Palisades Zoysia: Prepare For Dropping Temperatures

Enjoy your Palisades Zoysia lawn in the fall and prepare it for winter.

This year I got to meet and speak to a lot of my neighbors. Our neighborhood was filled with families walking their children up and down the streets during the spring months. If you were like the millions of people that worked from home with the COVID-19 shut down, you likely got to make a lot of new friends.

This year, more people worked at home and spent time in their yards working with their lawn than ever. You may have even done something different like planting a garden or taking on another, unique home improvement project. Now that fall is here and winter is fast approaching, getting your lawn ready for colder temperatures is important. Something magical happens in the fall that causes the vibrant colors to appear on the trees. The fall colors are triggered by a cool front or frost that hits the trees. It traps the carbohydrates in the tree leaves. It is these carbohydrates that stop transferring food into the wood and down into the roots. The more vibrant the leaves are, the more likely the growing season for the trees was positive. It takes good soil health and great growing conditions that produce high levels of carbohydrates to produce beautiful fall colors.

Your Zoysia lawn is a lot like the trees in the fall. All summer, it uptakes nutrients and grows so that you have a beautiful lawn. Then, fall comes and it is very critical for the Zoysia plant to slow down its upward and lateral growth and begin the important work of storing carbohydrates. In the fall, your lawn begins focusing on storing carbohydrates into the roots and stolons, down at the soil level. If your Zoysia lawn is healthy in the fall, it is working overtime to store as much carbohydrate in the plant as possible. This will make sure it survives the winter and has plenty of food supplies to come out in the spring. A weak Zoysia plant in the fall makes your Zoysia lawn susceptible to winter damage and slow spring green up. It all begins in the soil. Taking another soil sample in the beginning of the fall is a great time to make sure that your lawn is getting the right nutrients to keep it healthy through winter and spring. To help your Zoysia lawn get ready for winter it needs to be transferring energy down and not up or out.

That is where soil health comes in. Lower nitrogen and adequate supplies of potassium and phosphate in the fall allows the grass to push the energy down into the lower parts of the plant. Too much nitrogen in the fall keeps the plants pushing up and not storing this energy. Keeping the pH between 5.7 and 6.5 will give your Zoysia the freedom to convert the soil nutrients into energy. Some areas in the southern US have had a lot of rain this year and it may have leached out more of your potassium. If so, that will impact the supply of carbohydrates that are needed for winter hardiness. The soil test will help identify that, and it can be easily corrected in your fall fertilization program.

A couple maintenance points to remember:

Make sure to keep the mowing height to 1-3″ and also put down a pre-emergent to keep the winter weeds away. And before your Zoysia lawn goes into full dormancy, keep an eye out for threatening insects and disease. I found a great website to read about all of the things to look for in the fall to make sure you lawn stays healthy. Find it here.

Keeping your Zoysia lawn healthy and enjoyable year-round is not as difficult as many other lawn grasses. Just knowing some of the key things to look out for is critical. Your Zoysia lawn can last as long as your house stands with proper care. This is the time of the year you should be able to really enjoy your lawn. Always
remember that a healthy lawn is not an accident.

Fall Soil Sampling Considerations

There is a division in fall soils between the needs of lawns and those of winter gardens. Lawns want to be like a bear and gather specific nutrition before hibernation and dormancy. For gardeners and farmers growing crops in the fall and winter, soils want to feast on fertile growing conditions and GROW.

Most people think of spring as a time to sample their soil. While that is a great time, fall is just as critical. Your lawn needs the right balance of nutrients to sustain winter hardiness and prepare for a quick green up in the spring, and your winter vegetables need food now to produce a healthy winter crop.

Fall soil test results give you a two action plan for your lawn – now and preparation for spring. First, you get to address any critical issues before your lawn goes dormant, and second you get a chance to plan the nutrient levels you want for spring. While you may find certain soil deficiencies can be managed in the short term, many deficiencies are best managed weeks, months, and even sometimes years ahead.

