffalo lawns.
Autumn and winter is one of the best times to kill Kikuyu in your Buffalo, Couch, or Zoysia turf. Autumn is also a good time to try to spot spray Couch in Buffalo, but is more difficult than taking out Kikuyu. Kikuyu is still highly active in many parts of Australia, whilst the other grass types slow or almost stop growing. Kikuyu can quickly overtake a lawn if not kept in check. If you have even a trace of Kikuyu, you will need to do one of the steps below for the next couple of seasons, till the Kikuyu is eradicated. If the Kikuyu gets too thick in Buffalo, the only way to get rid of it is kill the whole lawn and start again, so it is worth taking the following advice.
In Couch and Zoysia
Kikuyu can be mass sprayed out of Zoysia or Couch, with specialist chemicals, but this is not possible with Buffalo turf. The best chemical to use is DSMA to take out Kikuyu in Couch and Zoysia. It will often take a few applications, over a few months. It’s not a one spray option. A new herbicide called Tribute has also been launched, and at a recent seminar I heard that this used in combination with DSMA has even better results taking out Kikuyu. They sprayed with DSMA first, then followed up later with two applications a few weeks apart of Tribute. I am not sure when the use for this will be on the label, but it is worth waiting for, because the correct application and combination increased the kill of Kikuyu to 98%.
In Buffalo, the only answer is spot killing Kikuyu with Round Up. That means you can only get the Round Up on the plant you want to kill, and must not get any on the lawn you want to keep. There are three ways to do this (Note; this can also be done for Couch and Zoysia turf);
Spray the spot where the Kikuyu is, knowing the patch that gets the Round Up on it will die. This will kill the Kikuyu, but also some of the good guy grass around it. The disadvantage to this is you will have large dead spots till the lawn regrows, and that can take some time in winter. Probably better to wait till early spring to do this option.
In autumn or winter, after letting the Kikuyu grow taller for three weeks with no mowing, a better solution is to paint the Kikuyu with a paint brush, making sure you get none on the grass underneath. The best way is to get a piece of cardboard, and put it under the Kikuyu, and paint the Kikuyu with Round Up. The cardboard will stop the Round Up getting on any of the Buffalo lawn. You may need to do this again in 3 weeks, as some Kikuyu may be missed.
Again after letting the Kikuyu get taller than the rest of the lawn for 3 to 4 weeks, grab the runner in your hand, and inject Round Up with a needle into the runner of the Kikuyu. Make sure you DO NOT stab or inject yourself. Inject each runner in a few spots. You may need to do this again in 3 weeks, as some Kikuyu may be missed. The advantage of this is that you absolutely get none on any of the desired lawn.
Both option B and C worked well for me last autumn and winter. See the sequence of photos taken over the last year.
Barricade and Embargo are new pre-emergents that work really well on established turf. I have used them over the last year on Couch, Kikuyu, Zoysia and Buffalo types with good results. They are far more economical compared to Ronstar, but be careful. They are root pruning pre-emergent chemicals, and on new turf, or on turf that is recovering from damage they will be detrimental. So use these on healthy, fully covered, established turf. They really do stop weeds coming up from seed, and will even reduce Kikuyu seedling germination.
Greener turf in winter
If you are maintaining a show lawn and want your Couch, Kikuyu or Buffalo to stay greener in winter, then a new activated charcoal product called Carbon Trader could be just what you need. http://www.turfculture.com.au
Spray this on the lawn in early May, and again in mid-June and your lawn should stay greener in winter. Last year in a trial I conducted, over 18 different turf types and multiple plots, the plots treated with carbon trader had 24% better winter colour than the untreated plots. The ratings were an average of 4 different peoples score, and the trial was independent of the company. They even made me buy the product, but hey, it worked.
Our plots were on poor soil, which may have enhanced the results, but this shows if you have a high profile lawn, carbon trader is worth using. I recommend a mid-autumn application of slow release fertiliser to further enhance the lawn’s winter colour.
Choosing a lawn type:
The last five years have seen a flood of new varieties on the market. Some have really changed the turf market place.
Zoysia has become very popular as a commercial amenity turf grass, and is now starting to be used as a home lawn in bigger numbers. It’s need for far less mowing has seen roads departments and councils use it on large projects. The fact that you can take Kikuyu and most grass weeds out of it with selective sprays, and the fact that Army Worm and Web Worm prefer to eat other lawns, and find it hard to stomach Zoysia have helped it gain in popularity.
The main types sold are Empire Zoysia and the newer highly salt tolerant Nara Native Zoysia turf, which is ideal for coastal landscapes. Their drought tolerance is excellent, and except for cool climate areas, their winter colour is very good provided it is fertilised very well in autumn. That is the key to Zoysia, autumn fertilising. They work in up to 40% shade. The main disadvantage is they take longer to strike in the cooler months. In warm times they strike well.
Kikuyu is going through resurgence, helped by some new far better varieties. Kikuyu itself is still popular particularly in South Australia, Perth, and Melbourne, and Sydney where it performs well in winter, and copes well with high wear from dogs and kids. Kikuyu is useless in shade, so avoid it there. Kikuyu is highly invasive, particularly from the spread of seed by water, birds and insects. Laying common Kikuyu is not only dangerous due to its invasiveness, but now it is also a waste of money and a bad lawn choice. The new Kikuyu types are not only predominantly male sterile, but perform so much better. Kenda Kikuyu is leading the way with 4 times as many underground runners for better wear tolerance, it’s able to grow out of yellows disease far better, and in research last year it had 23% better winter colour. Kenda kept growing through winter, whilst the common all but stopped. The Kenda in replicated plots had 40% more lawn clippings over winter. The other branded Kikuyu is Village Green, which also shows better characteristics compared to common Kikuyu. I predict that over the next 5 years, common Kikuyu will be used far less than these hugely superior varieties.
Buffalo has become the home lawn of choice, particularly for shade. Kikuyu invasion is making it hard to keep a pure Buffalo lawn, but in shade above 40% Buffalo has no real competition. Sir Walter continues to spend big on advertising, and is one of the three varieties that does not thatch badly. Shade Master is disappearing from sale due to its high thatch and poor winter colour. Sapphire seems to be the new star amongst Buffalo types, having good thatch levels, and in Horticulture Australia and Department of primary industries research had the best scores in shade research. Palmetto is the third type that does not thatch badly, and is settling down as the only low maintenance Buffalo type. There are other types, but they are not as popular except maybe in Melbourne, where thatch is not as much of an issue as the rest of Australia.
Couch is still popular for sporting ovals, and for some amenity areas, although Zoysia is replacing it on many roadsides and parks. Santa Anna is the most popular type in Melbourne, but thatches too badly for anywhere else. Legend and Wintergreen are sold widely for sporting facilities in most states. In Queensland CynoSport and Oztuff are becoming popular. Due to its poor shade tolerance and winter colour, and tendency to scalp badly when mown, Couch is losing favour as a domestic lawn.
It will be interesting to see how turf care, lawn types and installation change over the next 5 years. It may be more than you think.
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