Monthly Archives: July 2013

Combat Army Worm, Lawn Beetles, Caterpillars and Larvae

Lawn grubs is a generic term used by Australians for lawn beetles, caterpillars, and larvae. Proper identification is the first step to controlling them. Army worm, a caterpillar type, is probably the one that strikes fear into most lawn owners.  Army worm is a perfect name, as they move by the thousands from one lawn to the next. You will usually notice when you have them. This is what they look like. (Pictured Below)

How To Get Rid Of Army Worm



Click on the photo to watch these demonstrations on Video

If you see brown patches appearing from mid to late summer and you suspect its caused by army worm, flood the area with water and they will come to the surface. Although they may occasionally attack a Zoysia lawn, they generally prefer other types of lawn including Buffalo, Kikuyu, and Couch. There are various forms of controls that you can buy to kill these pests. Apply them just before dusk and repeat weekly until they are dead.

The other lawn damaging caterpillar in Australia is the Sod Webworm. They harm cool season turf types far more, but still can cause significant damage to warm season lawns like buffalo, Kikuyu and Couch, but rarely Zoysia. If you see dead patches and silken webs on the lawn in the morning, you may have web worm. After applying the chemical to kill lawn web worm, water it in well.

Not all lawn pests are caterpillars. Black beetle can cause damage if they are in large numbers. In smaller populations they rarely cause significant damage. Black Beetles start life as a curl grub or c shaped larvae. At the black beetle stage they may eat your ornamental plants and a little of your lawn, but its at the larvae stage in Spring and Autumn that they live under your turf and eat the roots and rhyzomes of your lawn. If Black beetle is causing significant damage, then an  inexpensive powder insecticide can be applied to the soil and watered in whenever the pests are active.

Lawn diseases in Australia can make a lawn look unsightly, but if you have a Couch, Kikuyu, Buffalo, or Zoysia type lawn, then the damage will rarely be widespread and irreversible. Cool climate turf types like Fescue, Rye Grass, and Kentucky Bluegrass can be damaged far more by disease, and can sometimes be wiped out, as they generally do not repair themselves well.

With warm season lawns, fungus diseases such as grey leaf spot, or Dollar spot can sometimes cause unsightly problems, usually in summer, so if the disease bothers you, use a Fungicide treatment.

The best way to keep these insects and diseases away from your lawn is to do proper maintenance, proper watering, proper mowing, proper fertilising and so on, but sometimes even with that, insects and disease can cause significant damage so be vigilant, treat infestations, but don’t panic.

A well maintained lawn can better stand up to the abuse of insects and diseases. If insect or disease damage does occur, fertilise and water the lawn well, and you will find it will generally repair itself.

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Lawn Mowing Tips – How To Mow Your Lawn PROPERLY!

Mowing a lawn sounds easy, right. Start the mower. Push it over the lawn. True, but if you want a healthier, better looking lawn, there’s a lot more to it.

How High Should I Mow My Lawn

Click on the photo to watch these demonstrations on Video

The first thing to remember is to mow often enough that you never remove more than one-third of the lawns height. Apart from mowing safely, one of the most important aspects of mowing is to get the height of cut right. In Perth people tend to mow really short compared to the rest of the country. They have free draining soils, and watering systems, so they can get away with it. In the east, most people don’t install a watering system, so making sure that the lawn is drought tolerant is our main tip.

That can be achieved by simply raising the mower height. A buffalo or Zoysia lawn mown 3 notches from the bottom is going to need more water than one mown on notch 5. Notch 5 or 6 is recommended for Buffalo or Zoysia turf. Couch and Kikuyu can be mown on a lower notch such as notch 4 or 5, but they can also work at the higher notches. Getting the exact notch setting can be difficult as each lawn is a little different, so start with these settings and adjust up or down accordingly. Your lawn may have a lot of thatch, so a higher setting maybe needed.

Shade is one area where it pays to mow higher. Notch 6 or 7 should be the minimum.  The extra leaf allows a lawn to tolerate lower light conditions. There are times however that you do want to drop the height of the mower much lower. Each Spring is a good time to de-thatch your lawn, and your lawn mower is a perfect tool for the job. Drop the mower to Notch 2 for Buffalo and Zoysia, and 1 or 2 for Couch, and Kikuyu. Never do this to a fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, or Rye grass lawns. When scalping make sure you collect all the clippings, and then afterwards, fertilise with a good slow release fertiliser.

