Friday, February 22, 2008

Ontario Turfgrass Symposium Summary Day Two

Ontario Turfgrass Symposium Summary Day Two
More snippets from the Symposium
First speaker was Dr Alan Watson from McGill University talking about Sarritor. See our earlier blog entries about this new organic dandelion control.
Dr Sophie Rochefort of Viridis-Conseil presented information on Lawn Biodiversity-Debunking the Myth. Traditional view holds that a lawn has a lower biodiversity than natural ecosystems. And people tend to think that a monoculture is more likely to have pest problems. Her research has shown that there is a tremendous variety of arthropod (insects, archnids, and other) species and organisms living in a lawn. Given the large variety of arthropods, some of her work focused on Collembola or springtails.
A lawn can hold from 10 to 46 thousand individuals per square metre. The numbers were comparable to the populations in a prairie ecosystem or in a field crop. The population was also similar for newly established lawns and for a 10 year old lawn. Her work showed that even after pesticide applications, the population numbers were affected in a minor way and only for a short period of time.
Dr Ken Carey from the Guelph Turfgrass Institute spoke about his work on “Water Use Requirements for Turf Establishment.” His research shows that although different seeding or sodding methods can be used to renovate or repair damaged lawns, the most critical factor in getting the new lawn to establish was the amount of water. Not enough water and seeds will fill in slowly. Not enough water and sod roots will dry out and die. Given lots of water, establishment is faster and the density will be greater.
Ken Pavely from Dol Turf Restoration spoke about Lawn Renovation Techniques. One of his recommendations was to apply Kelp to overseeded lawns. Kelp is to grass seedlings as Steroids are to baseball players. His experience showed that an application of kelp to lawns that were establishing poorly was able to speed up the seedling growth to the place where the poor lawn was no different from the good lawn.
Dr. Eric Lyons from the University of Guelph discussed root growth. Dr Lyons stressed how “Healthy turf = Better roots” and “Better roots = Healthy turf.” The most important factor in producing good roots is mowing height. The higher the mowing height- the deeper the roots. The second factor is water. The third factor is nutrients. But, nutrients cannot be taken up by grass roots without moisture. Therefore watering is more important than nutrition when it comes to developing strong roots.
Dr Katerina Jordan also spoke on root systems. Stresses can greatly impact the health of a lawn. Stresses can include soil compaction, excessive thatch, incorrect mowing, insects and disease. In all cases, a healthy root system is better able to withstand poor conditions. So while correcting poor soil or poor mowing habits is important, keeping the lawn roots healthy will go a long way in reducing the negative effects of the various stresses and pests that lawns face.
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ontario Turfgrass Symposium Summary Day One

Ontario Turfgrass Symposium Summary Day One
One can always learn a thing or two by listening carefully to what seminar speakers have to say. Sometimes it is the same old, same old. Yet those “same olds” are often the important foundations to what we do and how we do what we do. Hearing them again can only serve to reinforce their importance and to remind us of how to improve our lawn care service.
Dr Tom Hsiang, from the University of Guelph spoke on “Neurotic and Rusty”

After the ice breaker, he got right down to business with a talk on 2 turf diseases- Necrotic Ring Spot disease and Rust disease.
Necrotic ring spot is a lawn disease that is associated with sod and compacted soils. Certainly the conditions at new home construction sites are often not conducive to the best growing conditions for new sod. The roots of the sod have been trimmed off, and the poor soil conditions can lead to a greater chance for infection.
Necrotic ring spot infection often occurs during the spring when the soil is moist, and temperatures are between 10-20 degrees Celsius. Spores or mycelia in the thatch infect the root of susceptible lawn varieties such as Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues. The symptoms may not appear for 12-18 months later. Those symptoms include sunken, dead or dying patches 4 inches to 2 feet across. Typically there is a green center or frog’s eye.
For control, there is no easy one shot method. Basically, Dr Hsiang says there are 3 things to do.
1. encourage deep rooting by aerating and proper nutrient applications
2. promote growth in the spring and fall, but to reduce summer succulence (soft tissues)
3. overseed with resistant grasses- perennial ryegrasses.
Rust disease is a disease that attacks perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass. During the summer, yellow-orange spots on the leaf blades produce millions of spores that are sent through the air to infect more grass blades. This disease’s symptoms are more prevalent during dry summers, even though infection occurs during wet springs.
To control rust outbreaks, Dr Hsiang recommends 2 things.
1. Increase the mowing height as this will cause the grass to grow faster
2. increase the mowing frequency.
Since the disease has 2 week latent period, the grass can outgrow the symptoms.
Nancy Hudson of the Newfoundland and Labrador Horticulture Producers’ Council presented her research on the use of vacuums to reduce chinch bug damage. Her research has shown that vacuuming can be an effective method of chinch bug control. By physically removing the chinch bugs from the lawn, the damage is stopped. However, the vacuums used in research plots are not practical in everyday situations. The next step is to use the results to adapt vacuums so that they can be purchased and used economically.
Dr Sophie Rochefort of Viridis-Conseil presented information on the use of Endophytic Turfgrasses to control chinch bug . An endophyte is a fungus that lives inside a plant in a symbiotic relationship. The endophyte produces alkaloids that affect insect pest responses.
The first response is antixenosis –which really means that the insect pest will show a negative preference to an endophytic grass. It will feed on a non-endophytic grass before feeding on an endophytic grass.