A great example of this is pH. You can begin remedy actions immediately, and if the levels are really off, you still have time to do another treatment before spring. pH can be an issue that takes years to correct, and getting started in the fall is the perfect time to take a look at the pH to give you a better jumping off point in the spring.

Another level that is critical for fall soil management is potassium (K). Potassium strengthens the cell wall of the plants. Have you ever noticed “Winterizer” lawn fertilizers? They tend to have a lower nitrogen number to not push growth before dormancy, but they also will end with a larger potassium number. Why?

Research has shown that when the plant has higher levels of potassium, it tends to endure winter hardiness conditions better and is prepared for a healthier green spring up. If you are doing a winter garden or crop, making sure the adequate potassium is also critical to withstand colder temperatures, but those fertilizers will use a higher nitrogen level to keep growth throughout the winter growing season.

Fall is a great time to do your soil sample. Whether you are preparing to watch your lawn hibernate or watch your broccoli grow, a soil sample will help guide you now in the short term and even begin to prepare you to plan for your next growing season – spring.

If you’re interested in a quick and easy, professional soil sample, go to soilkit.com to get started!

The Care of Centipede Lawns in Mid-Summer

With the first half of the year already behind us, the question that’s on most people’s mind is “How do I keep my centipede lawn looking good for the rest of the year?”

Centipede lawns are what most consider to be a “lazy man’s grass.” To keep it “healthy” is the most important thing that you want to do. To do so, you want to keep it simple. The first thing that you want to do is get a soil test sample. A “HEALTHY” lawn is the key word with any lawn especially centipede. Too much of anything is usually a bad thing when it comes to this variety of turf.

George Woerner, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Woerner Companies

Centipede being known as the “lazy man’s” grass means less is better. Your soil sample test results and recommendations will reveal the following about this type of turf:

One: Centipede likes a more acidic soil.

Two: Centipede likes less nitrogen than other grasses. This is where many lawn keepers make the mistake of putting too much nitrogen as part of a fertility program. This is a major reason why so many lawns die out in the winter even though they go into winter looking like the best lawn in your neighborhood. Bad Idea.

This is where I would start:
  • We suggest soil testing with a soil test kit.
  • Follow the instructions from the test results report.
  • Do not put your fertilizer out when the grass is wet.
  • Calculate how many pounds of fertilizer per thousand square feet you need from your results from the soil kit (or purchase a testing kit that calculates it for you).
  • Mid-summer your soil test will likely tell you to put some Iron out with your soil fertility recommendations.
  • Remember the mid-summer and fall application of fertilizer can be combined into to one application or break it up to two applications.
  • Many times if you are low on minor elements these minors play a major role in the health of your lawn. Make sure that your soil test kit provides results of the levels of minor elements in the test results. The minor elements help your lawn uptake the proper amount of nutrients to keep you lawn beautiful and healthy. It is also extremely important to reduce the effects of what we call winter kill.
centipede seed
Centipede seed

Most of the growth of your centipede lawn in the second half of the year should be mainly seed heads. They are easily mowed off with your weekly mowing. If you are getting heavy vegetative growth it is likely too much nitrogen from previous fertilization applications. That is typically not good. If you are getting a lot of vegetative growth in the mid-summer to late fall you need to remove the thatch that the excessive growth is making. Thatch is a major problem with centipede that adds to the winter kill in your lawn.

With proper care of centipede your lawn you should give you years of pleasure and very low cost of maintenance.

Composting – A Tremendous Benefit to the DIY Homeowner

Composting is defined as the decomposition or decay of organic waste materials like leaves, grass trimmings, kitchen scraps, sawdust and even shredded paper and cardboard. Composted materials are a great environmental response to household wastes that would normally go to a landfill and convert them to an environmentally and economically friendly amendment to feed your lawn, garden, shrubs and trees. The decomposing process yields an array of nutrients that your lawn and plants need to flourish without the fear of over-application of chemicals and fertilizers. Composted materials are used as soil amendments for garden vegetables, lawn top dressing or mulching fruit trees. Composted materials are pH neutral and aid your soil in moisture absorption and retention.