Thatch build up is easy to recognize, because your lawn starts to feel like a sponge. After scalping, your lawn will look untidy for 2 to 3 weeks, but new shoots will pop up everywhere, and when you resume your taller mowing heights, you will not only notice the mower easier to push, but the real benefit will be that all those dead layers of grass have been removed, and your lawn will behave like a young fresh lawn again. Using the mulching part of your mower will help improve your lawns health with the clippings being mulched into tiny pieces that will help feed you lawn with nutrients.

Mulch mowing makes lawn care easier, with less time spent emptying the catcher and trying to dispose of the clippings. But remember if the lawn is wet, or if the lawn is too long, don’t mulch mow, use the catcher. Try to avoid mowing when the grass is wet, instead try to wait for it to dry. But as we know, that is often easier said than done. If you have to mow when wet, catch the clippings, and empty the catcher more often, making sure you clean the shoot after each time. Make sure your blades are sharp because sharp blades cut wet grass much better.

One good tip is to mow in passes less than half the width of the mower to minimise clumping and keep the blades turning fast and at the same time mow taller than you normally would. Whether it’s wet or dry, never leave clumps of grass sitting on your lawn. Either rake them up, pick them up, or mow over them again collecting them in your catcher.

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Choosing The Right Lawn For Your Situation

Choosing the right lawn for your situation depends on the level of shade, how much wear, desired maintenance, aesthetics, available water, where you live and off course cost.

Choosing The Right Turf

Firstly if you have more than 70% shade no true grass will work. Go instead for a ground cover such is the spreading fine leaf lily turf called Isabella® Liriope muscari ‘LIRF’ PBR. This is a mow once per year lawn that needs to be planted by plugs, or small pots.

If you have between 45% and 70 % shade you’ll want to choose a Buffalo type. Buffalo however does also work well in full sun, and is the most popular lawn type in Australia, so it ticks most of the boxes, and can be used in most situations.

Choosing which type of Buffalo can be confusing, particularly with all the advertising hype surrounding Buffalo turf. The most tested and proven types are un-doubtably Palmetto, Sir Walter, and Sapphire. All three are good lawns.

Research has shown Palmetto is clearly the lowest maintenance Buffalo, requiring far less mowing and edging, and it also has the best winter colour. In fact, it is the biggest selling lawn in the world.

Sir Walter is a solid Buffalo, and has become quite popular, but often it is more expensive than the others. Sapphire has the same basic benefits as Sir Walter but with a much finer leaf and according to department of Primary Industries shade research data, is the best in shade. These three types of buffalo are soft so they are low allergenic. Some buffalo types like the old common Sydney buffalo have Scratchy barbs further down the leaf so make sure you choose a soft one. Also avoid thatchy and spongey types.

As impressive as Buffalo is, there are some circumstances where other turf types are better. If you have a dog, and it’s a sunny yard with very little shade, then Kikuyu is the best. Kikuyu is also the cheapest grass, but be warned it is a lot of work.

Kenda Kikuyu has the best winter colour of any drought tolerant turf and best of all, it has 4 times as many underground runners, which really helps it cope with rampaging dogs. If you don’t have a dog in your back yard, go for another grass. (unless you love to use your mower?)

If you want the ultimate low maintenance drought tolerant lawn, go for a Zoysia. For full sun to 40% shade, this lawn will provide you with a lot more free time. Probably the most impressive things about a Zoysia Lawn, is the fact that they are more lawn grub resistant, and that they are so wear tolerant. There are 2 types widely sold in Australia. Empire is well known, and has the nick name EZ grass. It needs a third the mowing of Kikuyu, and 30% less than Buffalo. Nara, is the other, and it is Australia’s only instant lawn native turf. This Aussie native is real toughy, yet truly beautiful.

There are more lawn types than this, but most are not as suitable for home lawns except for very specific use. Couch due to its tendency to scalp, and poor home performance is best left for high maintenance sporting fields, and Tall fescue needs way too much water for the Australian home lawn, unless you live in a high rainfall colder climate.  Queensland Blue couch lets weeds in too easy, but it is pretty drought tolerant.

Click here for more detailed information about each lawn.




Watering and Fertilising Your Lawn

Watering and Fertilising Your Lawn

Just like people, your established lawn needs a feed and a drink to remain healthy. The key is to water and feed the right way. When done properly, it’s probably less than you think. Unless you live somewhere that gets very little summer rainfall such as Perth, you can get away without a watering system. Whether you use a hose and sprinkler, or a system, big deep waterings less frequently are much better than lots of small shallow irrigating. Sure sometimes water restrictions makes that hard, but if you can water deep, the roots grow deeper, making your lawn more drought tough.

