Monday, August 27, 2012


Nick Christians
August 27, 2012

We have a special speaker at the turf club meeting this Wednesday, August 29 at 6 pm in room 118 Horticulture.  He is Mark Kuhn, who worked at the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament this summer.  He will be talking about that experience and about maintaining Iowa's only grass tennis court on his farm near Charles City.  Everyone is welcome.

The information below is a press release on the event.

Iowa State University
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Nick Christians, Horticulture, (515) 294-0036,
Melea Reicks Licht, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service, (515) 294-8892,

Owner of Iowa’s Only Grass Tennis Court to Speak at Iowa State Aug. 29 about Wimbledon Internship

AMES, Iowa – Mark Kuhn, a farmer and Iowa State University alum, will share his recent experience as a Wimbledon intern in a presentation on campus on Aug. 29.

Kuhn, of Charles City, is the owner and caretaker of Iowa’s only grass tennis court.  

He will present, “My Experience at Wimbledon” at 6 p.m. in room 118 Horticulture Hall at a meeting of Iowa State University’s Turfgrass Club.
Kuhn will discuss his recent internship working with the grounds staff at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Kuhn spent eight days learning from the grounds staff prior to this year’s Wimbledon Championships. He will share pictures and behind-the-scenes stories about how the lawns of Wimbledon are prepared for championship play.
Kuhn and his family built Iowa's only grass tennis court in 2003, the All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club, on a cattle feedlot on their farm after consulting with Iowa State University horticulture professors Nick Christians and David Minner.  

Kuhn will discuss how he built and maintains the court, and the role the court played in his receiving an invitation to intern with the Wimbledon grounds staff.
Kuhn grows corn, beans and bentgrass on his family's farm near Charles City. He graduated from Iowa State University in 1973 with a degree in history. Kuhn served as a member of the Iowa House of Representatives from 1998-2010. He is currently a member of the Floyd County Board of Supervisors.


Editor's Note: Photos of Mark Kuhn at Wimbledon and of his grass court near Charles City are available upon request. Contact Melea Reicks Licht at, (515) 294-8892.  

On the Web: This and all other Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences news releases and related photos are available at

Iowa State University
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Communications Service
304 Curtiss Hall
Ames, IA 50011-1050
(515) 294-5616

Figure 1.  Mark at Wimbledon

 Figure 2 to 4.  Pictures from Mark's tennis court in Iowa.


Thursday, August 23, 2012


Nick Christians
August 23, 2012

Each year, our students are involved in internships at a variety of interesting places.  This year, we had senior Kevin Hansen at the Green Bay Packers Lambeau Field under the direction of field manager Allen Johnson.  This was an outstanding experience.  

I had a chance to visit the facility on August 10 to see what Kevin had been involved in during the summer.  This is one of the fun things about my job.  Thanks to Allen and his crew for making this a great learning experience.

I will have Kevin put up a more detailed report on his experience later in the fall.

Here are some pictures from my visit on the 10th.

Figure 1.  This was taken on one of the practice fields.  From left to right are Mark Davison, Superintendent of Green Bay Country Club, Kevin Hansen the intern, and Allen Johnson Field Manager.  Mark helped arrange housing for Kevin during the summer and was a big help with arrangements for Kevin's experience.

Figure 2.  This picture shows the synthetic fibers that are used to stabilize the natural grass surface.

Figure 3.  The indoor practice facility.

 Figure 4.  The main field.  It was in great shape.

 Figure 5.  Allen sent this picture to me after my visit.  It is of the lighting system that is used later in the season to help keep the grass in shape for late-season games.  They do one half of the field at a time.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nick Christians
August 20, 2012

The following is a post from graduate student Dan Strey who attended the Jacobsen Training program in the spring of 2012.  It was a great experience.  It will likely be available for another college senior from the program this coming spring.

From Dan Strey:

The GCSAA published an article in its August GCM magazine on Jacobsen’s Future Turf Managers Seminar.  This past May, I was honored by having the opportunity to attend this seminar in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The article is rather reserved in its details of this opportunity that very few graduates have the opportunity to attend.  I would like to share my experience and urge others to participate.

Jacobsen allows every college to nominate its top graduating senior to attend the seminar that allows the “future” of the industry to become accustomed to Jacobsen’s new line of equipment and technology.
Throughout the trip, they plan several different destinations to numerous turf facilities in both golf and athletics 

In my case, I was nominated by Dr. Nick Christians to attend the Jacobsen Future Turf Manger Seminar.  The seminar started with an opening banquet that included top executives from within the company and top graduates from around the country.  I was pleasantly surprised by the instant camaraderie: we were all eager to network with each other and begin a new endeavor as colleagues, as opposed to competitive individuals.