The second response is antibiosis – here the insect pest feeding and reproduction are affected to such a degree as to reduce damage to the host plant.
Endophytic grasses also show resistance to rust disease, better drought and stress tolerance, as well as increased plant vigour and growth.
Certain perennial ryegrasses have been shown to exhibit endophytic properties.
Click here to request a quote online or Phone 905.318.6677 or 1.888.TURFKING
© Copyright 2008 Turf King-Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Organic Dandelion Control

We met with Jeff Watson, the President of Sarritor. Sarritor is the name of the company and the name of a new Organic Dandelion Fungus that will control dandelions and other broadleaf weeds in lawns. Sarritor is a "naturally occuring weed control." This may be the breakthrough that will change organic lawn care.
We first spoke about Sarritor in our blog in December. New Dandelion Control- Made in Canada
Jeff Watson has been working with his father, Dr Alan Watson, the "inventor" of Sarritor since December 2004. Aong with dandelion, Sarritor will control a long list of weeds including: thistle, white clover, burdock, ox-eye daisy, Canada fleabane, plantain, yarrow, Chicory, Canada thistle, wild strawberry and more. It even works reasonably well on wild violets, one weed that is hard to control with the traditional herbicides.

The product is applied in granular form. The fungus is impregnated on barley grits. The product needs to be moistened by irrigating or rainfall within 12 hours. Once the product is moistened, the fungus starts to grow with white mycelium.

The white mycelia will invade any susceptible plants that are nearby. In a few days the white mycelia disappears, but by then it's too late for the weeds. The dandelion will die in 7-10 days when the temperatures are 18-22 degrees Celsius. If the weather is cooler, the weeds may take up to 2 weeks to die. Although tough old dandelions may need more than one application, young dandelions are controlled with a single treatment.

Fortunately, for lawns, grasses have a natural resistance to this particular fungal disease. The product should be kept away from vegetable and flower plants as the fungus can cause these kinds of plants to die as well.
One advantage of Sarritor over the old herbicides is that it can be applied in the rain. Since the fungus needs moisture to be activated, applying the product in the rain is not a problem. However, high temperatures can de-activate the fungus, and Sarritor should not be applied if the temperature is expected to be over 30 degrees Celsius.

Sarritor has no safety issues that some biologicals may encounter. It does not reproduce by spores. It does not produce toxins. It does not persist in the environment. It does not spread.

Jeff Watson expects that large scale production will begin for the 2009 season. A manufacturing facility is expected to be up and running, but supplies may be limited for the first year.

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Copyright 2008 Turf King-Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 8, 2008

New Insecticide Registration

A new insecticide is now available for use on home lawns to control insects such as Chinch Bug, Ants, and Sodweb worm. DeltaGard , is a third generation synthetic pyrethroid that in addition to formulation improvements provides, superior knockdown activity at much lower use rates than exhibited in previous generations of this insecticide family.
Pyrethroids are essentially man made versions of a natural insecticide (pyrethrins) derived from chrysanthemum plants that is found in nature. This class of insecticides generally exhibits beneficial characteristics that include high toxicity to insects, low toxicity to humans and fast degradation in the environment.

By low toxicity, we mean that the LD50 of Deltagard is in the range of “greater than 15,000 mg/kg.” This means that in comparison to table salt, deltamethrin (the active ingredient) is 5 times LESS toxic. Sodium chloride or table salt has an LD50 of 3,000 mg/kg. See our library entry Safety Issues- Toxicity & LD50 .

Here at Turf King Hamilton, we will continue to use organic insecticides in our Lawn Care programs where possible. If the situation is such that an particular stubborn infestation needs a pesticide treatment, it is good to know that an insecticide of very low mammalian toxicity such as Deltagard is now available.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, please give us a call at 905.318.6677 or visit or website

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Does your Lawn Season starts with Too Many Phone Calls?

Some of our competitors are already manning the phones -calling and bothering homeowners about their lawn care programs. Trying to sign up new customers. I heard that last year, one company was offering customers of Company B $50 off if they would switch. So this year I hear Company B is offering customer of Company A to switch to them.

Turf King Hamilton does not telemarket the general public. Your privacy and respect are important to us. We want to treat you as we would like to be treated- and we don't like to be called by telemarketers at suppertime. (We will be calling our customers from last year to make sure that they are wanting to continue to have us look after their lawns for the upcoming year.)
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In December, 22007, the CRTC announced that Bell will administer the Do-Not-Call list for Canada . While this list was announced a while ago, the wheels of bureaucracy are slowly turning and things should be in place by next fall.
For more information from the CRTC about current rules on telemarketing contact What is surprising is that there are restrictions on the time of day that a telemarketer can send faxes, but there is no restriction on the times to make phone calls.
In the meantime, if someone does call you, and you want a second opinion on your lawn, please give us a call at 905.318.6677 or visit or website