Watering and Fertilising Tips For Your Lawn

With warm season turf like Buffalo, Couch, Kikuyu and Zoysia, I usually let the lawn tell me when it’s thirsty. The leaves on the lawn will wilt slightly and that for me says water. On the east coast it usually takes 6 to 10 days without water in the heat of summer to do that. Then its time to water, but make sure it’s a deep water. This method uses far less water over a year than more frequent short watering. In fact I generally only water my lawns about 6 to 10 times per year. The rain does the rest.

Did you know research proved that a one or 2 year old lawn uses more water than many drought tolerant plants, but  a 4 year old lawn uses about half the water of plants. Its all about the deep watering, and deep roots. Soils often become water repelling; meaning no matter how much you irrigate the water won’t get into the soil properly. So make sure you use a wetting agent in Spring, and Summer. You can use a stand alone type, or you can try a fertilizer that comes with a wetting agent.

The best product to fertilise with is a good slow release fertiliser. The only thing better is one with a wetting agent. Slow release fertilizer will not burn your lawn, and it will keep working for 2 to 3 months. A standard fertiliser can burn, and only hangs around for a few days to a week, and often is dissolved into run off water, washing down drains and polluting our storm-water. Fertilise in Early Spring, then a lower application in Summer if you desire a darker green lawn at that time of the year.

Did you know the most important fertilise every year is the one in Autumn. It’s the one that gets your grass through the long winter months, and gives it enough energy to start growing again next spring.

For more detailed information download this watering and fertilising PDF

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How To Kill Weeds In Your Lawn With or Without Chemicals

Don’t you hate it? Weeds in your lawn. Nothing looks worse. Luckily most can be controlled easily with chemicals. Of course, some people don’t want to use chemicals so we even have some tips for you.

Killing And Keeping Weeds Out Of Your Lawn

The best 2 ways to prevent weeds is to mow regularly and choose a lawn like Buffalo or Zoysia that competes well with weeds.

But even doing that you still sometimes get nasty little invaders. Broad leaf weeds are easy to identify and easy to kill. The have broad, generally flat leaves and can be sprayed out of your lawn with chemicals such as Bromoxynil mcpa often sold under the brand bindi eye killer.

If you have buffalo turf make sure you use one compatible with buffalo. If you don’t like chemicals try pulling the weeds out or using steam or hot water on them. Doing the hot shoe shuffle over bindi eye is every kid’s nightmare.

To kill these nasty broad leaf bindi eye weeds before they bother you keep an eye out for them in winter, before the prickles develop. It may be necessary to spray then 2 or 3 times as the seeds germinate at different times over winter. The only good bindi is a dead bindi.

The key for controlling weeds in general is to stop the next generation by killing weeds before they seed. Grass weeds are the hardest to kill annual grass weeds grow really quickly but at least they die each year.

Long lived grass weeds like paspalum are really hard to get rid of. The easiest way to remove them is to chip them before they seed but if you have too many, my favourite method is to use a wick wiper filled with round up. Simply wipe the herbicide on the weed and it will die.

You may have to repeat this in a few weeks. Make sure you don’t get any on your lawn.

Sometimes you get Kikuyu in your buffalo lawn. To kill it I lay down flat and paint round up on each leaf making sure I wear a glove to protect my skin.

If you have lots of grass weeds in Empire, Nara Zoysia or Couch turf, you can hire a weed specialist to spray the grass weeds. They can even kill Kikuyu. They use specialist chemicals but remember…

A good healthy regularly mown lawn particularly buffalo and Zoysia will generally out compete weeds.

For more detailed information download this PDF

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Laying A New Lawn That Is Healthy Begins With The Soil | 3 basic Methods

Laying a new lawn that is healthy all starts with the soil and there are 3 basic methods you can use to prepare the soil. 

Laying A New Lawn

Choosing the correct method depends on budget and the condition of the soil to begin with. First you must kill any grass or weeds with Glyphosate. If you are lucky enough to have good soil then simply hire a sub contractor with a tractor rotary hoe or hire a small one from a rental company to loosen the soil bed to at least a hundred millimetres and a maximum of 200 millimetres.

Then rake out any dead foliage if necessary and level the ground. If the soil is a clay type or a sandy type or relatively poor in any other way then buy in some organic soil conditioner. Use at least 2 cubic metres per hundred square metres. Spread this over the soil. If it is a clay type use Gypsum as well. Use a rotary hoe to mix this well in to the ground and then rake the ground smooth.

Hiring a skid steer to do the work is another method. If you prefer you could get a contractor to do the prep work and make life easier for your self. Make sure the operator rips the existing soil well first, loosening the base. A hard compacted sub soil is the last thing your lawn needs. Then order 7 cubic metres of good organic soil blend per hundred square metres of ground. Make sure it has a decent amount of organics in it. Spread this with a skid steer making sure the finish is smooth. In some areas you may need to rake smooth with the back or front of the rake.

