Educational Opportunity: The 2015 Great Lakes School of Turfgrass Science Online (For Professionals) is set for January 7th – March 25th, 2015

Any investment in quality continuing education opportunities benefits employees and employers alike. The 2015 Great Lakes School of Turfgrass Science Online is designed to help meet the continuing education needs of any individual or organization.  This 12-week program will have training sessions accessible live online on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8pm (Central Standard Time) or the option to view the recorded sessions. This 12-week certificate program aims to provide participants with thorough and practical continuing education in turfgrass management.  The course is directed by educators from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cites and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with 12 turfgrass scientists and educators from eight Land-Grant Universities.

Turfgrasses are a resource in our urban community environments and best management practices are aligned with environmental, economic & societal priorities. The Great Lakes School of Turfgrass Science provides participants with the science based principles needed to effectively manage turf for recreation, sport, aesthetics and environmental protection. The Great Lakes School of Turfgrass Science is a quality training opportunity for:

 

  • Practitioners that establish and maintain turfgrass for athletic fields, consumer/commercial lawns, golf courses, recreation/parks, and sod production
  • Technical representatives from industry (suppliers of equipment, plant protectants, fertilizer, etc.)
  • Those new to the industry – wanting to get trained and off to a great start
  • Those with experience in the industry – to review/update their knowledge and practices

 

The registration deadline is December 31st, 2014. Students will have access to the course and materials at their convenience during the 12-week period via moodle class management system.  The fee for the course is $495, which includes supplemental materials and a certificate after successful completion of the program.  Visit this link to register: http://z.umn.edu/2015greatlakesturfschool

 

Early registration is encouraged and pre-registration is required.

 

For Further Information: Contact Sam Bauer, Assistant Extension Professor – University of Minnesota Email: sjbauer@umn.edu Phone: 763-767-3518.

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More resources for dealing with dead spots in lawns

 

Lawns and turf areas around the state are devastated. Here are some links to help those who will need to repair areas this season:

 

Lawn Establishment and Renovation - a thourough description of all the options and steps for complete or partial lawn renovation by Dr. John Stier, now at University of Tennessee

Turfgrass herbicides safe for new seedings – Zac Reicher, University of Nebraska, gives a detailed summary of some new (and not so new) herbicide options for newly planted areas.

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Some tips for dealing with dead spots in your lawn this spring

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/environment/for-splendor-in-the-grass-here-are-lawn-tips-in/article_ec857fe0-9e55-11e2-acb0-001a4bcf887a.html

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Dealing with Drought Affected Lawns

With the drought abating in many parts of the state, we’ve seen lawns begin to green up[1]. However, after the severe stretch of drought, nearly every lawn is expected to have some areas where the grass has died. These dead patches were likely undesirable species of grass, areas with very poor soil underneath, or weakened by another stress before or during the drought.

Figure 1. Dead grass usually takes on a grayish black appearance and is very soft and “mushy” to the touch.

 

Dead patches of grass take on a grayish, black coloration to the yellow or brown tissue and feel soft at the soil surface (Figure 1). Re-establishing some of these dead areas will be necessary in the fall. I recommend waiting until at least September 1st to begin the renovation process for a few reasons. First, Kentucky bluegrass has underground stems called rhizomes which can regenerate new plants. If you have a dead patch of lawn now, it is likely that the size of the dead area will be substantially smaller (or even gone) by September (Figures 2 and 3) as the bluegrass spreads to fill the voids. Second, September is the best time to establish new lawns from seed because the temperature and moisture stress is often lower and most weeds are no long germinating. Do not wait later than mid-September to begin renovation, as this may not be enough time for the seedlings to become strong enough to survive the winter. Sodding can be done successfully any time before the soil freezes.

 

Figure 2. This large brown patch of grass is mostly dead, but there are many single plants of Kentucky bluegrass interspersed throughout it. Expansion of these small plant and expansion of surrounding Kentucky bluegrass into the dead area is expected to dramatically shrink the size of this area by September, although it is likely some of this area will need to be re-seeded or sodded.

Choosing the best grass

 

Kentucky bluegrass is the most common lawn grass in Wisconsin and an excellent choice for re-planting dead areas. Kentucky bluegrass is likely the best option for drought tolerance. It will turn brown faster than most other species, but can remain alive in that state for up to 60 days. In addition, it has underground stems which have the potential to generate new grass plants and fill in dead spots. Kentucky bluegrass is fairly difficult to establish from seed because it takes up to three weeks to germinate. To avoid the chance of an unsuccessful establishment by seed, sodding is a great option.

 

Tall fescue has potential to become a useful lawn grass in Wisconsin. It will not tolerate poorly drained areas where ice accumulates in the winter. However, it can retain a green color longer than any other lawn grass. That said, when tall fescue loses its green color it does not have much time left and requires irrigation for survival. Another drawback of tall fescue its relatively wide leaf blade, which will look like a weed if planted in patches into an already established lawn. If tall fescue is desired, it should be planted or sodded across the entire lawn, and not used to fill in patches.