The following day began with a tour of both the manufacturing facility and distribution center for the Jacobsen Company. Most may think that Jacobsen equipment is mass produced, but in truth, each machine is hand assembled by a single individual.  The once forgotten manufacturing and assembly trait of America is still instilled within this company. As we toured both facilities, it was apparent that all employees displayed great appreciation towards the company and believed in its superior product.

After the tour, Erik Sides, the training manager for Jacobsen, shared his knowledge on the importance of Frequency of Clip (F.O.C.) Most have probably never heard the definition or even the term, however, it’s Jacobsen’s core concept in the design of all if its reel mowers.  I won’t go into the minute details, but it is definitely worth looking into.  I have to admit, there is no other manufacturer that can explain their core fundamentals as well as they can.  

The next part of our journey took us to the beautiful Quail Hollow Club, just after they hosted the Wells Fargo Championship.  The Quail Hollow Course Superintendent, Jeff Kent, was our host and explained the challenges in hosting a PGA event as well as the preparations that preceded it.  The club underwent a complete bunker renovation prior to the tournament that resulted in every bunker being completely reconstructed, from the drainage to the final product. After our discussion with Kent, he gracefully allowed us to demo the entire Jacobsen line of equipment at the Quail Hollow practice facility. Every person was given the opportunity to trial the equipment, which ranged from 100% electric walk behind greens mowers and triplexes to rough mowers and fairway units. 

If that wasn’t a full day, Jacobsen decided that a night at the race tracks would complete it.  Erik Sides took his talents from training manager to acting as “Rickie Bobbie”. He might be good but not as good as Iowa State.  That’s right, Iowa State won yet again. Iowa State turf will always be number ONE!

The second day began with a bus trip down to South Carolina. The first stop was to the pristine facility at Sage Valley Golf Club.  Chuck Green, the course superintendent, was a great host and took the group on a tour.  The course in was in perfect condition and I kid you not, there wasn’t a grass blade out of place. I’ve worked and been at a couple of top 100 courses, but this ranks at the top of the list.  Chuck definitely has his challenges growing bentgrass in South Carolina, but he and his crew are up to the challenge.  A fellow colleague asked Chuck if he would consider changing to ultra dwarf bermudagrass, and his reply was “The day when Augusta National G.C. changes to Bermuda, then so will I.”  I have to admit Sage Valley is one of a kind.

The last leg of our trip was to the defending NCAA baseball champions, the South Carolina Gamecocks.  Clark Cox, Sports Turf Manger, was gracious enough to take us through the baseball and football facilities at the University of South Carolina. This was a rather new experience for someone like myself from the Midwest.  Clark was in the middle of converting his fields from ryegrass to bermudagrass.  The baseball field was still in playing condition and I have to say that I might just have to become a fan of USC Baseball. Just a couple of years ago, the University constructed a new, forty million dollar stadium.  

This trip was a great experience and networking opportunity and Jacobsen truly offers one of the best programs out there for graduating seniors. I couldn’t be any more thankful to Jacobsen and Dr. Nick Christians for this once ion a lifetime opportunity.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Nick Christians
August 15, 2012

Here is a post form Neric Smith, Landscape and Turfgrass Instructor at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa.  It is my first contact on white grubs for the season.  They generally begin to appear in early August and continue into October.  If anyone else is seeing them, send me some pictures.  I'm counting on less grubs this season because of the heat and the dry conditions, but I may be wrong.

Neric has a growing turf program at Indian Hills.  For those of you from that area that may be interested in his program, here is his contact information.

Neric D. Smith
Landscape and Turfgrass Instructor
Indian Hills Community College
525 Grandview Ave.
Ottumwa, IA 52501
Office Phone: 641-683-5194

From Neric:

The Heat is one thing to deal with, but add white grubs and things get worse.  Attached are pictures of grub damage found this week August 5th on a softball field here at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, IA.  It is a Kentucky bluegrass field that was treated on June 4th with a granular fertilizer and Merit insecticide.  The field does have plenty of thatch and the application was at the low rate of product.  It doesn’t take long with 100 plus temperatures(yesterday) for things to turn brown even with syringing.  Dylox will be applied and life will go on!  Just thought that I would share and see if anyone else was seeing white grub damage yet? 


Monday, August 13, 2012


Horticulture 351, the basic turfgrass management course at Iowa State, will be offered off campus on the web this fall, beginning on August 20.  You can take it from any location around the world.  The lectures are placed on the web each night after the lecture on campus and you can watch them any time 24 hours/day.  Testing is handled through monitors at your location.  If you're interested, contact me at  515-294-0036.

