Thursday, August 15, 2013

Compadre Zoysia - Sow by Seed

Using turf sod is expensive, and more so even in the Northern Territory.

Good quality turf sod, depending on the species e.g. couch, buffalo or zoysia and the variety within a particular species, seems to be in the $8 to $17 per sq. m range with at least one producer charging over $20 per sq. m for at least one zoysia variety.  Commercial laying can cost $3-5 per sq. m, depending on the nature of the area and size of the job, possibly more if the contractor supplies other items eg topsoil.

Sod prices do not equate well with some advertised prices in other jurisdictions around Australia.

Some might argue local prices are too high - I am not judging that, as all individual producers of sod have their own costs to deal with including water, location, freight, fertiliser and herbicides, equipment, labour and even scale of operation.

But if you want to use Compadre zoysia - rather than buy turf sod, try using seed.

There are some disadvantages - with time to reach a usable surface being one of them.  But that also applies to using seed of any type, and many people use Bahia grass seed to establish a lawn or turf area..........why not Compadre zoysia seed?  A reasonable appearance of an area from seed can be achieved in 5-8 weeks and a usable surface for light use in 10-12 weeks, although 16 weeks is more the period for a dense surface.  This will vary quite widely, depending on location and husbandry of the turf area and is a guide only.  The real trade off is reduced cost of the area, and with zoysia the shade tolerance, lower water and fertiliser use once established and much reduced mowing during the lawn life.  And for those interested - reduced mowing means lowered greenhouse gas emissions too! 

Seed is available, and recommendations and procedures for sowing Compadre seed are well developed.

zoysia seedlings showing density at 8 weeks - see runners developing
You can use simple hand sowing, keeping the seed close to the soil surface, and using a light mulch cover to assist with moisture management at the surface.  It is vital to ensure soil does not dry out during the first 3 weeks of establishment, and that means several periods of irrigation during the day, or using low application rate sprinklers let run for maybe an hour several times in the day [ these systems tend to deliver 1-2mm/hr].

Sowing seed between May and July is not recommended at all.  Yes, you can establish seed in this period, but commonly nights are cool to cold [ especially if inland a little where night temperatures below 10C are reasonably common] and progress of the germination and establishment is slow. 

Waiting to sow until August is better, as temperatures are a bit warmer, germination a bit faster and yet it is still not too hot in the daytime, and evaporation is mostly below 6-7mm per day.  That figure is about what you need to apply as irrigation each day to ensure a moist soil surface.  Evaporation is a BOM value derived from an open area of water, and from grass and soil it is maybe 10 -20% less, so that adjusted value is what is needed each day to fill the soil moisture and keep the surface moist.  Evaporation data for many areas is on the BOM web site.

From September onwards in north Australia, the storm period is approaching and there can be heavy rain.  It does not prevent establishing a turf area, but there is a need to be aware of the need for some surface protection at times to prevent erosion and seed loss.  Light mulch will usually help a lot, and once the seedlings are established, they will also help bind the soil. 

There can be problems - yes there can, but surface protection can help.  Getting a vigorous establishment and growth of the seedlings is probably the best way to solve most of the problems about seed wash.  If you are unlucky and get a big storm very soon after sowing and where there is no seedling emergence, you might have problems.  Best to avoid sowing from December onwards through March, unless surface protection is used. 

Using commercial hydroseeding can be a good way to mix the seed and a protective mulch, essentially providing that surface protection.

Compadre zoysia is suitable for this method of sowing [see photo above from Darwin, hydroseeded in late December at approx. 10 weeks from sowing] and there are areas very successfully done this way around Darwin, and it is very widely used in the Houston, Texas area of the US, where Compadre zoysia is a commonly used seed sown turf .  However, there is a need to ensure the mixing tank and all pipelines on the equipment are clean, especially of other seed types, and for small areas such as a small backyard, that can be a bit of a cost.  Less of an issue if larger areas are being hydroseeded, for example a small municipal park.

A clean seed bed is absolutely essential - this is easier in new areas, more tricky in old areas where turf weeds might be lurking still from previous lawn areas.  Getting the weeds to emerge and grow and then killing them with herbicides is a normal recommended practice and may be needed more than once.  Glyphosate is usually used, although a few turf weeds are not killed by this chemical and a dicamba /MCPA mix might be needed for those [several trade names incl Kamba -M].

Compadre zoysia seed is available from us and we can supply specific guideline sheets for establishment and maintenance.  It is a cost effective option to use seed, and a good turf area can be easily achieved with a modest amount of effort, and a little bit of attention to a much lower cost than using turf sod.

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