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K-State Turfgrass

Month: May 2020

NEW ONLINE GARDEN SERIES: K-State Garden Hour

By Brooke M. Garcia

Join K-State Research and Extension for a new gardening series called “K-State Garden Hour.” This free weekly series will be every Wednesday from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. via Zoom. This virtual series will provide information on a variety of horticultural topics, as well as highlight educational topics related to plant selection, entomology, plant pathology, and integrated pest management.

Whether you’re new to gardening or have some experience, you’re sure to learn something new. Discussions will be led by K-State Extension Professionals throughout the state of Kansas. This event is limited to 500 participants. Sessions will be recorded and posted here after each event: https://hnr.k-state.edu/extension/info-center/k-state-garden-hour-webinar-series/k_state_garden_hour.html

Here are the featured topics for the next few weeks:

Wednesday, May 20th: Native Plants in the Landscape – Pam Paulsen, Reno County Horticulture Extension Agent

  • Native plants can be a great addition to your landscape. They are well adapted to local growing conditions and serve as important food sources for beneficial insects, birds and other wildlife. Pam will cover a number of native plant species and how they can be used in your landscape.

Wednesday, May 27th: Taking Care of Tomatoes – Tom Buller, Douglas County Horticulture Extension Agent and Judy O’Mara, K-State Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab

  • Many maintenance techniques can improve your tomato plant health, while also increasing plant yield. Tom will cover tasks including training, irrigating, pruning and insect management and Judy will discuss tomato diseases that occur in Kansas and how to manage them.

Wednesday, June 3rd: Making and Supporting Pollinators In The Garden – Jason Graves, Central Kansas District Horticulture Extension Agent

  • Making and supporting pollinators should not be optional since they are essential to maintaining the vast number of ecosystem services we all rely on every single day. Jason will explore who our pollinators are, understanding pollinator needs and what we can do to make and support pollinators in our own yards.

Each webinar in the series has a separate registration page. You will need to click on each webinar that you would like to attend. Please pre-register for each session herehttps://hnr.k-state.edu/extension/info-center/k-state-garden-hour-webinar-series/k_state_garden_hour.html

You can also find, promote, and share each webinar on Facebook using our hashtag #KStateGardenHour and via our Facebook Events: https://www.facebook.com/pg/kstate.hnr/events/?ref=page_internal

Three Steps to Choosing Potting Media for Outdoor Use

By Dr. Cheryl Boyer

There are a lot of choices in the potting media aisle of your local garden center. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can be a confusing experience to read the label. Fortunately, there are three easy steps/considerations for screening the available choices down to one that works for your needs.

Step 1: What are you using it for?

It does make a difference whether you are planning to use media in a container or as a soil amendment in a raised vegetable bed or landscaping bed. Some materials are designed to hold water well while others are designed to drain well. What do you need for each of those situations?

  • Growing plants in containers: Generally, you want to use a peat-based soil-less substrate for this application. Do not use field soil. These products are engineered for success in season-long growth of annual plants in containers of reasonable size for consumer use (very large containers are a different discussion). Peat-based mixes almost always have a “starter charge” of fertilizer mixed in to get your plants growing, but you’ll need to supplement with fertilizer as the season progresses. Old potting media has likely lost its starter charge and may, in fact, become hydrophobic (repels water) over time. You’ll need to spend some time rewetting and mixing old potting media for a new season if you intend to re-use it.
  • Amending a landscape bed or raised bed: Products containing peat should not be the primary component but are acceptable in small quantities. Field soil mixed with compost and perhaps a coarse pine bark-size material is best in this situation. The objective is to enrich your existing soil with natural material that will break down over time and in the meantime provide nutrients and aeration for roots to grow well. Make sure to apply the material and mix/till it into a broad area and not just a single planting hole or your new plants may experience the “soup bowl effect” and succumb to rapid decline. Check with your local landscape contractor to get a large volume of soil delivered, perhaps even mixed with compost from a local municipal composting facility.

Step 2: Understanding Major, Minor, and Specialty Components

These materials are regionally sourced and often composted to reduce particle size. Some materials are manufactured for the purpose of being used in potting media and many more are by-products of other industries. They are all fine as components but look at the label to understand how much of each “ingredient” is mixed, by volume, into the product you’re purchasing. If that information isn’t on the bag, be wary of purchasing.

  • Major components: Bark (or “composted forest products”), peat (this might be defined by type of peat which often refers to the source material or the coarseness), soil (don’t pay for this unless it’s local/regional and advertised as a single-component soil amendment—not as a potting media), manure, sand. Other waste-product alternative materials such as coconut coir and wood fiber are also great to use, but they’re not seen as often in consumer-level products.
  • Minor components: Perlite (little white pellets–it’s for aeration, not fertilization), vermiculite (shiny heat-expanded rock pieces), rice hulls (also for aeration with an added bonus of weed control when applied to the tops of containers). These are the most common.
  • Specialty components: mycorrhizae (symbiotic fungal organism that, mixed in, can be very beneficial in a container system by expanding the root capacity to take up nutrients and water, it’s less effective in field soil where these organisms are already abundant), fungicide (some products are designed to address specific fungal growth issues).