Four major ingredients necessary to the composting process:

NITROGEN—Protein materials like new grass clippings, overripe fruits and veggies, non-meat kitchen waste, spent coffee grounds and newly pulled weeds without seed heads.

CARBON – These occur naturally in brown waste like tree leaves, dried plant matter and other dried organic wastes.

WATER —The composting ingredients should be kept moist (like a wrung-out washcloth), not wet. The water source should not contain fluoride or chlorine as most municipal water sources do. These chemicals impede bacterial growth necessary for the composting process. A handy rain barrel works well as a water source. Green materials like fresh grass clipping will naturally add water.

OXYGEN —Oxygenation in composting can be aided by turning and mixing the material several times per week. This author uses a horizontal barrel composter fitted with turning handle to make oxygenation quick and easy.

WARNING—Meat waste, grease, dairy items and human and pet waste can introduce pathogens like salmonella into the composting material. Never add these or inorganic materials like glass, plastics, foil and metal items to your compost.

Temperature monitoring is very important to the composting process. As the micro-organisms and bacteria digest the material and multiply, they generate significant heat. A healthy composting bin will measure temperatures in the 140 to 160-degree Fahrenheit range which quickly speeds the decomposition process. Use a compost thermometer to monitor temperatures. If the temperature is too low (under 110 degrees) your compost material may be too wet or not receiving proper turning for oxygenation.

Composting is completed when the material is a dark rich color with small particles and a sweet, earthy smell. The application of the cured compost to your lawn as a top dressing, as an amendment to your garden soil, and as a mulch in your fruit orchid, is an efficient method of correcting soil pH and adding major and minor elements to your soil. The organic nutrients are in a natural form for easy uptake by the plant creating a consistent and constant food source for your plants.

The USDA recommends that homeowners test their soil for lawns and gardens at least once a year to stay abreast of imbalances in their soil chemistry. The testing process is not a destination but a journey, as test values change over time with plant uptake of nutrients, application of fertilizers, amendments and supplements and irrigation from rain, well and municipal water sources. SoilKit by AgriTech is a trusted source for quick, easy and professional soil analyses. SoilKit tests for pH, major elements of phosphorus and potassium, and minor elements of magnesium, calcium, boron, zinc, manganese, iron and copper. SoilKit then makes recommendations for corrective nutrition based on the test analysis and plant or lawn type. To learn more visit www.soilkit.com.

How To Water Your Lawn

Have you ever driven past a house in the pouring rain and seen the sprinklers also running? How you water your lawn is one of the most important factors in successful lawn management. How much and when are the questions I receive daily. In regard to established lawns, the rule of thumb is more water at each watering but less frequently. A common mistake is more frequent watering sessions with less water, or watering late in the evening.

Here are the best practices for watering your lawn: 
  • Water in the morning hours. Why? Wet grass all night long breeds diseases such as fungus and mold.
  • Water twice a week for around 20-30 minutes so that the water can reach deeper into the soil where the roots can absorb it. Your inclination to water daily or frequently also encourages other problems.
  • Watch the weather – if it is a rainy week, pull back on your twice weekly routine or sprinkler schedule.
  • Look for brown spots. Your sprinklers could be missing areas, you could be in a severe drought needing extra water, or grass that is close to sidewalks or other heat conductors might be getting burned. Adjust sprinklers for good coverage and make sure they are operating correctly. Water the brown, stressed areas separately on top of the regular schedule to see if additional water helps green up the area(s). If not, consider a pest or disease issue.

My favorite tip – take your shoes off and walk barefoot throughout the lawn. If the grass is crispy, water deeper (not more frequently). If you feel standing water or wet/soggy areas, pull back until you reach a happy balance. 

Is Your Dog Destroying Your Lawn?

Our four-legged friends steal our hearts, but they sure can wreak havoc on a yard and outdoor living space. Yellow patches, holes and damaged flower gardens are common problems dog owners deal with every day. Fortunately, there are solutions that don’t involve keeping your rambunctious pup indoors.

