Monday, March 28, 2011

Name That Patch – Early Spring Brown Spots

Parts of the Midwest are getting hit with another round of snow but there is no denying that spring continues to inch closer by the day. In fact, before this last blast of winter weather, spring activities were slowly getting underway. Trees were beginning to break dormancy, bulbs were peaking through the soil, and lawns were starting to green up.

This process has already started across parts of the Midwest and some of you may have noticed patches, or areas of brown in your lawn. It’s typical to receive a number of questions from your clients about the cause of these brown spots during spring green-up. There are a number of reasons why these patches can appear and this article will address some of the most common reasons and discuss what action, if any, is needed to remedy the situation.

Dormant warm-season grasses
Most lawns in the upper Midwest contain cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall and fine fescues. Occasionally lawns, or parts of the lawn, will contain warm-season grass species. Examples of these could include zoysiagrass, buffalograss, or nimblewill. Whereas cool-season grasses grow best in the spring and fall, warm-season grasses prefer the mid-summer months and will remain dormant (brown) longer into the spring until warmer temperatures arrive.

If zoysiagrass or buffalograss are the cause of your brown spot there isn’t much you can do other than exercise patience until warmer weather arrives. Nimblewill can be selectively controlled with Tenacity herbicide. Tenacity herbicide will be made available to homeowners later this spring. Consult a lawn care professional for more information about Tenacity herbicide.

Dormant patches of nimblewill are very noticeable early in the spring.  Nimblewill can be selectively controlled with Tenacity herbicide.  Consult with a lawn care professional about the availability and use of Tenacity herbicide.

Warm-season grasses such as buffalograss are still brown while cool-season grasses such a fine fescues begin to green-up.

Leftover annual grassy weeds
Annual weeds such as crabgrass are always a concern and last year they seemed to be particularly troublesome. In lawns that had severe outbreaks, some of these annual grassy weeds may still be present. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about controlling leftover annual weeds. They have completed their lifecycle and are no longer alive. They did however drop seed and you may consider using a pre-emergence herbicide for the upcoming season.

Goosegrass, an annual grassy weed, is still present from the previous growing season. 

Snow molds
Damage from pink and gray snow mold is most evident shortly after the snow melts. The grass will usually appear off-color and be matted down. Chemical applications to control snow molds in the spring are seldom recommended as most of the damage has already taken place. You can help your lawn by raking up the matted areas of grass with a leaf rake. Chances are there is some live turf hiding underneath. The picture below shows an area of gray snow mold on the Iowa State University central campus.

Gray snow mold on the Iowa State University campus. 

Dog spots
Damage from animal urine will definitely create brown spots in the lawn. Where you can usually count on some recovery from snow mold damage, dog spots are very effective at killing grass. The best course of action is to remove the dead grass, break up the soil with a hand trowel or rake and re-seed the area. Note: Seed will not germinate and grow if a pre-emergence herbicide is to be used. The exception to this rule is when Tenacity or Siduron herbicides are used. Consult with a lawn care professional for more information about these products.

Man's best friend.  Undoubtedly charming, but damaging to grasses.

Salt damage
De-icing materials that contain sodium can be quite harmful to turf. Brown patches or areas of turf along driveways, sidewalks, or streets could be caused from salt damage. Depending on the severity of damage, reseeding may be necessary. Aerification and watering (or rainfall) can help flush salts through the soil profile and improve the conditions of the site.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Nick Dunlap
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tried and True Perennials - and Some New Ones Too

Purple coneflower is well suited for full sun areas while providing interest to your landscape. Check out the rest of the recommendations below.

Perennials are often the backbone of beautiful and long-lasting ornamental plantings. As a group they provide colorful flowers and foliage, a variety of shapes and forms, and a mix of textures from the fine, delicate leaves of ornamental grasses to the bold, coarse texture of large leafed hostas. Perennials can also grow in a variety of light and soil conditions. This means there is a perennial, or two or three or more, for just about any location in the landscape.

Compared to annuals, perennials are less expensive in the long-run because they don’t need to be replanted each year and most tend to bloom well with minimal to no additional fertilizer, provided they are planted in good soil to start with. And, they only need a little attention in the spring to cut back the previous year’s foliage before they start growing again.

Spring is a great time to think about designing and installing a new perennial bed. Maybe you want to draw attention to the clubhouse, a tee box or the entry to your facility. Or maybe you have an existing bed that needs to be reworked to give it a little more pizzazz. Regardless of your situation, matching the right perennial to the growing conditions is important for the planting to be a success.

Below is a short list of tried and true perennials that thrive in our Midwestern climate. Many of these plants are familiar and used frequently in the landscape because they are easy to find in the trade and easy to grow.

