You can never be too safe

I would like to know where to obtain a safety manual that relates to landscape maintenance. — via the Internet

Many safety guides specific to certain activities are available: applying pesticides, shop safety, equipment operation safety and so on. However, two green industry organizations offer more encompanssing manuals tailored to grounds care.

The Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA) offers the PLCAA Safety and Regulatory Manual for $25 (members) or $145 (non-members). Call PLCAA at 800-458-3466 for more information or to order a copy.

The Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) offers several safety-related publications. Call them at 800-395-ALCA or go to A list of available publications is viewable on the Web site.

Stay sharp

Last year you mentioned that there are automatic rotary blade sharpeners on the market. Do you know of a manufacturer? — via the Internet

I have been able to locate just one. It is the Rota Master 3000, which is manufactured by a company in Great Britain. A distributor in the United States is Heftee (Oregon, Ill.), which you can contact at or 800-755-7540.

The machine is more expensive than a typical grinder, of course, but Scott Fore, a representative of Heftee, feels that the Rota Master should easily pay for itself in any operation that sharpens around 250 to 300 blades a month. This is more than many contractors will do, but would include most servicing dealers and some larger mowing contractors.

Fore points out other advantages. First is that it saves time. Also, it provides a very clean, uniform edge, and the end result is a blade that comes out more or less balanced. According to Fore, this is due to the fact that you identify the most badly worn edge and have the machine sharpen that side first. Then you turn the blade around and the machine will cut the other edge identically. The result is a blade that is “virtually balanced.” Finally, Fore feels that it offers the operator greater safety.

How low can you mow?

I am looking for the new low-mow bluegrass. Can you help? — via the Internet

I assume you're talking about the newer Kentucky bluegrasses that tolerate relatively low mowing heights. If so, then I suggest contacting your local seed supplier. Several turfgrass breeders have developed such varieties, which are helping Kentucky bluegrass make a comeback on golf course fairways.

These varieties generally tolerate ½- inch mowing heights, and perhaps even ⅜ inch in some cases. However, the key word is “tolerate.” If there is no compelling reason to keep the turf that short (such as with golf fairways), even these species will do better with the higher mowing heights that you'd ordinarily use in residential Kentucky bluegrass lawns.

Pesky nutsedge

In your January 2002 issue, in your Herbicide Update, you have the chemical metolachlor listed as a pre-emergent used to control yellow nutsedge. Could you tell me the brand name or where I can purchase this chemical? I have several customers who have problems with nutsedge. — via the Internet

Metolachlor is Syngenta's Pennant and Pennant Magnum. It is registered for control of yellow and annual nutsedge in certain warm-season species. This may or may not solve your nutsedge problems. You'll need to take a different approach for cool-season turfgrasses, or if you have purple nutsedge, for which Pennant does not have registration. In many areas, yellow nutsedge is the most common type, but you need to make sure.

Sometimes, it's difficult to tell the difference without seeing the two side-by-side, but purple nutesedge leaves are realtively blunt at their tips, while yellow nutsedge leaves are tapered more gradually to a narrow, pointed tip. Also, purple nutsedge nutlets are typically produced in the middle of the rhizomes, while those of yellow nutsedge usually reside at the ends of rhizomes.

A post-emergence option for yellow nutsedge is bentazon, available from TopPro, LESCO and Monterey. Imazaquin, BASF's Image, controls both purple and yellow nutsegdge, but like Pennant, it only is registered on warm-season turfgrass species. Halosulfuron, Monstanto's Manage, also is effective on both yellow and purple nutsedge, and has a wide range of turfgrass tolerances, including most major species. Finally, MSMA, a contact herbicide available from several suppliers, offers control of nutsedge in turf.

Don't forget that some of the phenoxy-based three- and four-way post-emergence braodleaf herbicides exhibit good activity on nutsedges. Applicators who are spraying for broadleaf weeds during the warm season can often pick up the nutsedge with the same application.

For any of these chemicals, be sure to check the label for turfgrass species tolerances and other precautionary information. For example, just because a chemical is safe on one warm-season (or cool-season) turfgrass, doesn't mean it's safe on others.

Eric Liskey has a bachelor's degree in ornamental horticulture and a master's degree in botany. He has been licensed for pesticide advising and applications in California and Missouri, and has more than 10 years combined professional experience in landscape installation and maintenance, nursery retailing, pest management and botany.

If you have a question about landscape or turf management, write to “Researching Maintenance,” Grounds Maintenance, P.O. Box 12901, Overland Park, KS 66282-2901, or send you question by e-mail to

Questions are selected on the basis of current general interest. Unfortunately, we are unable to guarantee a response to individual letters.

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