Monday, September 28, 2009

Plant a few bulbs this fall – by Cindy Haynes

Want to plant a little something now that will liven up beds and borders next spring and summer? Don’t have a lot of room or time to take care of anything else? So, why not try a few long-lasting bulbs that are easy to maintain? Forget tulips – they don’t last. Skip crocuses – you have to plant a thousand to make an impact. Instead think about daffodils, ornamental onions, and lilies.

These are some of the best low maintenance perennials in the landscape. Plant them in the right spots in fall and watch them bloom next year. Your only maintenance chore is cutting back the flowers when they fade and cutting back the foliage when it yellows. These bulbs don’t need fertilizer, especially if they are planted in decent soil. That’s it! And these bulbs are big enough that a few here or there can make quite an effective show – so you don’t need to plant them by the hundreds or the thousands.

The cheery blooms of daffodils begin to appear in early April. They range in height from a few inches to about 1 ½ feet tall. The flowers are usually a bright yellow, but are also available in white and orange. Sometimes the flowers are fragrant. They are best planted in sites with well-drained soils that receive plenty of sun in spring. Daffodils are not bothered by deer or other animals.

Ornamental onions have globe-shaped flowers in late May and June. Flowers may be lavender, bluish-purple, white, or yellow. Because the flowers are not as bright as daffodils, they won’t be noticed as readily from a distance. But what they lack in striking color, they can make up in size. The flower clusters, or inflorescences, of some species of ornamental onions can be more than 10 inches across and can vary greatly in height from a few inches to three feet tall, depending on species. Onions will bloom best in sunny sites with well-drained soils. Because the foliage of many species of ornamental onions begins to fade and brown when they are blooming, plant the bulbs between shorter plants. This will help hide any unsightly foliage.

There are several different groups of lilies with flamboyant flowers in July. Flower colors range from brilliant oranges, reds, and golden hues to more muted pastel pinks, lavenders, and whites. Look for Oriental or Trumpet (or the hybrid Orienpet) lilies for fragrant flowers in a wide variety of colors. Only a few bulbs in areas near building entrances/exits are needed to fully appreciate their fragrance. Most lily species insist on sunny sites with well-drained soils. Some of the taller cultivars might require staking – so select shorter cultivars to limit maintenance needs.

And finally for late summer bloom, consider the Magic or Surprise lily. The pale pink flowers appear in mid to late August without foliage. The foliage emerges in spring and disappears before the onset of hot weather. A couple of months later –several 2 foot flower stalks emerge, as if by magic (hence the common name). Plants prefer full sun to part shade and well-drained soils.

Try one of these bulbs – or try all four. Either way, I don’t think you will be disappointed with the flower displays next year.

Cindy Haynes
Iowa State University

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's about time for Frost

This week historically brings the first opportunity for frost in a good portion of the state. Fortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean the terminal end to the growing season for our cool season grasses, unlike many other plants and crops here in Iowa. Frost formation can come in
many levels of severity affected by environmental factors such as low temperature, dew point, relative humidity, wind speed, cloud cover, and elevation. Turf managers only slightly control a few factors such as irrigation and moisture availability, applications of wetting agents, and cutting heights of the turf. Frost formation on turfgrass will begin or advance the entrance into dormancy as the plants prepare for the winter months. Though, the main concern that is always on the mind of the turf manager is damage to the plants due to traffic on frost laden turf. This can be a concern on all turfgrass areas, but especially on grass such as on golf course greens.

Pictures of traffic damage on frosted turf by Zac Reicher, Purdue University

Light frosts that are essentially frozen dew on the upper leaves of the turfgrass plants as the temperature approaches 32 degrees. This typically occurs close the coldest point of the night usually around sunrise, or in golf course terms right when you would like to mow. As the ice forms on the plant it begins to freeze the plant cells in the tissue of the turgrass leaf. This weakens the cells and makes them vulnerable to permanent damage, kind of like cracking an egg. In general, most damage primarily occurs on the leaf tissue, but in heavier frost events and on lower mowed turfgrass the damage can extend down into the crown. If the frost traffic occurs and cells near the growing point are damaged, the plant could be a complete loss.
This issue of the frost setting in causes not only delays in your maintenance system, but delays in golf play or other turf activities. The key is that time is money. So, we all want to limit the time our employees are at the shop, or golfers are holding up tee times, etc.
What can we do to limit these time delays? One practice that is commonly used is a light irrigation cycle which contains water that is warmer than 32 degrees to melt off the frost and warm up the surface. The issue with this is that it must be timed properly to not form more ice on the system. The other thing to remember is that the irrigation will only knock the frost off of areas it can reach, so cart or foot traffic damage can occur leading to the irrigated areas.
I have included a chart referenced from a past issue of Horticulture Home and Pest News authored by Richard Jauron. As you will see the data is somewhat dated, but after conversations with State Climatologist Harrry Hilaker the fall dates still are very accurate. The spring dates and growing degree days may change slightly.