Black-eyed Susan
Perennials for Sun
Rudbeckia fulgida; Black-eyed Susan

Echinacea purpurea; Purple coneflower

Achillea; Yarrow

Asclepias tuberosa; Butterfly Weed

Perennials for Shade


Heuchera; Coralbells

Mertensia virginica; Virginia Bluebells

Here are some lesser know perennials that also do great in the Midwest. These plants may be a little harder to find, but they are well worth including. Most of these provide summer long interest either because of their unique foliage or because of their one to two month flowering period. Including any of these plants will give your planting a fresh look and be a nice change from the ordinary.

Lesser-Known Perennials for Sun
Amsonia hubrichtii; Narrow Leaf Blue Star, Arkansas Amsonia

Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’; Wood Betony

Stachys grandiflora 'Rosea'; Big Pink Betony

Allium 'Summer Beauty'; Summer Beauty Allium

Ann Marie ZanDerZanden
Professor & Associate Director for ISU Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching
Iowa State University

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March Mega!

I’m on the road this week and my travels have taken me to our neighbor up north. I’m in the Twin Cities area to speak at the March Mega Seminar hosted by the Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents Association. There was some great content on the first day with Dr. Nick Christians (Iowa State Univ.) covering soil testing and interpretation and Dr. Mike Richardson (Univ. of Arkansas) tackling foliar fertilization and nutrient uptake. I’m going to be discussing blog use in the turfgrass industry and how this technology can be used to promote yourself and your facility. I want to thank Eric Counselman and Jeff Ische, Conference and Education Co-chairs for the invitation to speak.

Of course, it wouldn’t be fitting to make a trip to Minnesota in the winter without receiving a little snow, right? Snow is something Minnesota knows well, especially this year. I did a little digging and found some interesting Minnesota weather data.

The current winter is the ninth snowiest so far in the Twin Cities area. Through March 6, the Twin Cities area has received 78.3 inches of snow for the season. This ranks as the 9th snowiest winter on record. Minnesota also recorded the 5th largest snowfall in a single day this winter season when the Twin Cities received 17.1 inches back on December 10-11.

The snowiest season on record is the winter of 1983-84 with 98.6 inches. Iowa’s snowiest winter of 1911-1912 recorded 72 inches. This doesn’t even rank in the top ten snowiest winters for the Twin Cities, yikes.

Top Ten Snowiest Winters in the Twin Cities 1884-2011 (numbers are measured in inches).

1. 1983-84 ....... 98.6
2. 1981-82 ....... 95.0
3. 1950-51 ....... 88.9
4. 1916-17 ....... 84.9
5. 1991-92 ....... 84.1
6. 1961-62 ....... 81.3
7. 1951-52 ....... 79.0
8. 1966-67 ....... 78.4
9. 2010-11 ....... 78.3 (through March 6)
10. 2000-01 ..... 75.8

The weather does seem to be turning despite this last snow event. The extended forecast looks promising with daytime highs reaching into the 50’s and nighttime lows staying slightly above the freezing mark. The four inch soil temperatures across Iowa are still hovering around the freezing mark. These warmer temperatures would certainly change that and would help remove the frost and allow water to drain into the soil. Greens covers will certainly be coming off soon back in central Iowa.

Don’t forget to move your clocks one hour ahead this weekend. Another sign Spring will soon be here!

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blog Use in the Turfgrass Industry

March is officially here which means that another growing season is fast approaching. iaTURF will already be entering its third year in operation! We will continue to bring you timely updates on interesting topics through the blog.

Blogging and the use of social media have really changed the way people communicate. In the academic world, one way we communicate with our peers is by writing papers, or manuscripts. To let people know about the success of blogging as a means to communicate with turfgrass professionals, iaTURF co-authored a paper with the Turf Disease Blog.

The Turf Disease Blog is one I like to follow. Content for this blog is provided by turfgrass pathologists across the U.S. If you’re not familiar with their blog you should definitely check it out.

A summary of our article is below. Click here to read the full article from the Journal of Extension.

Using Blogs to Disseminate Information in the Turfgrass Industry

Jones, Marcus A.; Kaminski, John E.; Christians, Nick E.; Hoffmann, Mark D.

The ability to provide regional information to turfgrass professionals in a timely format can help them avoid potential problems. While traditional, hard-copy based Extension materials can provide a wealth of information, the ability to communicate brief yet current updates can be invaluable. Two Web-based blogs were developed to provide information to turfgrass managers on a local (iaTURF) and international level (Turf Diseases). Data indicated that the blogs reached an average of 34.9 to 148.4 people per day. The use of blogs is an effective means to deliver timely information to a geographically diverse and large number of turfgrass managers.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant