Farmside employs award-winning ways for quality turf care

Poorly installed sod and substantial thatch led the owner of this New Jersey home to engage Farmside to overcome those obstacles and achieve a beautiful lawn.

Last year, Farmside Landscape and Design ( of Wantage, N.J., was recognized for its integrated commitment to excellence in the 2010 Environmental Awards Program sponsored by the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET; Farmside was honored with a Grand Award for turf care and two Distinction Awards for turf care and maintenance. The company also earned a Stars Silver Level Safety Award and accolades for two projects on the design/build side of the business.

A look inside Farmside

Founder and owner Miles Kuperus Jr. says the 25-year-old firm was both humbled and honored to be recognized with the nation’s best landscaping and lawn care companies. He gives the credit to his staff of 30. “From beginning to end, a great team of experienced professionals worked together to create award-winning projects with excited clients, ” he says. “We listened to our clients and were able to exceed their expectations.”

Farmside offers lawn care, landscape maintenance, plant health care and landscape design/build installation services to clients in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The company emphasizes top-notch customer service, providing a 24-hour response time. Kuperus has assembled a team of landscape industry certified staff technicians and managers and International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborists. “We promote continuing education to our team so they can be the experts and best service providers with knowledge to serve our clients, ” he adds.

That knowledge base includes environmental sustainability. Farmside recycles both office paper and other materials, as well as job site waste such as lawn clippings, pruning debris and leaves. The green waste is deposited into a composting area, creating topsoil for future projects. Brush and wood chips are reused as mulch.

“[As for water management], we strongly recommend installing a smart controller that takes evapotranspiration rates into account, ” says Rich Kalish, turf health care manager. “To take it a step further, know what the soil infiltration rate is for your soil type to prevent runoff. Overwatering is wasteful and can be the cause of many biotic and abiotic turf issues.” Farmside recommends permeable pavers and water harvesting, as well.

He says that Farmside is currently using a new herbicide, IMPRELIS, which offers one of the lowest dosage rates available. He prefers the reduced environmental impact and employs site-specific monitoring and historical data to manage pests, so that pesticide use, when necessary, maximizes efficiency and effectiveness.

The firm’s four 10-hour-day workweek helps increase energy efficiency. It employs a tight route density to streamline travel from job to job.

Tackling lawn care

A troubled residential lawn earned Farmside PLANET’s Grand Award in the turf care private residential category. The New Jersey property suffered from improper lawn management and looked to Farmside in 2004 to bring the turf and landscape back to health.

Kalish says crews were faced with a .5-acre of Kentucky bluegrass sod installed about five years previously in a location that has a combination of full sun and partial/heavy shade. Mowed by the homeowner, it appeared that both the installation and maintenance were flawed.

Layering had developed between the native soil and the sod layer, compaction in the native soil was evident and the roots were barely penetrating. Frequent shallow watering with an automatic underground sprinkler system also enhanced shallow rooting. Thatch buildup was excessive and tough to penetrate, and grub history was evident and disease activity was heavy, with particular problems arising from those conditions associated with poor construction, such as necrotic ring spot and summer patch.

Farmside received accolades in 2010 for improving the Frankford Recreation Fields in New Jersey.

To make matters even worse, the property is bordered on both sides by poorly maintained, weed-infested lawns. A very large row of deciduous trees running the length of the lawn created a microclimate where the trees, surface roots and turf were competing for nutrients and water in approximately one-quarter of the lawn area.

Farmside’s management strategy involved a six-visit integrated pest management (IPM) program. Soil testing was done at the beginning, and approximately every three years, to address pH and base saturation. Fertilization is done five times a year using 25 to 50 percent slow-release nitrogen sources, depending on the time of year, using a total of approximately 4 pounds of nitrogen annually as a base line for the predominantly bluegrass lawn. Nitrogen applications are done in early spring at approximately .25 to .5 pound, and in late spring at approximately .5 to .75 pound. Late summer, early fall and late fall applications are performed at a rate of approximately 1 pound. Less nitrogen is applied in the shaded area. Exact phosphorous and potassium ratios are manipulated to meet those needs as indicated by soil testing. Late spring through late fall applications use organic-based “bridge” fertilizers with 30 to 50 percent organics. Approximately 6 pounds organic matter by weight is applied yearly to maintain organic matter in the soil profile and help control thatch.

Weed control is done in spring when weed activity has peaked based on growth degree-day models and visual inspection, and then is spot-treated as needed throughout the year. Preemergent crabgrass control is applied along the road, while the rest of the lawn is treated postemergently as needed. Preventative grub control was applied for several years, based on history and activity in the area, but is now determined by monitoring.

Initially, core aeration was done on a yearly basis to help break down thatch, increase nutrient and water penetration, reduce compaction and encourage deeper root development. Turf-type perennial ryes were also seeded in with the aerations in the fall to break up the monoculture and introduce entophytes into the turf profile. Core aerations and seeding are now done on an as needed basis.

The results? Thatch has been controlled and there is a maintained balance between the grass types, and the homeowner can now boast a beautiful, award-winning lawn.

Athletic field maintenance

Farmside also met a big challenge at the Frankford Township Recreational Fields in New Jersey. The complex consists of two baseball fields, two softball fields, two soccer fields and one softball/soccer multiuse field, all of which are managed by the Frankford recreation committee and maintained by three park employees. The fields are predominantly full sun and now have irrigation capabilities, either through an installed system or water wheel. The park was built in several stages; some fields were sodded with Kentucky bluegrass, while others were seeded with Kentucky/perennial ryegrass mix.

The task for Farmside is working with and educating enthusiastic park employees, determining and employing management specifications, working within budget restraints and managing fields of different ages. All fields were constructed on very poor soil and had previously been managed by a company using synthetic, water-soluble fertilizers. Soil structure was deteriorating when Farmside came on board and the organic matter was very low. “An earthworm could not be found,” Kalish adds.

An outside contractor had just reconstructed one field. Final grading and sod installation had been finalized while the soil was completely saturated by recent storms, resulting in a poor soil structure and substantial subcompaction. The sod had very late spring green-up, and roots were very shallow, making it hard to punch into native soil, which created poor drainage and slow growth. In addition, disease pressure is very high on this field. This surface has been deep-tine aerated with a BLEC Groundbreaker and was deep-cored the following year to improve drainage and break up subcompaction, resulting in overall improvement.

To remedy the deficits on fields that receive continuous play from April through November, Farmside begins turf applications in early spring with fertilization of .5-pound of nitrogen 50 percent slow-release. All fields are treated for broadleaf weeds in mid-spring when the growing degree-days model indicates peak weed activity. During late spring, .75 pound of nitrogen using a 50 percent organic-based fertilizer is applied.

In late summer, Farmside inspects and spot-treats for any crabgrass or nutsedge. As the turf begins to come out of summer dormancy, 1.25 pounds of nitrogen is put down followed by an equivalent treatment about six weeks later in October. Fifty percent organic based fertilizer is used with both applications. Inspection and spot-treatment for broadleaf weeds continues into early October. The final treatment is applied in November as a dormant fertilizer at 1 pound nitrogen. The exact ratio of potassium and phosphorus is manipulated by field as indicated by soil testing. All fields are aerated and overseeded on an as needed basis as indicated by wear and compaction and are topdressed once a year near the end of the season.

Under Farmside’s management, the Frankford recreation fields earned PLANET’s 2010 Distinction Award in the athletic field turf care category.

Based in Greensboro, N.C., the author writes articles about horticulture, landscaping, agriculture and travel. She has been a contributor to Moose River Media publications for five years.