2020 has been an unpredictable year with many curveballs thrown our way. Coronavirus pushed the season’s start later than normal and we’ve been playing catchup ever since. Beyond that, consumers are staying home more than normal and not taking vacations, which means we’ve all been busier than normal as well with new projects and existing maintenance services.
You’re focused on keeping your operations running smoothly and making sure your customers properties look great, so grass seed may be the last thing on your mind. Now that we’ve hit August, seed harvest is right around the corner. Even though it feels far off, now is the time to get informed and know what’s on the horizon for overseeding season. It’s coming up quickly!
Let’s talk seed.
When it comes to grass seed there is a lot know. It’s overwhelming. Manufacturers’ labels can be confusing and it seems like you need a Ph.D. in agronomy to know what they say. Many times, it feels like it’s easier to just grab whatever bag is the cheapest. The problem with this strategy is you may end up paying more because you’ll need to use more of an inferior product to get passable results.
Will that cheap bag perform the way you need? Maybe you need to establish turf fast and this blend doesn’t have the right seed for fast establishment. Your customer’s yard might be extra sunny or shady. Does this bag contain the seed culture that performs well under these specific conditions? Furthermore, if you just grab whatever bag is available, you might be missing out on new technology in the industry. Did you know you can apply weed control when seeding? Or that there are significant benefits to using a seed starter during overseeding to successfully establish turf?
We want to get you up to speed on seed. That’s why we’ve connect with Bob Hartman, Central’s Turf Director, to find out everything we need to know about this season.
Get Up to Seed: August 2020
As mentioned earlier, this year has been a bit unpredictable but rest assured, harvest time looks to be just about average for most grass seed crops. And thankfully overall, the crop reports seem to be mostly stable for this year’s grass seed crop.
Turf-Type Tall Fescue
Turf-type tall fescues (TTTF) is a more premium variety. It has gained momentum with contractors and homeowners alike because of its performance and aesthetic. Once established, has a fast green up in the early spring and has a richer darker green color. It is finer than K31, however not as fine as a fine fescue or bluegrass. It grows well in varying conditions from sunny to shady and wet to dry. Even better, it mixes well with other varieties and is heat, drought, wear, and disease tolerant.
This year, the turf-type tall fescue yield seems to be down slightly (10 -15%), but more acres were planted, so the result is approximately the same tonnage as last year. Current inventories are on the low side, but now that harvest has begun availabilities should be ample.
Kentucky Blue Grass. Fine Fescue. Ryegrass.
Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue and ryegrass production should easily meet demand with the exception of a few varieties.
Things to know about these varieties:
Kentucky bluegrass forms a dense and attractive turf and is the favorite and most widely used of all the bluegrass species. It is known for its excellent color, density and texture. Kentucky Bluegrass has a solid advantage over other cool-season grasses because of its high wear tolerance.
The fine fescue grasses are known for their exceptional shade and cold tolerance. They have some of the narrowest blades of any grass type and should not be used in high-traffic areas.
Ryegrass is generally part of a seed mixture because of its fast germination and good wear resistance. Ryegrass has a very high wear tolerance. It is used on athletic fields, along with bluegrass, to provide a more durable playing surface.
As always, weather over the next few weeks can change crop production, but things look pretty stable going into our critical last days of turf-grass seed production.
Use Blends and Mixtures for Long-Lasting Success
We all know that not all grass varieties are created equal. Some are susceptible to disease, some cannot tolerate too much sun or too much shade, others go dormant as soon as temperatures hit 80 degrees, some you can’t walk on without destroying, while others thrive in sports fields. The bottom line is that your customers want a beautiful, consistent green lawn. And they pay you to deliver that.
To make sure you’re successful, you’ll need a product that is low maintenance, drought and disease resistance, durable, establishes quickly, has a fast and consistent green up, and a deep rich color—plus, it can’t break the bank.
This is where we need to let mother nature take the lead. What do we mean by that? In nature you will not see monocultures, which is a single species of grass. Nature doesn’t do monocultures, and in most cases neither should we. Now we say most cases because there are a few monoculture varieties that can be used very successfully in specific use cases such as overseeding in Southern regions during cooler months for a quick green up.
