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Pro Tips: Spring Turf and Lawn Care

This week, Ewing Turf Specialist Tony Goldsby joined us for Pro Tips Tuesday on Facebook to answer questions on turf care. Tony is also an instructor for Ewing's Turf and Ornamentals Management class and he is based in Olathe, Kan.

Ewing: Welcome Tony! Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell us a little about your experience in the industry?

Tony: Thank you for having me. I am a second-generation horticulturist and grew up in the green industry. When I graduated high school I attended Kansas State University and obtained a B.S. in Horticulture with an emphasis on Nursery Management. I loved the college experience and made the decision to pursue both a Masters degree and Doctorates degree from KSU in Horticulture Science. During this time I also served as a research technician, maintaining KSU's 13-acre Turfgrass Research Center. I was involved in several projects funded by the United State Golf Association (USGA), Golf Course Superintendents Association (GCSAA) and the United States Department of Ag (USDA).

Ewing: A lot of parts of the country have experienced some weather extremes this winter. Do you think this will impact turf and lawns this spring and summer?

Tony: I already witnessed some of this impact while traveling through North/South Carolina two weeks ago. Tall Fescue which is a cool-season grass is usually pretty cold tolerant. However, unseasonably cold weather coupled with no snow cover led to winter dessication (damage) in many areas. For those managers who deal with predominately with warm season species (Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, etc.), evaluating winter damage will be very important prior to applying pre-emergent herbicides. Most pre-emergents work by inhibiting root growth so applying these before green-up will limit the ability to sod/sprigg damaged areas.

Ewing: What generally should be a part of a good spring turf program?

Tony: Pre-emergent products for control of summer annual weeds (Crabgrass, Foxtail and Goosegrass). Product options would include Dithiopyr (Dimension), Prodiamine (Barricade) and Pendimethalin (Pre-M). Also, post emergent herbicides for control broadleaf weeds (Dandelions) is a must. Products containing 2-4D (Trimec 992 and Speedzone) provide very good control.

Ewing: What aspect of turf care is most commonly overlooked?

Tony: I think the proactive management mindset is probably the most commonly overlooked. Many managers are very reactive and wait to see a weed/disease/pest before enacting some management strategy. Quite often, this results in higher control cost and poor control. I tell my managers to be proactive whenever possible for best results. For key pests like crabgrass this usually means utilizing a pre-emergent herbicide for maximum bang for their buck!!

Lacy: What are the best products to use to control crabgrass in arid climates?

Tony: The first thing to always start with is making sure your cultural practices are on point. For warm-season grasses you should be mowing at 1.5-2 inches and never remove more than 1/3 of your shoot growth at a time. This will ensure that your stand of turf is dense and thick, and will help to prevent crabgrass seed from germinating. For pre-emergent control products you could use: dithiopyr (Dimension), Prodiamine (Barricade), Pendimethalin (Pre-M) and Oryzalin (Surflan). Post-emergence control of crabgrass can be very difficult unless done when this weed is still immature. Products containing Quinclorac (Drive) are very effective when applied during an immature state or at seeding.

Warren: Tony, what's your opinion about fertigation? It seems like if done right this is a great way to fertilize a landscape consistently.

Tony: The fertigation technology has really come a long ways in the past few years. This is a very efficient means of meeting the nutritional needs of both turfgrass and ornamental plants. Additionally, fertigation can be used as a primary source of fertility or may be used to supplement a dry fertilizer program.

Cliff: Tony, Is there a relationship between fertilization for turf and water (irrigation) usage. In other words does regular fertilization alter the requirements for watering one way or the other?

Tony: There is definitely a relationship between fertilization of turfgrass and water use. The application of Nitrogen (First number in a fertilizer formulation) in most cases is going to stimulate turf shoot growth. This stimulation will cause Evapotranspiration (ET) rates to increase i.e. water use will increase. However, the third number in the fertilizer formulation is potassium (K). Potassium is utilized by several functions in the plant to help regulate water. So making sure you have adequate plant levels can be very important.

Levi: Tony, how do you know what fertilizer you should apply? Everyone has their own combination they use, but it seems like they use that because someone else told them to. Is there a way to look at turf and tell what levels of nitrogen and such to use?

Tony: I always recommend soil testing to determine a baseline for the area you are managing. This is especially crucial for managers who are more inexperienced. If you have a soil pH issue (acidic/alkaline) there are several micro-nutrients which become unavailable for plant uptake. This will require applications of sulfur/lime in order to get the soil into the acceptable range (6-7 pH) for turfgrass. There are very expensive tools such as radiometers (Cropscan), which can detect nitrogen deficiency but are not going to be something your everyday manager is going to be able to utilize. Therefore, I recommend getting a soil test so you can get a good road map of what nutrients you need to apply and at what levels.

Louis: What are some ways to control spurge?

Tony: Spotted spurge can be a very difficult weed to deal with. Spurge is a summer annual broadleaf and quite often thrives during periods when cool-season grasses are just trying to hang on. Cultural controls are the best place to start because they are FREE! Keep mowing heights 3+ inches for cool-season grass lawns to help prevent germination of weed seed. Pre-emergent chemical options would include: dithiopyr (Dimension), isoxeben (Gallery), or oryzalin (Surflan).

Post emergent chemical options would include: 2-4D/MCPP/Dicamba(Trimec 992), Triclopyr Ester(Turflon Ester) or a non-selective herbicde(Roundup). Mature spotted spurge can be difficult to control with 3-way products like Trimec 992. Therefore, try to apply when the weeds are still immature for best results.

Mike: Moles?!

Tony: One of the first three options for moles would be using some form of trap. There are three types: scissor-jawed type, harpoon type and a choker loop. All of these traps are placed in existing tunnels. Another option would be to use a poison bait. Talprid mole bait would be one available option. The final option is a sonic emitter which just deters the moles and doesn't actually harm them. These devices emit a sonic pulse every 30 seconds and drive moles, gophers and rodents away from the area.

Ewing: Final question from us: Got any more top tips turf tips for spring?

Tony: I just want to reiterate that being on the ball and proactive is so important, especially when managing spring turf pests. If you wait until they become a problem, it is going to be difficult to obtain good control results. If any managers are unsure of what a good preventative lawn maintenance program looks like contact your local Ewing rep for help!

Join us March 18 for our next Pro Tips Tuesday chat on Facebook to learn about fixing outdoor leaks for Fix a Leak Week!

TAGS: Chemicals, Turf, Social Media