 

Fine fescue (including red fescue, hard fescue, sheeps fescue, and Chewings fescue) – these closely related species have a strong reputation for being drought tolerant, however, this grass has a tendency to form thatch, which results in the growing point (or crown) rising above the soil surface. When this happens, fine fescue has a poor chance of surviving an extended period of dry weather. I have seen more dead fine fescue because of this year’s drought than any other turf type (Figures 3 and 4). Because of these observations, I do not recommend planting fine fescue in areas that were killed by the drought. This is a dramatic departure from previous recommendations, but based on things I have seen over the past few weeks. Fine fescue remains a good choice for turf professionals who can control and manage the thatch production associated with these grasses. It is also a good a good choice for heavily shaded sites.

Figure 3. This lawn has a large amount of dead grass, most of which was fine fescue. The area that will need to be re-seeded or sodded is expected to be much smaller by September as the living grasses fill in.

Perennial ryegrass is an almost ubiquitous component of many lawn seed blends. It has poor cold tolerance and not well adapted to drought conditions. It is included in mixtures because it germinates in less than a week and provides a fast green cover. I recommend avoiding planting perennial ryegrass or keeping it a minor component (<15%) of a seed blend.

 

Annual ryegrass is another common component of (usually inexpensive) lawn seed mixtures. It is selected for its rapid establishment and vigorous growth. However, it has poor cold tolerance. Do not plant annual ryegrass, as it is unlikely to survive the winter.

 

Seed or sod? Seeding will cost less, but has a smaller success rate and takes a great deal more labor and care for success. If you have time (up to four weeks) and ability to care for newly seeded grass, purchasing seed is the way to go. If your time and ability are limited, sod is a great choice. Sod can be placed anytime when the ground is not frozen. However, regardless of renovation method, proper soil preparation is key. Check out Lawn Establishment and Renovation (UWEX Publication A3434) at the UW-Extension Learning Store for information on how to increase the chances of a successful lawn renovation.

 

Figure 4. Of all the turf types, fine fescue surprised me the most with its poor survivability. Fine fescues are considered more drought tolerant than Kentucky bluegrass in all the textbooks. However, the majority of non-irrigated fine fescue areas I’ve seen are dead. If fine fescue is planted along with Kentucky bluegrass, this is not a major issue as the bluegrass will fill in; but major renovation will be required of areas where fine fescues were the only species. I’ve noticed the areas where fine fescue has survived are those where no thatch exists and the crowns are underneath the soil surface. Because fine fescues have a tendency to form thatch, these grasses should not be planted unless thatch can be prevented – which is not an easy task for a non-professional turf manager. This lawn will likely need to be completely renovated because the living grass is not Kentucky bluegrass and will not fill in the vacancies left by the dead grass.

Caring for the living portions of the lawn

 

Weed control and fertilizationin September and early October will be key practices to speed and encourage the recovery of your lawn (Figure 5). Fertilizing and controlling weeds in the heat of the summer can sometime cause even more damage, so make sure you wait until cooler conditions arrive when the grass is under less stress.

Figure 5. Unfortunately, weeds can also fill in the voids where grass has been killed. In this case, the grass did not survive the drought because of the shallow, rocky soil from the construction of the road and sidewalk. Note the vigorously growing crabgrass near the mailbox. The lawn on the house side of the sidewalk (where the soil is better) is in good shape. Weed control will be a key factor in helping the living grass bounce back and fill in the majority of this area. In this case, renovation may not be required aside from controlling the weeds and fertilizing in September and possibly October to encourage the living Kentucky bluegrass to fill in.

Some lawn care providers use slow release forms of fertilizers that are appropriate for application in hot weather, but consumer fertilizers will work best when applied in September and October. For more information on best practices for lawn maintenance, check out Lawn Maintenance (UWEX Publication A3435) in the Learning Store.

 



[1] When in true dormancy, can take up to two weeks to green back up, but grass that wasn’t completely dormant will green up in a few days.

 

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2012 Wisconsin Turfgrass Field Day on July 31

There was an almost audible collective sigh of relief from around Wisconsin when some us finally received rain last week.  It was a long time coming.

I lived through the hot and dry years of 1976 and 1988 and can remember working full days for weeks on end, to the point of not being certain whether it was Tuesday or Saturday.  The growing season of 2012 could potentially be worse than either ’76 or ’88.

Our WTA Field Day is July 31, just a week away.  Sometimes the best thing to do for yourself during a stressful period is to get away from the ranch and spend at least part of the day with friends who are going through what you are.  Sharing experiences, problems and even war stories can put things in perspective and maybe make you feel a little better about your own situation.

The faculty have tailored their presentations to the season at hand, so there will be lots to learn.  They will also be around to answer questions and give some help.