Your Dog’s Restroom

When it comes to fecal and urine waste, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Nitrogen is essential to grass growth and is a major contributor to the chlorophyll and green coloration in plants. However, too much quick-release nitrogen can cause burning of the leaf tissue and plant death. When this happens, the grass loses its green color and becomes yellow. A dog’s waste is naturally high in nitrogen and can oversaturate patches of grass the same way fertilizer might. You’ll find female dogs will most commonly create these problems in your yard because they prefer to stay in one spot  when they urinate. To remedy this, you’ll want to dilute the urine concentration. Watering down the area after the dog has urinated will help wash the nitrogen deeper into the soil, allowing it to pass through the top layer, resulting in less damage to the grass and grass root area.

Digging for Treasure

Dogs dig for a variety of reasons. Some dogs are looking for wildlife, others might be digging with the intent to bury and sometimes dogs are just bored! It’s important to identify why your dog may be digging before addressing the problem. Is your dog getting enough mental and physical stimulation? Try playing with toys or training in the backyard so the animal associates it with a different habit. Some dogs dig to find relief from the sun in the cool dirt. Provide comfort for your dog by setting up a cool, shady area with an un-tippable water bowl. Lastly, if you can’t seem to curtail the behavior, set up a digging spot, similar to that of a sandbox. Some dog breeds were bred to dig and that shouldn’t be a punishable offense.

What’s That Smell?

Sometimes curious pups can’t stay away from the luscious flower gardens we’ve worked so hard to develop. While the admiration is appreciated, it oftentimes ends with a sick pet and a damaged garden. As a first step, it’s important to know what you’re planting and whether it’s toxic to pets. You can find a list here. The next best practice is to set yourself up for success by training your dog. Be consistent in teaching them that the garden is not an area for play. If you’re able, grow your flowers in raised beds or hanging containers. Another option is to create a barrier with fencing. This will all depend on your dog’s size and your budget. Lastly, some good deterrents are strong smells such as coffee grounds or herbs such as rosemary and sage. If all else fails, try a motion activated sprinkler system. 

If you’ve solved your pet predicament but you’re still not satisfied with your lawn or garden, there might be other contributing factors, such as an under or over-application of certain nutrients. SoilKit will be able to help. After you collect soil samples from your lawn or garden, SoilKit analyzes them in a lab and tests for essential plant nutrients. Then you’re provided with customized fertilizer recommendations. To learn more about SoilKit, go to soilkit.com or call 1-877-SOILKIT to speak with an expert.

Welcome to the Dog Days of Summer

For years I thought the Dog Days of Summer were the days that were too hot
even for your farm yard dog to be left outside. My childhood Dog Days were
when the days were the longest and the heat was the strongest and even those
hot Alabama days would cause my dog, Thumper, to seek shelter under our pump
house or barn. It was also when my Dad, a sod farmer, received the most
homeowner calls regarding problems with turf grass. At this time of year, lawns
would get funguses; insects would invade; and even the grass would suffer heat
stress reactions. And, it was when Dad had to spend long days and nights on the sod fields making sure quality inspections took place, harvesting turf, and
keeping watch over water wells that would run all night to keep the center pivots
working. The great thing about the Dog Days of Summer is my job was to use
the CB radio to let Dad know that I was bringing his food out to the farm by
four-wheeler so that he could work through supper, and I could grab him for a
few minutes to tell him about my day. I can even remember his CB handle was #16.

Today, I now know that there is a much more scientific definition of the Dog Days
of Summer. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “ This period of sweltering
weather coincides with the year’s heliacal (meaning “at sunrise”) rising of Sirius,
the Dog Star. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Majoris—the “Greater
Dog”—which is where Sirius gets its canine nickname, as well as its official name,
Alpha Canis Majoris. Not including our own Sun, Sirius is the brightest star in the
sky.“ The Old Farmer’s Almanac considers those days to be the 40 days beginning
July 3 and ending August 11 which is soon after the Summer Solstice in late June.

