Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Crabgrass is the number one weed problem in Pennsylvania lawns, and can turn your picture-perfect turf into a real mess by late summer. Fortunately, crabgrass can be controlled if you choose the right herbicide and apply it at the correct time of year.
Crabgrass begins as seed that germinates in spring or early summer, makes vegetative growth through the summer, and produces a large crop of seed before dying after the first hard frost in fall. Crabgrass seeds remain dormant over the winter, and the cycle starts over again as the seeds germinate the following spring.
The key to successful crabgrass control involves a combination of chemical and cultural measures. Chemical control involves the use of preemergence herbicides (herbicides that kill germinating grass seedlings before they emerge from the soil). These herbicides act by forming a chemical barrier in the soil prior to seed germination. The barrier effectively prevents grass seedlings from emerging and developing normally. You can find preemergence herbicides in retail garden centers, usually combined with fertilizer as “weed and feed” products.
Most preemergence herbicides have long residual activity in the soil and may prevent germination newly-seeded turfgrasses in spring. Thus, seeding of turfgrasses should be postponed for the amount of time specified on the manufacturer's label (usually three to four months). Siduron (Tupersan) is the only preemergence herbicide that can be safely used during or immediately following seeding of home lawns.
The timing of preemergence herbicide applications is the most critical component of an effective crabgrass control program. As a general rule, the best time to apply preemergence herbicides is approximately 10–14 days prior to the expected germination period in spring. Crabgrass begins to germinate when the temperature in the upper inch of soil reaches 55 to 58°F at daybreak for 4–5 days. Full forsythia bloom is usually a good indicator of when to apply your preemergence herbicide applications, but in some years they may bloom earlier or later than normal. Normally, preemergence herbicide treatments in Pennsylvania should take place as follows:
Southeastern Pennsylvania — March 15 to April 15
Northern tier and high altitude counties — April 20 to May 15
Other Pennsylvania areas — April 1 to May 1
Depending on the product, time of application, location, and severity of the crabgrass infestation, reapplication of a preemergence herbicide within 60 days may be required for season-long control. Consult product labels to determine if two applications are allowed. Poor control also may occur with late applications.
Successful crabgrass control involves management practices that increase the density and vigor of desirable turfgrasses. A dense turf tends to discourage competition from weeds. Cultural practices for the control of crabgrass are aimed at shading and crowding the young weed seedlings by producing a dense sod. Effective cultural control measures include the proper selection and establishment of turfgrasses, adequate liming and fertilization, proper mowing practices, judicious watering, and insect and disease control.
For more information on control of crabgrass and other summer annual grasses, see: PDF - Control of Summer Annual Grass Weeds in Turfgrasses
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Moss is one of the first plants to green-up in Pennsylvania lawns during early spring, and many homeowners consider it an annoying weed. Many different species of moss can grow and persist in home lawns. Unlike seed-bearing plants, mosses produce spores that can be wind-blown from one area to another and germinate to form thread-like structures called protonemas. The protonemas will produce buds that develop into the short, leafy stalks that most people recognize as moss. Moss is an opportunistic plant that will develop and grow in bare soil areas or where turfgrasses are weak and thin. Moss does not “crowd out” turfgrasses, but once it is established, grass plants will not spread into those areas.
In order to obtain effective control of moss, carefully consider the reasons why it began to grow in the lawn. Attempts to eradicate moss from a lawn are rarely effective unless provisions are made for a dense, actively-growing turf to take its place.
Encroachment of moss into lawns is usually the result of conditions that are not conducive to good growth of turf. Moss is most commonly associated with shallow, rocky soils; poor soil fertility; low soil pH (acid soils); heavy shade; and excessive moisture. If any of these factors are limiting turf growth, moss can invade the lawn and establish a permanent residence.
The first step in a moss control program is to test the soil for nutrient content and pH. Soil test kits are available from your county cooperative extension office for a nominal fee. If the soil is deficient in nutrients or in need of liming, the soil test report will indicate how much fertilizer and lime to apply and when to apply them. Over time, the improved soil conditions resulting from fertilizer and lime applications will help the turfgrasses compete with the moss.