Until then, let’s pray for some rain and a few days of normal temperatures.  We’d all feel better.

Monroe S. Miller
WTA Ambassador

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Anatomy of dormant Kentucky bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass goes dormant by allowing its leaves to die but keeping the crown (the origin of new roots and shoots) alive. It needs only minuscule amounts of water to survive. Also, Kentucky bluegrass can generate new roots and shoots from its rhizomes (a feature lacking in most other common lawn grasses).

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Healthy dormant Kentucky bluegrass (low traffic) vs. Dormant Kentucky bluegrass under high traffic. Try to keep your lawn like the one on the left!

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Keeping your grass alive during drought

Southern Wisconsin has had a prolonged period of very hot and dry conditions. Many parts of the state have seen little or no rain in at least 30 days. Kentucky bluegrass is the dominant species of grass growing on Wisconsin’s lawns. Fortunately, it is extremely tolerant of these conditions and can survive periods up to and even beyond 60 days without water.  Kentucky bluegrass survives by allowing its leaves to die, but keeping its “crown” alive. The crown is the tiny part of the plant where the grass blades meet the roots. It is so small, that it requires only a minute quantity of water to survive. However, at some point, it too will die. Fine fescue and perennial ryegrass are fairly common components of lawn seed mixtures. While fine fescue can survive the drought as well or better than Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrasses are probably near death. The good news is that our winters usually kill perennial ryegrass, so most lawns don’t have large populations of it.

How much longer can my lawn survive?

First, to lengthen the time your lawn can survive without water, don’t apply any fertilizers, herbicides, or other chemicals to your lawn. Other than the types of grass in your lawn and how you manage it, many variables affect how long your lawn can survive without water. Grasses that receive foot or vehicular traffic are much less tolerant of dry conditions. Lawns grown on compacted soils will require more attention than those on healthy soils. Similarly, high clay or sand content soils cannot support drought stressed lawns as long as loamy or silty soils. If your lawn falls into any of these categories, I recommend watering it soon, following the guidelines below.

How much and when to water?

Healthy green grass uses about one inch of water each week. However, when your turf is brown, it uses much less. In fact, you only need to apply about one quarter of an inch per week (or about a half inch every other week) to keep the crowns hydrated, and ensure that your grass will green up when the rain begins. It is not a good idea to apply much more than this amount, as the turf will start to send out new green leaves which will require lots of water to maintain their greenness. Water at night or early morning, when peak demand it lowest, and evaporative losses are least likely.

Is there a way to check to see if my lawn is still alive?

Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to tell if the crown is still alive simply by looking at it.  However, some clues that your plant is doing fine is any semblance of white tissue around the crown (you’ll have to peel back most of the leaf sheaths and pick off some roots. Another good sign that the grass is alive is green tissue like that shown in the leaf blades in the picture below. Also, it is a good sign if the roots are firmly attached to the crown and difficult to detach by pulling.

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2012 Snow Mold Reports

Now that nobody is thinking about snow mold, the 2012 UW Snow Mold Reports have been posted online at the Turfgrass Diagnostic Lab’s website in the ‘News’ section on the righthand side (http://www.tdl.wisc.edu/).  Reports and pictures from 2 sites in Wisconsin, 1 site in Michigan’s UP, and 2 sites in Minnesota have all been posted.  Unfortunately, the mild winter led to acceptable snow mold results being obtained only from the Wawonowin site.  The reports will also be permanently housed on the TDL’s ‘Research’ page.

Special thanks to Brian Horgan and Andy Hollman for their help with the Minnesota sites, and also to the following superintendents for hosting both our snow mold trials and other winter research:

  • Antigo Bass Lake – Dave Van Auken
  • The Legacy at Craguns – Matt McKinnon
  • Les Bolstad GC- Brent Belanger
  • Odana Hills GC- Jeff Jushka
  • Sentryworld GC – Gary Tanko
  • Wawonowin CC – Andy Hakkarinen

Please call or email with any questions, concerns, or comments you may have regarding these reports.

 

Thanks,

Paul

Paul Koch, M.S.
Associate Researcher
Turfgrass Diagnostic Lab Manager
University of Wisconsin – Madison
2502 Highway M
Verona, WI 53593
(608) 845-2535
www.tdl.wisc.edu

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Dandelions and tall fescue don’t mix. Literally.

Check out the two pictures below. The one one the left shows a strip of perennial ryegrass infested with dandelions, but the surrounding tall fescue is dandelion free. The p. rye and t. fescue were planted at the same time and have been managed identically for the past five years. The picture on the right is of a stand of Kentucky bluegrass (left side of picture) next to a stand of tall fescue (on the right). While the effect is less dramatic, it’s clear that the left side has dandelions while the right side does not. I’ve also noticed this effect in my tall fescue lawn – my neighbors have dandelions and I don’t. But I do have plenty of clover, which also has infested the tall fescue in the pictures below.

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