Turf is the best and safest way to install a lawn. Laying turf is really easy. Simply lay one roll around the outside and then fill in the area with turf all going one way. Patch up any gaps, roll the lawn if you can and water in well.

On hot days water the turf in sections as you lay it. Don’t fertilise until a month after the turf is laid. University research proves that the turf receives no benefit from fertiliser until a month after laying. Then use a good slow release type.

For the first 2 weeks the lawn can not dry out. On a hot day in summer that may mean watering 3 times per day or on a milder day once per day. After 2 weeks, watering can often be reduced to every second or 3rd day.

Click here and check out this video which shows you how to lay turf properly. Also on the next page you’ll find a link to a PDF that he talks about in the video called Creating a Healthy Lawn Starts with the soil.





Fertilising lawns in winter! Is it more important than spring and summer fertilising?

Fertilising lawns in winter!

Is it more important than spring and summer fertilising.

By Todd Layt

Most Aussies have been fertilising at the wrong times of the year. Highlighted in research,  our relatively warm winter climate, plus our change in turf types are reasons why we should be fertilising in winter, and less in Spring and Summer. This research conducted by Ozbreed has shown – even in frost prone areas – that it’s possible to keep Buffalo, Kikuyu and Zoysia turf green all year round when following optimum fertiliser applications and certain mowing practices. This research has designed recipes to keep these turf types green all year round in many parts of Australia, using specialized fertiliser formulations.

Fertilising Lawns

Most Australian studies of winter fertilising warm season turf have been conducted on couch turf, which in this study showed poor results. Most USA and other overseas research on winter fertilising has been conducted in regions that reach minus 10 Celsius or colder in winter, yet have warm temperatures for the rest of the year: regions such as Florida, Texas, and Georgia in the USA. In these regions winter fertilising can cause winter kill. In Australia, only climatic regions similar to Canberra, and Armidale get that cold and have the potential for winter kill if fertilised in winter. For the rest, like Melbourne, Sydney (Including frost affected Western Sydney where the research was conducted), Perth, Adelaide, and Brisbane; this research unlocks the true potential of keeping lawns green in winter.

In brief, the research involved fertilising replicated plots of numerous turf types with many different timing combinations, using a specialized autumn and winter blend of slow and quick release fertiliser and iron. Earlier research highlighted that a product called 2 Spec Elevate from Globe, provided the best performance for winter colour compared to other fertilisers tested. Large areas around Ozbreed trial gardens were also tested, including shaded areas. Some areas were not fertilised at all, whilst others had either regular Autumn fertiliser, or heavy autumn fertiliser. Parts of these areas then either got no fertiliser in winter, or a heavy fertiliser in winter.

The results were unexpected…read more

New Plants win Gold and Silver Awards from the NSW Nursery Industry

Two ornamental plants have received industry recognition by winning Gold and Silver awards and critical acclaim from the NSW nursery industry. The plants were submitted by Kenthurst Nursery, a wholesale nursery at Kenthurst, and Ozbreed, a plant and turf breeder at Clarendon. Both nurseries are based in north-west Sydney.

The awards were presented at the recent Green Expo Sydney (GES), convened by the Nursery and Garden Industry Association of NSW. The Expo brought together plant growers and suppliers to the nursery and landscape industry, who showcased their wares to garden centre owners, managers and staff, as well as to horticulturists, landscapers, students and the gardening media.

The annual awards are made to new plants that show merit and offer something new and exciting to gardens and landscape plantings.

Fine gardenia gets gold

O SO FINE™ Gardenia augusta 'Ken04' PBR

Gardenia augusta ‘Ken04’ PBR, which is being sold as O So Fine™, won a Gold award at GES. The plant caught the eye of the judges for its extremely fine foliage and dense growth. This new variety was discovered in Australia.

The breeding of new varieties to rival box plant, the traditional choice for a hedge, is a challenge this new gardenia meets head on. O So Fine™ gardenia is a form of Gardenia augusta ‘Radicans’ selected for its dense growth and ultra fine leaves. The new form was noticed as a sport on production stock at Kenthurst Nursery. The odd shoot had very fine leaves (just half the width of normal ‘Radicans’ leaves) and dense flowering.

The sport was observed on the stock plant to ensure it was stable before pieces were propagated to see if the fine growth would persist when the plant was grown on its own roots. More than 10 generations have now been grown with no changes occurring to either leaf size or the plant’s dense flowering.