If shade and/or moisture are the limiting factors for good turf growth, steps should be taken to correct the situation or plant grasses that are adapted to shaded or moist areas. The fine fescues are the best-adapted turfgrasses to shaded, well-drained soils, whereas, rough bluegrass is better adapted to shaded, moist soils. Neither species will survive under heavy shade or soils that are saturated for long periods of time. Only when the limiting factors for good turf growth have been corrected should moss eradication with chemicals be attempted.
Unfortunately, there are very few products that can be used to control moss. Products containing fertilizer and iron sulfate are sold at retail garden centers and can turn moss black and sometimes reduce encroachment. Other products may be available that contain salts that will dehydrate or “burn” the moss. Unfortunately, they also can burn desirable turfgrasses if used improperly. Be sure to follow label directions so that these products are used safely and correctly.
Monday, March 22, 2010
by Jeffrey T. Fowler, Penn State Cooperative Extension
In the last 15 years I have been called to countless athletic fields to lend some advice to the athletic field manager, school custodian or the school board member that wanted a "better" field for the young athlete in their district. After a few stops with the similar answers, I realized that many people were forgetting the basic steps that we need to keep in the forefront when maintaining athletic fields. Now, I realize that each of these 8 steps has been or could be written in its own book form or at least is a university publication, but this article serves a friendly reminder to the basics.
1. Soil Testing
Soil testing is the first step in any field facelift. Without a soil test we have no idea what the soil needs and thus what the turf plant needs to thrive. I like to compare soil testing to a human blood pressure. Medical professionals can tell a lot about our health by taking our blood pressure. Turf professionals can tell a lot about our soil's health by conducting a simple soil test. This test will give you the soil ph and nutrient levels present in the sample.
A soil test is conducted by taking 20-32 core samples on the field, mixing them together and allowing them to dry. Taking a representative sample and sending it to a certified laboratory. Check with your local County Extension Office for a list of laboratories in your state that can perform this test. Cost will range from six to twenty dollars, but the cost of this test will pay for itself many times over in the amount you save on lime and fertilizer expenses.
2. Lime and Fertilizer
Dollar for dollar fertilization does more to improve poor quality turfgrass than any other single management practice. Proper fertilization practices will produce a dense, medium to dark green turf that resists pests and environmental stresses. However, careless application techniques and/or applying excessive amounts of fertilizer at the wrong time of the year can result in serious turf damage and contamination of water resources. Successful turf maintenance fertilization requires an assessment of the nutritional requirements of your turf, an understanding of fertilizers, how much and when fertilizers should be applied, as well as, proper application techniques.
Whether we are mowing with a reel type or rotary type mower we need to make sure that we are always using a sharp blade. Mowing frequency depends upon the rate of growth. We should never remove more that one-third of the green growth in one mowing. If we want to maintain a height of two inches, we should mow when the plant reaches 3 inches. Clippings do not need to be removed as long as we maintain a regular mowing schedule.
Aeration is the process of disturbing the soil to relieve compaction. Compacted soil does not allow proper air, water, and nutrient penetration and makes it difficult for proper plant root growth. Core removal should be performed at least two times a year when the plants are actively growing. There are many different aeration methods that can be used during the playing season that will not disrupt play.
Topdressing is the addition of sand or soil to the surface of the turf. Topdressing gives the sports turf manager a chance to improve the soil quality, improve the seedbed for new plants and rooting of both new and existing plants. Topdressing also gives an opportunity to level the surface of a playing field. The material used during topdressing should be chemically and physically very similar to the existing soil unless the intent is to modify the soil texture.
Overseeding into thin turf or small patches of bare soil can be done in late winter, spring or early fall. When overseeding, it is especially important that the seed comes in contact with the soil and has space to germinate. Perennial ryegrass overseeded at the rate of 8-10 pounds/1000 sq. ft. serves very well. Perennial rye is a quick germinating variety that can tolerate enough wear to be effective on an athletic field.