The following video concerns the course content.  You can sign up at  The cost of the course is $277/credit hour.  It is a three credit course, so that is $831 total.  There is then a $162 delivery fee for a total of $993.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Nick Christians
August 9, 2012

On Friday July 20, 2012, I put up a blog post about some 1988 work that we did with an Iowa lawn care company, All American Turf Beauty, that involved putting lawn care treatments on dormant lawns.  After that post went up, I discussed the possibility of updating the work in the drought of 2012.  The same questions that arose in 1988 from customers worried about damage to their lawns by late-summer applications on dormant lawns are coming up again this year.

All American has changed their program since 1988 and now use granular fertilizer in their July/August treatments at a rate of 0.5 lb. nitrogen (N)/1000 ft2.   The fertilizer is an 18-0-4 with 50% slow release N.

We applied the treatments separately to non-irrigated Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, and perennial ryegrass areas.  We left an untreated control, and then applied 1 plot at 0.5 lbs N/1000 ft2 to one plot, 1.0 lb N/1000 ft2, and 2.0 lb N/1000 ft2.  We also applied 1.0 lb N/1000 ft2and 2.0 lb N/1000 ft2 to separate plots using urea 46-0-0.

There are two questions.  Number 1, will any of the treatments do any harm?  Number 2 which treatments will prove to be beneficial?

The treatments were applied on August 8.  At the research area, we have had 3.4 inches of rain in the last 12 days.  The bluegrass and perennial ryegrass areas are just beginning to show recovery and the tall fescue has nearly recovered.  We had 0.3 inches of rain on the site shortly after treatment.

I will be following these plots over the next few weeks and I will be reporting on the effects of the treatments as the turf further recovers into the fall.

Thanks to All American Turf Beauty for their help with this project.

The next two pictures are of the bluegrass area by the turf building.  It was completely dormant and is just beginning to recover.

The perennial ryegrass is in the foreground and the tall fescue area in the background.  The tall fescue is recovering much faster than the rye.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Nick Christians
August 8, 2012

Here is a post from John Ausen, CGCS, at Hyperior Field Club in Johnson, Iowa.  John has been at the course for nearly 30 years and has seen everything the weather can throw at him, including droughts, floods, and a tornado a few years ago.  He went back and got the 1988 records.  I have posted those below as jpgs.  You will have to click on them to read them, and even then they are not real clear.

Here is what John found:

I’ve heard weather experts say that the climate in 2012 is a repeat of 1988, the last major drought year.  I’ve been receiving monthly climate reports for the Des Moines area from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration since the early 80’s so I dug out the records from 1988.  Generally, the two years are much alike in regards to rainfall.  Notable differences between the two years were that the golf season started toward the end of March in 1988, which is normal, and started in very early March this year.  Also, the heat and drought was very intense in August of ’88 much like our July has been this year.  So the question is, if warm weather came almost a month early this year and the heat came a month earlier in 2012 compared to 1988, will winter arrive early?  I can say that September 1988 rainfall in Des Moines totaled 2.89” and the October 1988 rain total was just .59”.  I hope that doesn’t happen this year.  We need more moisture than that.

John Ausen CGCS

My experience in having viewed both dry years is that droughts are generally very spotty.  For instance, we were extremely dry in Ames since June, but we have had 3.2 inches in the last 10 days.  We are seeing some recovery.  In Johnson, where John is, they have been dry and received only  0.85 inches in that time period.
In 1988, the worst of the drought was in a triangular area beginning a little east of Ames and extending along the Missouri River from North to South in the state.  Even in that year, parts of Iowa received sufficient rain.  We are supposed to get some rain again today.  I sure hope that this is over.


Monday, August 6, 2012


Nick Christians
August 6, 2012

On July 3, I put up a post about Windmill grass (Chloris verticilatta) and on August 2 a post on Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon).  You will also find several posts on crabgrass (Digitaria spp) over the last two years.

Right now is early August, the seedheads from each of these species are visible in lawns.  I thought it would be a good time to get some pictures of the three species to help with identification.

Here is the seedhead of Windmill grass.  This warm-season grass has been moving into central Iowa and north for the past few years and there is quite a bit of it in Ames this yeas.  It branches off in all directions and rolls like a tumble weed when it breaks lose from the stem.  It is a little larger than most crabgrass seed heads.

Windmill grass forms a tight-knit mass of slolons in the lawn and at this time of year it is covered by seedheads.  (See picture 2)

Here is bermudagrass.  It also has a branching seedhead, but notice how each branch arises from the same point.   It is quite rare in central Iowa, although it looks like it may be expanding in this region.

