FINDING ANSWERS

pH CONCERNS

Q

According to my soil test, the pH is slightly high for growing azaleas and rhododendrons. However, I was given instructions on lowering the pH to a more acceptable level. I have followed the instructions and for the past 3 years the azaleas have survived, but they don't look very good. What else could be wrong? — via the Internet

A

There are several factors that could be affecting the azaleas. First, azaleas and rhododendrons do not like having poor drainage, and will not tolerate being planted too deeply. If it is not the drainage or planting depth, you may want to check the chemical makeup of the irrigation water. For city water, you should obtain a copy of the annual water quality report. Many water districts have this information online. The report should provide you with the pH of the water and any other chemicals contained in the water. There are water test kits that can be used on pond or streamway water. Irrigation water pH may or may not affect the soil pH depending on the makeup of the soil. Check with local experts for help on this issue.

ULTRADWARF TREATMENTS

Q

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I would like to try the new ultradwarf bermudagrass on my greens, but don't have any information on fertilizing or aerating. Are they treated any differently than typical dwarf bermudagrasses? — via the Internet

A

You are referring to cultivars that have been developed from Tifdwarf and Tifgreen cultivars. Some of them are genetically different from their parents even though they developed vegetatively while others may be produced by irradiating a cultivar or developed because of the influence of a particular ecosystem. In general, they are lumped into the ultradwarf category. Recently, scientists with Auburn University studied various cultural practices. They looked at TifEagle, Mississippi Supreme, Floradwarf and Champion, and for cultural practices they looked at nitrogen fertilization, vertical mowing at ½- or 1-inch depth, core aeration and topdressing. Their results were mixed — more aggressive vertical mowing and aeration resulted in lower scores — the turf didn't seem to have enough time to recover between treatments and maintain a quality putting surface. However, when the turf was struggling under the aggressive monthly cultivation, quick-release fertilizer helped their recovery. They performed better under twice-yearly vertical mowing at 1 inch plus one core aeration and one striping per year. Under the twice-yearly vertical mowing, nitrogen source did not matter and thatch did not accumulate as much as under the monthly vertical mowing at ½-inch.

EXTENDING THE GREEN SEASON

The perfect turf. Each turf type has its drawbacks — too short a growing season, too disease susceptible, not winter hardy, not summer hardy. Buffalograss could be the perfect turf for some people because it is winter hardy and exceedingly drought tolerant. However, it has a relatively short growing season. Researchers with the University of Nebraska would like to increase acceptance of buffalograss as a turf-grass by extending the growing (green) season. They looked at overseeding with fine-leaved fescue and the cultural practices needed to maintain a cool season/warm season turf. Their study included one of the following fine-leaved fescues: hard fescue, blue fescue or chewings fescue at one of three times — fall seeded, spring seeded or split fall-spring seeding. In addition, three seeding rates were evaluated — 2, 4 or 6 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Turf was rated on quality, color, shoot density and cover periodically through the 2-year study.

The results look promising. As you might have guessed, the fall overseeding was most successful, with blue fescue receiving the highest appearance ratings when the buffalograss was dormant. Blue fescue also blended well with buffalograss over the summer. During the summer, the hard fescue and chewings fescue exhibited summer stress, which was not concealed by the buffalograss. In addition, chewings fescue was unacceptable during buffalograss' dormant season.

Seeding at 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet resulted in the most consistent quality. The results for the 6 pounds per 1,000 square feet were similar to the 4 pounds. Seeding at 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet resulted in patches of fine fescue and did not become established as quickly. None of the spring overseedings produced acceptable turf cover or quality. The addition of blue fescue to the buffalograss turf extended the green cover for more than 2 months.

As reported in Crop Science 45:704-711; 2005 http://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/45/2/704#ABS

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