GTI Lawn & Garden Letter

Entertaining advice for home gardeners with a focus on lawn and garden care and the outdoor gardening lifestyle. Suitable primarily for people living in northeastern North America and similar temperate climates in other parts of the world.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Brown is the New Green

With watering restrictions in place in many municipalities, brown is quickly becoming the new green. Grass normally goes dormant under drought stress. It is preferable to have decent moisture conditions in the spring and fall when grass is normally growing. We seem to be in a bit of a hot and dry spell right now which means lawns are starting to grow brown. Drought stressed turf is more susceptible to traffic damage so if you can, limit excessive use of lawns that are browned out. It's the growth of turfgrass that really makes it such a great surface for recreational pursuits like soccer and golf.

As we move further into summer, I will try to post a simple water budget method you can use to optimize your irrigation application. In the meantime, save your tuna or salmon cans and use them to calibrate your sprinkler to learn how long it takes to deliver an inch of water and how evenly it is distributed. Simply set out an even array of empty cans throughout the throw of your sprinkler. Apply water for a set period of time, say an hour, and then measure how much water is in each can. You may be surprised. Another good investment for irrigating is a timer that automatically shuts off the sprinkler after a set amount of time. I recently saw an advertisement for a sprinkler you can control with a remote control from the comfort of your lawn chair. I don't get it. What's hard about turning off a tap. Save your money and get a hose timer instead.

The spring fertilizer application window is closing quickly due to the heat and lack of rain as well. On unirrigated lawns, if you haven't applied fertilizer yet this spring, it is probably best to wait until some rain and perhaps cooler temperatures are in the forecast. Fertilizers applied to drought stressed grass add to the problem as the salts in the fertilizer further acerbate the problem.

When fertilizing, select a slow release or organic based fertilizer and follow the instructions on the label. Follow this link for more details on lawn fertility courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs.

The European chafer, the predominant "white grub" insect in Ontario , is starting to fly, breed and lay eggs. If you have had problems with grubs in the past, you have a couple choices. Talk to a professional lawn care operator about Merit, a material that prevents the small grubs from developing into voracious root chewing larvae. Parasitic nematodes are becoming more available and provide control if conditions are right. They are applied a little later in the life cycle of the insect and need a moist soil to be most effective. Watering before and after application is generally recommended. When applying anything to your lawn or garden, always read the label and follow the directions.

If you are in the Guelph area, mark your calendar for Thursday, August 16th when the Guelph Turfgrass Institute will be holding a free Open House celebrating our 20th anniversary. Come out and see the research plots, annual trial gardens, cut garden flower arranging demonstrations, our ornamental grass garden and much more. It will run from 12:00 noon to 8 p.m.

As always, if you have any questions or specific topics you would like to see here, please let me know. Don't forget to take some time to kick back and enjoy our lawn and garden.