This is crabgrass.   It is one of the most common weeds in Iowa.  Unlike the other two which are perennials, this one is an annual and has to come back from seed each year.  It is similar to bermudagrass, but notice how it branches off from varying areas along the stem.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Nick Christians
August 2, 2012

Here are some surprising pictures from Nick May, General Manager of TRUGREEN in Des Moines.  It is common bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon).  This would not be a surprise if we were in St. Louis, but is is very unusual for Des Moines.  I have occasionally over the years seen bermuda on steam tunnels or in very protective area, but this is a large patch of bermuda, about 1700 sq. ft., that has taken over the bluegrass in a Des Moines lawn.  This I have not seen in the 33 years that I have been looking at central Iowa lawns.

I asked if the homeowner had seeded it.  Common bermuda can be established from seed.  But they say they have lived there for 5 years and it came in by itself.  Normally it would winter kill if a little did become established, but in our mild winters of the last couple of years, it did not die and it is thriving in the current summer weather.

Because of its stolon system, it can be a real problem in the landscape.  It spreads into everything.  It also has a rhizome system underground.  I have seen it grow under 12 inch landscape barriers when I lived in Colorado.

Hopefully this will not be a trend in central Iowa.  We need a cold winter to kill it.  Chemical methods usually fail.  It is like quackgrass and it just keeps coming back from everything you throw at it. 

If any of reading this have seen it in central Iowa, let me know.

Notice the stolon system.  The only other thing with this type of extensive stolon growth that you will find in central Iowa is Buffalograss.  This is clearly not buffalograss.

 Look at the seedhead.  It is like crabgrass, only the seed stalks form a whorl, they all originate from one place.  Crabgrass is branched.

These dry stolons are what you will see this fall.  Bermudagrass will go dormant in September at about the same time as Zoysiagrass.  It will not green up again until early June.  If it winter kills this year, it will not green up at all next spring.  I'm betting that it does come back.

Nick May:  watch it in the spring and send some more pictures if it comes back.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Nick Christians
August 1, 2012.

As you might expect, I have had a lot of questions on watering lawns recently. My standard answer is that watering is good and you should do it if you have no shortage of water and money.  That covers about 5% of the population.  The other 95% who don’t want to spend a fortune of water or are under water restrictions are generally looking for another answer.

If you have 1 to 2 year old sod or a new seeding from last fall or this spring, I would water.  This grass may not be mature enough to survive and watering will be worth the expense.  Mature Kentucky bluegrass lawns should be fine, however.

Let me begin by sharing my experiences in the last big drought in 1988.  In central Iowa, that drought was worse than this one.  Lawns went dormant in May and did not recover until well into September.  If you remember, we had pretty good spring moisture this year.  I mowed non-irrigated turf until nearly the end of June.  In 1988, I was amazed by how well the turf recovered in the fall, even on areas that had been dormant for 15 weeks or more and had been subjected to several 100 degree + days.  

Kentucky bluegrass has an underground stem system called rhizomes.  These rhizomes are protected underground.  They have a series of swollen areas on the stem called nodes.  Each node contains a bud.  These buds have an incredible ability to survive drought and to regrow when moisture is available.   Most of the plant can die, but if the bud is alive the plant will come back.

In 1988, I looked at Kentucky bluegrass fairways on golf courses.  Where these fairways were not watered, cart traffic had worn them down to the soil surface.  I was asked if I thought that these would recover.  My answer in August of 1988 was ‘no’ I do not think they will make it and you will have to reseed.  I was wrong.  I went back and looked at these fairways in the fall and could hardly believe at how well they had recovered.  

I am betting this year that we will be fine and that most people will be surprised by the recovery when temperatures cool and the rains return.  I have not been watering my own lawn and am counting on complete recovery.

Some lawns will be damaged.  There can be grubs or other insects that damage turf.  Some will lose perennial ryegrass and may be thin following recovery.  But Kentucky bluegrass lawns should be fine.
Another common question is “should I fertilize my lawn at the regular time”.  The answer is yes, go ahead.  Even if the grass is dormant, the fertilizer will not hurt it and it will help with recovery later (see the July 20 blog).  I will be fertilizing my dry turf areas in the middle of August.

I will continue to monitor lawns though the fall and put up some updates on the blog.  This morning, August 1, I drove around central Iowa and took some pictures of lawns.  We have had an inch and half or more moisture in the last week.  I am already seeing some recovery from that moisture.  Here are some pictures from this morning.

This lawn has been dormant by for about 6 weeks.

Here is one that has received some water, but is still under stress.

Not watered on the left, some irrigation during July on the right.

Not watered on left, fully irrigated during July on the right.