Spring maintenance for Midwest turf managers
Most of the Upper Midwest received below average snowfall in winter 2018, but it still managed to rattle our bones with long, repetitive bouts of subzero temperatures. As we look to Spring, we’re anxious to jump on something and start driving around on our still-dormant, water-logged, brown turf. Settle down, cowboy! This isn’t a road race.
Let's go for a walk
As you scout your ball fields and other turf areas this spring, start looking for signs of turf stress or damage carried over from the previous fall or winter. If you haven’t tested your soils within the last 3 years, this would be a great time to do it. There are many reputable soil labs that can provide you with valuable soil and nutrient information helping you to maximize the results of your work.
Your Reinders rep can help you with collecting samples and sending them to the soil lab. A soil test can provide tale-telling info on nutrient deficiencies, soil structure issues and other maladies that may need attention prior to a long season of grass growing.
A few words about seeding
As much as I am not a big fan of spring seeding, I strongly suggest you consider overseeding thin areas as soon as soil temperatures reach 55 degrees. In the real world the hard facts are that you put seed in the ground when you can, not by when the book tells you or by what the calendar says.
Consult your Reinders rep for grass seed options that best fit your site and your management regime. Lightly applying a quality starter fertilizer may or may not be a good idea, but having a reliable water source to keep new seedlings hydrated is paramount.
What else should you do? Or NOT do?!
If dry conditions continue, refrain from doing much more than seeding and watering. Fertilizing with a high nitrogen fertilizer should be avoided until adequate and consistent soil moisture exists and soil temperatures reach the upper 50’s.
If your turf maintenance plans call for continued seeding and core cultivation you’ll want to refrain from applying conventional pre-emergent crabgrass herbicides as they will impede new seedling establishment. There are new pre-emergent options available today that will eliminate competitive annual grassy weeds during spring/summer seeding.
If dry conditions prevail, you’ll want to hold back from core aerating, too. Exposing the soil by removing cores will only accelerate the drying of the soil profile adding more trauma to an already stressed turf. What’s more, adequate tine penetration is next to impossible when aerating hard, dry ground. Waiting for good soil moisture will maximize the benefits of core aeration.
A brief word about grubs
Many turf managers were caught off guard last year by a high level of Japanese beetle activity. Damage came in the form of turf damage (by the grubs) and foliar damage on trees, shrubs and ornamentals (by the adult beetle).
Mild winter conditions have resulted in increased Jap Beetle populations in recent years accelerating their movement into the most northern counties of Midwestern states. Their high populations late last summer created significant damage placing turf into a weakened state going into winter. Be proactive this spring and watch for residual grub damage carried over from last fall.
Fear not, growing grass is not rocket science. The potential challenges we face this coming growing season are not insurmountable. Working with a skilled and experience turf professional will help guide you through this process. Sometimes all you need is someone who’ll listen to your ideas and offer a few of their own in return.
There are many excellent resources from which to choose. Your Reinders Technical Sales Rep is an excellent “first call” for help in providing solutions to your turf growing challenges.