The Dog Days of Summer are now handled on the farm much differently
with agriculture advances and technologies. Dad no longer works the long days
and sweltering nights – as he has handed that job off to the next generation.
Should you need to reach anyone in the field, you can now text or call who you
need with your smartphone, and dinner can be delivered via all kinds of delivery
services. Fortunately, those CB radios have long since been retired. The things that haven’t changed are the tight quality inspections, around-the-clock harvesting and irrigation, and the surge of homeowner questions and concerns regarding lawn problems.

For those who appreciate a good old wive’s tale, or better yet a farmer’s instinct
for weather conditions, enjoy this Dog Day Folklore and a great summary quote
to wrap up the Dog Days of Summer definition.

“Dog Days bright and clear indicate a happy year; but when accompanied by rain,
for better times, our hopes are vain.
Dog Days are approaching; you must, therefore, make both hay and haste while
the sun shines, for when old Sirius takes command of the weather, he is such an
unsteady, crazy dog, there is no dependence upon him.” –The Old Farmer’s
Almanac, 1817

So for everyone who is enduring the Dog Days of Summer, here is my advice:

First, make sure you monitor your watering – not too much and not too little. You may find that the rain provides enough nourishment, and you might be able to shut off your sprinkler. If you do need to water, make sure you are only doing it twice per week and in the mornings. Deep and less frequent is the key. You don’t want the water sitting on your grass through the hot, humid nights. This will cause problems. Next, keep an eye out for disease and pests – this can happen slowly or literally, overnight. You may see yellow or bare areas, spots on your grass blades, bite marks, actual insects, etc. Address those problems quickly, as some can wipe out a lawn overnight. Finally, as your lawn sustains the heat stress, a great line of defense is to make sure your pH and other nutrients are in balance. If you have not taken your annual soil sample, make sure to do so. If you have, make sure you are feeding your lawn the nutrients it needs to stay nourished throughout the rough Dog Days of Summer.

Lawn and Garden Square Footage Calculator

Do you know the size of your lawn or garden and why this is important to successful gardening? How about calculating the square feet of your lawn or garden? Many homeowners struggle to calculate square footage especially for odd-shaped lawns and gardens, but one key to successful gardening is knowing the square footage of the area you are working with. When planning an outdoor project with sod, pavers, hardscape, or even when shopping for lawn products, you need to know your square footage. Most lawn and garden products like seed and fertilizers provide coverage based on square feet. Besides, why purchase more pavers or sod than you need?

These items can be very pricey and knowing the area size is critical to ordering the right amount without coming up short or overrunning and costing you money. Even with fertilizer, it can be tough enough trying to choose the right lawn product but you also need to know the size of the application to make sure the product is applied and used correctly. Why buy a bag of fertilizer that is intended to cover 12,000 square feet, when you have a lawn that is only 2,500 square feet? Purchasing lawn products without knowing your area size is like going grocery shopping and not knowing how many people you are going to be feeding.

Growing up in a sod farming family, our office had a fancy square feet wheel calculator. It was an orange tool that had a wheel at the base and a handle stick that had a ticker number that rolled up and calculated as you walked with it. My parents always had me and my siblings calculating area sizes on the fields outside the office with this wheel calculator. We were very young and very rambunctious in the office and I now realize this was a sheer distraction tactic to get us out of the office, outside and busy!

Since we no longer have time for that and I don’t even know where I can find one of those “fancy old-school tools”…let’s make this easy. Let’s use modern technology to our benefit and use satellite power to assist us with an exact measurement! There are MANY sites out there that utilize satellite imagery for this task. SoilKit by AgriTech Corp. offers its own free tool (www.soilkit.com/calculate) to assist homeowners, professionals and others with calculating the area size.

A piece of advice: there are many homeowners who will try and remove certain areas out of the calculation. For example, one homeowner was subtracting the tree canopy area and I advised just to leave that area in the calculation. Although there is not grass that needs to be treated, the tree and the ancillary plants growing under the tree also enjoy those fertilizer nutrients. And if you have a sidewalk area or smaller area not intended for the fertilizer application, remember, don’t get too caught up in subtracting the smaller dimensions, as the small amount of extra fertilizer can be used on your roses, trees, bushes and other plants.