A note about manure and compost: These are good organic materials; however, you must be careful that the source can guarantee the material that produced the manure (hay, pasture grass, etc.) was not treated with herbicide. Many herbicides used in pasture management have a very long half-life and can persist in your landscape beds, killing desired plants.

A note about organic products: While most media components are considered “natural” and are likely produced using organic practices, few will be labeled as organic simply due to the nature of the organic certification process. An organically labeled product is not inherently better than another, though if you’re looking for a bagged manure product, organic will ensure the absence of herbicide residue.

Step 3: Mixing and Managing

Knowing what you’re working with and what you’re trying to do with it will help you understand how to manage it in practical use. These materials may also listed on the ingredient list and it’s helpful to know what to expect.

  • Lime: One special challenge we have in Kansas is that we have a lot of limestone around, which raises the pH of our soil and our water. You may notice that many bagged products include lime or limestone as a fertilization amendment. This is because most soil-less media components are very low in pH, or acidic, and they’re trying to get the mix to be pH neutral (so that most nutrients are available for plant uptake). In Kansas, most of our soils are on the high pH, or alkaline, side. It is to our advantage to apply soil-less products that are low in pH because that will help to neutralize our native soil. We don’t need the added limestone, but it’s unlikely you’ll find a product that doesn’t have it mixed in. For sure, don’t add more!
  • Fertilizer: As mentioned earlier, most bagged products have a “starter charge” of fertilizer. You won’t need to add anything immediately, but within a few weeks you’ll need to apply a water-based fertilizer (immediately available to plants) and/or a long-term slow-release fertilizer product. These usually come rated for months of use. A short-term product (3-4 months) may sound like it will last all summer, but if it gets really hot outside the pellets may release early (if temperature is the mode of operation). Combining a shorter-term product with a longer term one (8-9 months) may cover your needs for a longer time.
  • Wetting agent: Some products, like peat, are harvested and packaged in a very dry state and may need help retaining water when ready for use. This will likely be pre-mixed, though if you can tell it’s very dry you may want to spread it in a wheelbarrow and mix in some water (and maybe your own re-wetting agent) until it’s consistent.
  • Watering: Containers will need to be monitored for water more frequently than landscape beds, but they all need to be checked. This will vary in every situation, so you’ll need to keep an eye on it until you understand how all of the components are functioning together.

Potting media products are remarkably similar once you get past the packaging. Read the ingredient label (just like in the grocery store), find what you need for your application, and then choose the product that best meets your needs and your budget. Choose on price only after you’ve leveled the playing field of similar products.

Got questions about an unusual component? Let me know—I love a good alternative material discussion. Here is my email: crboyer@ksu.edu

Zoysiagrass Seedhead Suppression

By Dr. Jack Fry

Below-average spring temperatures and a lot of cloud cover haven’t been beneficial for growth of warm-season grasses. Nevertheless, days are getting longer, and Meyer zoysia began to produce seedheads in northeast Kansas last week. Significant work was done at K-State on zoysia seedhead suppression by Dr. Jared Hoyle, along with Dr. Aaron Patton at Purdue University. Seedheads on Meyer have a purple tone to them, but after mowing, the seed stalks leave an undesirable white cast on golf course fairways and tees. The plant growth regulator ethephon (trade name Proxy) is effective at suppressing zoysia seedheads if it is applied at the proper time the previous autumn. Manoj Chhetri, a current Ph.D. student, is working on better refining application time for Proxy to suppress zoysia seedheads. The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, along with the Heart of America Golf Course Superintendents Association and Kansas Turfgrass Foundation, are sponsoring this zoysia seedhead suppression research that is summarized in Golf Course Management magazine (link below).

https://www.gcmonline.com/course/environment/news/zoysiagrass-seedheads

Seedheads are just beginning to emerge on Meyer zoysiagrass in Olathe, KS. Best suppression of the seedheads occurs when the growth regulator Proxy is applied in autumn.

2020 Turf and Landscape Field Day Canceled

By Megan Kennelly

The turf team looks forward to the field day each year. However, due to the continuing complications from COVID-19, KSU has extended the limit on face-to-face campus gatherings until at least July 31. KSU has a team working with health officials to monitor the ongoing situation and make science-based decisions on when and how to ramp up campus operations.

Field Day was scheduled for August 6, 2020. The field day takes significant time to plan and prepare. With the uncertainty of when campus operations will allow face-to-face gatherings, especially those of the size and scope of Field Day, we’ve made the decision to cancel the 2020 Kansas Turfgrass and Landscape Field Day this year. Thank you for understanding, and we continue to wish good health to you, your co-workers, and your families.

In addition, although turf research is continuing at Rocky Ford, the Olathe Horticulture Center, and the Pair Center, all centers are closed to the public and researchers must minimize their time at the facilities.

We do plan to post written and video research updates through the remainder of the year on the Turf and Landscape Blog, accessible through our website, ksu.edu/turf.  Next year’s Kansas Turfgrass and Landscape Field Day will be at the Rocky Ford Turfgrass Research Center in Manhattan on August 5, 2021.  We are looking forward to seeing you at the 70th Annual Kansas Turfgrass Conference, December 8, 9, and 10, 2020 in Topeka, KS. In the meantime, you can keep in touch with us here on the blog.