Time to seed

As I look out my window at the car-filled lot on this hot summer day, I spot my dark-colored car that I am sure is cooking at about 180oF inside. Fortunately, after 15 years of driving a car without air conditioning, I finally broke down and bought a newer model that has air. So the drive home will be tolerable.

The heat takes its toll on people, but turf around the country has suffered too this year. This is especially true in the East, where unusually high temperatures and lack of rain have forced water-conservation measures that put the nail in the coffin of many turf areas. That leads to a likely conclusion: There's going to be a lot of seeding going on this fall. Fittingly so, this issue focuses on establishment.

Whether you choose a blend of varieties of one turfgrass species or a mixture of different species, you want to be sure that the resultant turf will have a uniform appearance and a wide range of tolerance to pests, will be adapted to your site conditions and that the different components are compatible. You don't want a turf that segregates into patches of coarse turf that mottle a finer-textured turf-as you sometimes see in older, neglected stands of Kentucky bluegras-and is scattered with pie-plates of Kentucky-31 tall fescue. You also don't want to narrow your choice to one variety without having a backup in the mix or blend and take the chance that a disease could wipe it out. This is what prompted researchers at the University of Missouri to evaluate seed blends and mixtures for compatibility. Learn what they found in "Mix and blend cool-season grasses," beginning on page 10.

When you inherit a turf that is hurting but is not bad enough to completely re-establish, you need to renovate it. Renovation is not as simple as scattering seed and hoping for the best. You have to have a battle plan that involves identifying and correcting the problem. John Fech, extension educa tor at the University of Nebraska, leads you through the turf renovation process in "How to: Rehabilitate a lawn," on page 33.

To help a seedling turf get off to a good start and aid its germination and establishment, a light mulch can work wonders. Mulch stabilizes the seed and soil in the seedbed, helps conserve moisture and provides shade for the seedling turf. Grounds managers commonly use straw as a mulch for establishing turf, but it takes a lot of man-hours to chop up bales and distribute the straw. Fortunately, several manufacturers offer equipment that takes the labor out of straw-mulch application. Find out more about these units in "Equipment options: Bale choppers and mulch spreaders," on page 38.

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