Here is your test….do you know how large your lawn or garden is? If not, calculate and put your skills to the test and double check!

Is Overwatering Killing Your Grass?

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Over the last week I have received numerous pictures of the same story….yellow spots in the lawns. My first question is, “How often and when do you water your lawn?” When the response is “everyday” during a period of long hot and wet days, I suspected overwatering has been creating a disease-prone situation. Then I proceed to explain that a good thing – water – can be a bad thing. FUNGUS is taking over in lawns across America. WHY? Because too much water, high heat, and stress are a growing field for fungus.

Homeowners get rather confused when I explain yellowing, dead spots and even spots on the grass blades are a fungus. The stereotype fungus in a homeowner’s mind is a mushroom, but, in fact, a fungus (disease) in a lawn takes many forms. Take a look at these pictures from our SoilKit customers who have shared pictures with us of their lawns. We have a gallery growing and we love getting pictures from our customers!

How do you combat fungus? Best lawn practices:
  1. Water correctly – Watch your water schedule. Avoid overwatering by watering less frequently (twice a week) deeper, instead of more frequently and lighter. Also, run the water in the morning and not at night. Now, I like to tell homeowners to use common sense and the bottom of their feet as test sensors. Keep an eye on all the rain fall and when in doubt, take your shoes off and walk across your grass, if it is crispy, it needs a bit more, if it is soggy, pull back on the water.
  2. Always mow with sharp mower blades and only take 1/3 of the blade off with every mow. You don’t want a bunch of thatch collecting.
  3. Make sure the lawn nutrient levels are in balance for optimal plant uptake – remember here – too little or too much can be a bad thing. Always keep an eye on the recommendations from your regular lab-based soil tests and follow a healthy annual lawn care fertilize schedule.
  4. If you suspect a lawn disease, stop by your local garden center and get a good fungicide to treat the area.

Share with us pics of your lawn fungus! We would love to hear more about your problems and help you in finding a solution. Email those pics to info@soilkit.com!

Foley, AL based AgriTech Corp. Announces Appointment of Greg Fehr as National Sales Manager:

Foley, Alabama – June 9, 2020 – AgriTech Corp announced today that it has appointed Greg Fehr as its new National Sales Manager. As part of AgriTech, Fehr will manage sales of SoilKit, a lab-based soil testing program for homeowners and landscapers which provides retailers with a valuable tool for increasing fertilizer sales, establishing professional credibility with their customers, and helping them to achieve exceptional results in their gardening and landscaping projects.

“Greg brings experience, enthusiasm and expertise in the lawn and garden industry to our team,” said the AgriTech Corp. CEO Christina Woerner McInnis. “We’re thrilled to have him join our team and help us share the professional soil testing available to the home market.”

Fehr entered the industry years ago with the introduction of Tetra Pond, and most recently served as VP of Sales for GTX Turf Farms LP/Grotrax. While working in supply-side roles for much of his career, Fehr also owned two Do It Best Corp. hardware stores in Ventura and Santa Barbara, CA. 

“My experience as both a supplier and a retailer gives me a real world perspective of win/win partnerships,” said Fehr. “Retailers are bombarded non-stop with interruptions and obstacles. Moving the needle with new products or programs is rarely easy.”

SoilKit by AgriTech Corp. is a tool to increase fertilizer sales and establish professional credibility with consumers.  It empowers homeowners and landscapers to obtain lab-based soil tests that produce robust, easy-to-read reports. SoilKit calculates and recommends fertilizer and nutrients based on test results and the products you carry. Because it recommends only what the soil needs, SoilKit also helps environmental stewardship, protecting forests and waterways from unnecessary fertilizer applications.  Farmers know the value of soil testing before fertilizing. SoilKit brings this opportunity and benefits to the lawn and garden industry, homeowners and landscapers.