As with all issues involving the weather it is hard to tell what might actually happen. Good luck finishing up the growing season!

Neric Smith,
Commercial Horticulture Program Specialist
Iowa State University Extension

Monday, September 21, 2009

4th Annual Assistant Superintendent Tournament

Plan to participate in the 4th Annual Assistant Superintendent Tournament. We are well on our way to raising over $1,000 in cash and prizes. We look forward to seeing you on the 28th!

When: September 28

Where: Gates Park Golf Course in Waterloo.

Details: Golf starts at 10am
$30 covers golf, cart, lunch, and prizes.

See the registration form for all additional information.

Please let me know if you have additional questions,


Friday, September 18, 2009

Methyl Bromide Fumigation

It’s the time of year we all dreaded as kids. The days have become shorter, the temperatures cooler, and school is back in session. However, for many golf courses this time of year brings with it the opportunity for major renovations. Soil fumigants, such as methyl bromide, can play a pivotal role in the renovation process. The United States Golf Association (USGA) recommends soil sterilization during the renovation and building process in order to reduce competition from weed seed, soil borne insects, nematodes, as well as soil borne diseases. For decades turf managers have relied on the fumigant methyl bromide as an affordable and effective soil sterilant.

Methyl bromide is an organobromine compound with the chemical formula CH₃Br. This compound is produced in nature as well as in the lab. It is estimated that approximately 1 to 2 billion kilograms of methyl bromide is naturally produced by marine organisms annually. In the lab, methyl bromide is produced by reacting methanol with hydrogen bromide. Methyl bromide is a colorless, tasteless, odorless, and nonflammable gas that is registered with the EPA as an herbicide, fungicide, nematicide and insecticide. The chemical chloropicrin is often added to methyl bromide as an odorant, in small amounts, and as a fungicide in ratios containing more than 50% chloropicrin.

There are three main factors that influence the efficacy of methyl bromide; soil moisture, soil temperature, and soil tilth.

· Soil Moisture: Soils with too much, or too little moisture can reduce the efficacy of methyl bromide fumigation. When soils are too wet, the fumigant can become diluted, reducing its sterilizing potential. However, soils that are too dry also pose a problem. Soils that don’t have enough moisture tend to allow the methyl bromide to move through the soil profile too quickly. The soil should be kept wet for at least one week prior to the fumigation to allow for the germination of weed seeds. Just before the fumigation is to take place, the soil should be dried to the equivalent of slight dampness.
· Soil Temperature: The higher the soil temperature, the easier it is for methyl bromide to vaporize. At soil temperatures above 40°F, methyl bromide will readily vaporize and diffuse through the air and soil.
· Soil Tilth: Methyl bromide works the best when applied to loose, tilled soils that are free of weeds and other organic debris. Soils should also be cultivated prior to fumigation. The depth at which the soil is cultivated will be approximately equivalent to the depth at which the methyl bromide penetrates. For the best results, a penetration depth of 8 to 10 inches is recommended. Areas that are under vegetation should be scalped and aerified before the fumigation process.

There are two methods for methyl bromide application; the hot gas method and the tractor applied method. Both methods require a certified applicator and commonly consist of application rates from 100 to 400 lbs of active ingredient per acre. The plastic coverings can be removed from the treated areas in as fast as 3 hours per fairway or 5 hours for 18 greens. The hot gas method was recently used at the ISU Horticulture Research Station to fumigate an area that had previously been established to roundup ready bentgrass.

· Hot Gas Method: The hot gas method is used whenever the mechanical application method is not an option due to space, access, terrene or no till application. Usually treats 120,000 ft² per day.

Step 1: T-tape drip tubing is placed at 6 ft. intervals assuring even distribution of the gas over the entire area to be treated.

Step 2: Hand lay polyethylene tarps over the treated area securing seems with quick dry fumigant adhesive and covering the edges with dirt or a layer of pre-cut sod.

Step 3: Methyl bromide is forced through a heat exchanger and into the drip tubing. Scales are used to determine the precise amount of fumigant used.

Step 4: Polyethylene tarps can be removed after 48 hrs. or when the methyl bromide concentrations are below 5ppm.