O So Fine™ gardenia is seen at its best as a compact, fine-leafed hedge or groundcover. It grows to around 30cm tall and a metre wide in either sun or part shade. As a bonus, it has a profusion of fragrant white gardenia flowers during summer. The plant’s short internodes (the stem length between the points on each stem that produce flowers and leaves) create the dense growth and give it the extra flowers for its size.

It is drought hardy once established, but grows and flowers better with extra water in dry times. It needs frost protection in very cold winter areas.

New plants awarded

Todd Layt from Ozbreed, who is growing O So Fine™ gardenia, recommends using 1.5 to 3 plants per linear metre for hedging or as a groundcover. The closer planting rate would give dense coverage to quickly choke out weeds.

He says this fine-leafed gardenia only needs to be clipped occasionally to maintain its compact habit as a hedge or groundcover. He also says it is an excellent choice for containers including troughs.

Silver award winner

Little Ruby™ Alternanthera dentata 'LRU30' PBR

Alternanthera dentata ‘LRU30’ PBR, which is being marketed as Little Ruby™, was developed in South America. It has been sent to growers around the world including Australia.

This bold plant gained a Silver award at GES. It is a dense, compact shrub with striking burgundy leaves.

At around 30-40cm high and 60-90cm wide Little Ruby™ alternanthera is ideal to plant as a groundcover or border plant in sun or part shade. It is also a stylish choice for a low-maintenance container plant. Little Ruby™ alternanthera was selected from a breeding program in Brazil, where it was chosen for its dark leaf colour and compact growth. It is a third the size of common Alternanthera dentata.

Foliage plants add colour to gardens all year round, which is why Little Ruby™ alternanthera is a good plant choice for gardeners wanting a colourful low-maintenance garden.

“Instead of growing massed annual flowers to bring colour to a garden or park,” says Todd Layt, who is growing the plant in Australia, “home gardeners, landscapers or those planning public gardens, can grow a bed of Little Ruby™ alternanthera plants for year-round colour.”

It combines well with silver-leafed plants such as westringia, or clumping plants such as dianella. Todd says it has been popular among landscape designers, who are specifying it because of its compact growth habit.

For a weed-suppressing groundcover, Todd Layt recommends spacing Little Ruby™ plants about 30cm apart. They can be pruned in spring and, although drought-tolerant, benefit from extra water in very dry times. Plants thrive in areas of high humidity, but need protection from heavy frost.

More information Both new varieties have been released around Australia. Click here for more info about O So Fine gardenia and here for  Little Ruby alternanthera

Get The Right Turf For Your Situation – Tips From Ozbreed

Choosing the right turf for your situation depends on a number of factors including, shade, desired maintenance, wear, salt, aesthetics, frost, available water, where you live and cost. Whether its soft leaf Buffalo grass, Kikuyu Turf, Couch lawn, or Zoysia, the right lawn can be matched to your conditions, whether you live in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, or anywhere else in Australia.

Here are a few quick guidelines to follow so you get an idea as to what might be the right turf for your situation.

For Shade:

If you have an area that has up to 40% shade then a Zoysia turf type will be suitable.

If you have an area that has up to 60% – 70% shade then a soft leaf Buffalo type will manage this nicely.

For Lowest Maintenance:

If you don’t have time to mow and edge, the slower growing, lower maintenance varieties of Soft Leaf Buffalos would suit.

Palmetto Soft Leaf Buffalo is the lowest maintenance popular Buffalo in Australia.

For even lower maintenance, one turf type well worth checking out is Empire Zoysia. Empire needs a third of the mowing of Kikuyu, half that of Couch and 30% less than Buffalo

For avoiding Pesticides:

If you really want to avoid using any pesticides while maintaining your lawn then all Zoysia types are highly resistant to lawn grub, particularly Army Worm and Web Worm.

For High Traffic:

If you have dogs or hard playing kids, (or both) then as well as wear tolerance, you need to factor in whether it will be in full sun or shade.

If your area is in full sun, look into Kikuyu turf and particularly Kenda Kikuyu as it has 4 times more underground growth than regular Kikuyu.

If your area is in both shade and sun, a buffalo type will be good. Sapphire Buffalo is the number one Buffalo in shade for wear. Not as wear tolerant as Kenda in sun, but it is lower maintenance and works in shade.

For Near Salt water:

If you live near the ocean or have a salt water pool, these are the best varieties.

In full sun to light shade, Nara Zoysia is far more salt tolerant than Couch, Kikuyu and Buffalo.

In shade and sun Sapphire Buffalo and Palmetto Buffalo will work well as long as the salt water is no higher than the average for pool salt water, these Buffalos are more salt tolerant than other Buffalos.

Click here to check out our lawn care videos on YouTube