7. Playing Surface
I have been asked may times at different athletic field maintenance seminars if I would do a quick demonstration on "puddle repair." My answer has always been the same, "NO." We can not fix puddles; we fix low spots in our playing surface by constantly working the skinned portion of a softball or baseball filed. Working with our favorite leveling drag we need to constantly be working the skin in all directions to maintain a playing surface that will not form low spots.
8. Transition Areas
The appearance of the transition areas can make your field look like a million bucks or a million ducks, depending on the care. These areas are where the grass and skin areas on a baseball or softball field meet, the areas where players run on and off of the field, or athletes always walk to and from the practice field can really make or break the appearance, safety and playability of a field. We need to continually work to keep these areas from forming lips, dips and safety hazards on our playing fields.
Wait, the title of this article is eight steps to an easy field face lift not nine steps. Well like Garth Brooks sings in his song "Friends in Low Places," I was going home one night and thought to myself, Jeff, is that really the way that article should end. No, so I wrote another step, just Garth wrote another verse.
Even is we know everything there is to know about the first eight steps of a field facelift, no one will understand them if we do not follow step nine. We have to let people around us, our bosses, supervisors, coaches, players, volunteer parents and school administrators know what we know. Not only what we need for a safer and more playable field, but also why we need it. Our jobs as sports turf managers is to maintain fields, their job is to do something else. We need to communicate our needs and our reasons for our needs so that they better understand the importance of the first eight steps.
If we adopt these nine steps, and formulate a game plan for our fields, these steps will have spectators saying, "How did they do that."
Monday, March 15, 2010
Matt Naedel team captain in prior years now coaches the students as they prepare for the exam. The teams start in September and meet two evenings per week to study such things as irrigation, calibration, turfgrass and pest ID and control. Varying turfgrass professors and industry representatives provide guest lectures. Naedel notes, "The students put in a lot of their own time. They are very dedicated and work very hard and I give them all the credit." The students would also like to thank those that took time out of their schedule to help prepare them for the competition: Dr. Andrew McNitt, Dr. Peter Landschoot, Dr. Max Schlossberg, Dr. Al Jarret, Dr. John Kaminski, Ms. Dianne Petrunak, Mr. Steve LeGros, Mr. Jeff Borger, Mr. Matt Naedel, Mr. Matt Neri, Dr. Al Turgeon, Dr. Dave Huff, and Mr. Danny Kline.
Penn State was able to take 16 students to the national GCSAA conference in San Diego due in large part to the generosity of TORO who donated funds toward the student's travel expenses. Students were able to take advantage of many activities specifically geared to them including a student forum, student lunch, and many educational sessions.
Check out photos from the GCSAA Turf Bowl.
Click here to view the Top 10 Schools.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Kuhns, who was first elected to the board of directors in 2003, has been the director of grounds at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield , N.J., since 1999. Previously, he was golf course superintendent at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club (1991-99); Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier, Pa. (1979-91); and Ligonier (Pa.) Country Club (1977-79).
A 29-year GCSAA member, Kuhns first earned certification in 1983. He is a member of the Mountain & Valley GCSA, the Greater Pittsburgh GCSA, the GCSA of New Jersey, and is a past president of the Mountain & Valley GCSA. He is a director of the O.J. Noer Turfgrass Research Foundation and a past director of the Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council.
Kuhns’ resume includes extensive major championship experience. He has hosted the 1989 U.S. Senior Open at Laurel Valley Golf Club; the 1992 U.S. Women’s Open and the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club; the 2000 U.S. Men’s Amateur and the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club. Kuhn's will host the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol.
Kuhns is also a member of the New Jersey Turfgrass Association and the Tri-State Turfgrass Research Foundation. He serves as secretary/treasurer for Pennsylvania Turfgrass Research Inc., and is a past member of the Penn State University Agronomy Advisory Council.
A native of Ligonier, Pa., Kuhns graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science. He and his wife, Janet, have two daughters; Elizabeth and Kristen; and a son, Stephen.