· Tractor Applied Method: The tractor applied method is used any time the undulation and area allow for its implication. Each machine is capable of treating approximately 1 large par 5, 2 par 3’s, 250,000 ft² of sports field, or 20 acres of sod farm per day. Each machine injects methyl bromide 8 to 10 inches deep through solid knives. Once the methyl bromide is injected, the machine covers the soil with high barrier polyethylene tarps.

Methyl bromide has been a very effective chemical for sterilizing soil systems. However, methyl bromide is currently being phased out due to its potential harm to the ozone layer and human health. Soil sterilization, never the less, will remain a common practice as it promises to prolong the development of problematic weeds, soil borne diseases, nematodes, and soil borne insect problems in newly established turf. For more information on mehtyl bromide fumigation visit

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Here is an update on the hail damage at Pine Lake CC in Eldora by Supt. Daryl Clingerman. The original post was on Sept. 1.

Tees and collars were sprayed with "round up" on September 1st and 2nd. Seeding began Thursday Sept 3rd using a terra-seeder at 1lb/1000 followed by a tri wave at 2lbs/1000. As fairways were finished, "round up" was applied. The terra-seeder finished on Thursday, the tri wave completed the last 3 holes Friday morning.

Tenacity was applied Friday and Saturday at 8ozs/acre. A 20" turf revitalizer was also used to seed fringes, following contours better than the big machines. A 10-50-0 granular fertilizer was applied at 3lbs/1000. all seeded areas were scalped to .25" after brown down (5-7 days) Seedlings were seen at 7days. Now at 12 days, some areas show a green tint over dead brown.

Greens are 95%+/-, doing well. We are watering 24/7, pray for rain or at least my irrigation pump to hold out.

Daryl Clingerman
Pine Lake Country Club Superintendent

Monday, September 14, 2009

Research Update: Keith goes environmental

This week the Turfgrass Team participated in a Great Lakes Stakeholder Forum titled Lawns, Lakes and Your Community. The event was sponsored by Scotts Miracle-Gro and included a small group of turf and environmental groups. Water quality and quantity were topics discussed and how our society is changing the Great Lakes Region. The meeting started off with some impressive stats on the Great Lakes Region and its importance. Surrounding this region and the St. Lawrence River we can find 30% of the Canadian and 10% of the United States population, 84% of North America’s fresh water is located in this region, and the economic impact of the states surrounding this region is equivalent to the 2nd largest in the world.

A representative from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago gave another interesting statistic that 42% of Cook County is covered by an impervious surface. This means that we are approaching half of the land area is covered by a material that does not soak in water during rain event. Roads, parking lots, and buildings are the norm in this county but how can we expect to move that water to the right location when almost half of the soil can’t absorb it? My question is, do we blame flooding on global warming or the reduced ability of our region to absorb the rainfall?

Nutrient levels in bodies of water are also a concern. Phosphorus is the nutrient being watched closely. Several states have passed or considered (Illinois included) banning phosphorus fertilizer application to turfgrass in order to reduce the chances of leaching and runoff. Many people and legislators believe that reducing the applications of this nutrient will reduce the amount of phosphorus that ends up in our lakes. These calls to ban the nutrient for applications are sure to be tough and the strategy for some may be to just adapt (see picture below). However, it is always good to know the science behind phosphorus. One speaker, Dr. Doug Soldat, from University of Wisconsin has studied just that.

I remember one of my essay questions in soil fertility class was directed towards phosphorus movement. Phosphorus has a strong affinity to attach to the soil which prevents leaching, so how does it end up in our water? Dr. Soldat had four key points to make during his presentation, the first addressing my essay question as a student.

1) Sediment (from erosion) is the primary source of phosphorus loss.

2) Most phosphorus lost from turfgrass is during winter.

3) Improving soil quality is the most effective way to reduce nutrient export and irrigation use.

4) Dense groundcover (healthy turfgrass) is good for the urban environment.

Dr. Soldat’s interesting statistic showed the amount of sediment lost from construction sites far surpassed all other sources combined. In order to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering our lakes we should address the big inputs and our efforts on the smaller inputs like turf will only result in minor changes. Dr. Soldat’s forecast is that phosphorus levels in our lakes will decline in the short term. Why? Well can we blame the economy? Hmm, has the amount of construction
declined lately?

As turf managers we will always be asked to minimize our nutrient losses either through our voluntary actions or mandatory. Here are a few actions that I gathered from all the presentations to preserve water quality and quantity.

1) Apply organic fertilizers at rates of recommended phosphorus and not nitrogen (which usually results in over applying phosphorus).

2) Sweeping sidewalks, parking lots, and other impervious surfaces clean of plant debris and fertilizer applications.

3) Best management practices that we have all heard like mow higher, return clippings, reduce watering, and water at correct times.