For long-lasting success, we recommend using blends and mixtures. A blend of grasses is the combination of two or more cultivars of the same species, such as an all tall fescue blend. A mixture is a combination of two or more species of grass, such as a sun and shade mixture of perennial ryegrass, fine fescue and bluegrass.
The reason we recommend blends and mixtures is because they are self-adjusting based on the environment. Our customers’ properties have sun and shade, some areas may get more water, or heavier foot traffic. Blends and mixtures are ideal because they are able to adapt to their environment. The right seed will establish in the right place, naturally. Have a mixture with perennial rye and a fine fescue? The fine fescue will thrive in the shade, while the perennial ryegrass will do well in the high-traffic areas.
Below are a couple of our favorite blends and mixtures that are sure to bring you long-lasting success:
- Central All Star: a mixture of turf-type tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass. This mixture forms a dark and durable turf, designed to do well under a variety maintenance levels and performs well in sunny areas and moderate shade.
- Central Liberty Mix: a mixture of perennial ryegrass, fine fescues, and Kentucky bluegrass. This mixture forms a premium turf designed to do well under moderate- to high-maintenance levels, and performs well in sunny and areas with moderate shade.
- Central Par Three Blend: a blend of three highly rated cultivars of perennial ryegrass. This blend is a quick germinating ryegrasses and is good for sunny areas to partial shade. It performs well under moderate to high maintenance.
As we mentioned earlier, monocultures can be used successfully as well for certain use cases. Tetra Dark Tetraploid Perennial Ryegrass is an excellent option for turf touch ups, especially in the South during cooler months. It is a monoculture of a cool season perennial ryegrass that is quick germinating, even in cooler temperatures. It is darker green than typical ryegrass and has deeper roots for greater drought resistance.
Benefits of a Seed Starter for Establishing Turf
The benefits of using a seed starter are simple. Seed starter fertilizers help the grass seedlings establish roots quickly in the soil, which ultimately lead to a thicker, healthier lawn in a shorter period of time. However, not all seed starters are equal. With many seed starters, you cannot apply at the same time as overseeding because the fertilizer will burn the new seedling. This means multiple visits and added labor and operation costs. Additionally, different formulations of starters release nitrogen differently, for an example a quick-release gives you a quick green-up but may require additional visits and applications at a later date to sustain and maintain health of the plant. Again, this adds labor and operation costs, and in the long run may not benefit the overall health of the new seedlings.
When determining the best seed starter to use, connect with a Central Rep to help walk you through your options and the benefits of various products that we have available. We’ll help you find the right solution for the overseeding season.
One seed starter that I will recommend that we have seen significantly positive results from is Hudson Valley Natural’s 15-15-5 Seed Starter Fertilizer. There are several reasons I recommend this 15-15-5 over other seed starters such as a triple 19.
First, HVN15-15-5 offers six sources of extended release nitrogen to promote healthy growth overtime. It is a low-impact solution that relies on just the right proportions to balance optimal health and growth of the plant. Because of this, it is an all-star option for summer stress recovery, its simple organic compounds create a deep dark green and thick density. And finally, its combination of organic matter and phosphorus create rapid germination and root development.
Fall Seed Program
As a dedicated partner, Central helps you grow your sales by keeping costs down with our seasonal, early-order, and commitment programs. You can take advantage of our Fall Seed Early Order Program to grow your bottom line with discounts and extended dating. To amplify your success, ask your Central rep or local branch for pricing and more details on the program.
Rely on Central to help, whether it’s questions about specific varieties, mixtures and blends, the newest innovations, or finding the right solutions for a problem area. We stay at the leading edge of the industry and we’re ready to help you grow!
About Bob Hartman
Bob Hartman is an industry veteran with more than 15 years of experience in the green industry; specifically, turf. Bob brings a solid background in both the organic and synthetic methods of feeding turf and plants. His diverse background and experience on the manufacturing makes him an excellent resource to help you grow your business.
Finally, rely on Central to help, whether it’s questions about the newest innovations in agronomics, organic & low-impact programs, or finding the right solutions for a problem area. We stay at the leading edge of the industry and we’re ready to help you grow!