4) Treat excess water from rainfall as an asset instead of putting it in detention.

We may have heard those points many times but we still see people watering before a rainstorm. Education of our neighbors and friends will beimportant!

Keith Rincker
Chicago District Golf Association
11855 Archer Avenue
Lemont, IL 60439

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lateral Spread of Creeping Bentgrass Cultivars

Many of the new, improved varieties of creeping bentgrass have increased shoot densities and a more upright growth compared to the older varieties. While many believe these morphological characteristics create a superior playing surface, there are questions about the ability of these improved varieties to spread laterally compared to traditional varieties. Timely recovery of divots on tee boxes and concentrated areas on fairways during the fall season helps to prepare a smooth, uniform playing surface for the following season. A study was recently initiated at Iowa State University to determine the lateral spread of 24 varieties of creeping bentgrass (Table 1).

A simulated divot was created by removing a core of turf with a cup cutter and backfilling with native soil. The surrounding turf is allowed to naturally creep back together. The study is located on a research fairway at the ISU Research Station. The fairway is mowed at 0.5 inches two to three times per week.

The recovery of each divot is being analyzed using digital image analysis (DIA) technology. A digital image is periodically taken of each simulated divot. The DIA analysis technique calculates the percent recovery of each divot by calculating the percent of the image that is comprised of green pixels. This technique allow for a more accurate measurement of turfgrass coverage.

The study was initiated on August 3, 2009 and data is still being collected. The study should conclude sometime this fall and the results will be presented at the 2010 Iowa Turfgrass Conference.

Any questions or comments can be directed to: (

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fall Seeding and K. Blue/P. Rye Mixtures

Technically the summer season lasts until September 21, but in the turf industry Labor Day weekend signifies the beginning of fall. Most turf managers welcome the fall season as grass has an opportunity to recover with the cooler air temperatures, reduced disease pressure, and increased rainfall that accompanies this time of year. The cooler soil temperatures also make the fall months an ideal time to sow seed. Soil temperatures across the state of Iowa can be viewed at:

Perennial ryegrass is often included in seed mixtures with Kentucky bluegrass because of its rapid germination. However, perennial ryegrass is much more susceptible to diseases compared to Kentucky bluegrass and monocultures of perennial ryegrass can be difficult to manage. A question that often arises this time of year involves Kentucky bluegrass/perennial ryegrass seed mixtures and how much of each species should be in the original mixture if Kentucky bluegrass is the desired species.

The University of Wisconsin and Purdue University recently conducted studies specifically designed to answer these questions. The researchers at Wisconsin used 6 seed mixtures with varying amounts of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass (Table 1). Two years after establishing their plots, they found that a 95:5 Kentucky bluegrass:perennial ryegrass (by weight) mixture was needed in order to obtain greater than 70% Kentucky bluegrass in the stand. Seed mixtures that contained as little as 15% perennial ryegrass by weight resulted in stands of turf that were approximately 50:50 Kentucky bluegrass:perennial ryegrass. The entire report from the Wisconsin study can be viewed at:

Purdue University is currently conducting a comparable study and thus far has found similar results (Table 2). Seed mixtures with no more than 10% perennial ryegrass (by weight) are needed to obtain turf stands primarily composed of Kentucky bluegrass. The Purdue study is also investigating the effect of seed mixture ratios and the occurrence of weeds. The results indicate that including a higher percentage of perennial ryegrass in the original seed mixture results in fewer weeds. A brief description of the Purdue trial can be viewed at: http://www.agry/

The findings from each of these studies indicate that when trying to maximize the amount of Kentucky bluegrass in the final turf stand no more than 5 to 10% perennial ryegrass should be included in the original seed mixture.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


The greens after seeding as they appeared on Aug. 27

Supt. Daryl Clingerman, Aug 27

Hail damage Aug. 9

Hail stones after several hours of melting.

Hail damage Aug. 9

Damage to club house.

On August 27, I had a chance to stop and see the hail damage at Pine Lake C.C. in Eldora. I have not seen hail damage like this in Iowa for more than 25 years.
Here is a description from Supt. Daryl Clingerman:

On Aug 9th, Pine Lake Country Club in Eldora, Iowa was hit by a hail and wind storm. 12-14 minutes of sustained 2"-3+" hail driven by straight line winds with gusts over 100 mph. This caused extensive damage to turf, trees and structures alike.

The greens have since been cored aerated, heavily top dressed, and seeded to combat estimated 35% turf loss. Fairways, tees and collars will be seeded the first week of September. The course is closed indefinitely.

Daryl has reseeded greens and is in the process of converting fairways to low-mow blues. We'll put up some additional posts as the recovery process proceeds.