Q & A with turf farmer Kenny Arbuckle
A fixture of summer is cutting grass on a hot day. And since 1983, Kenny Arbuckle and A&D Turf Grass have supplied local homeowners and businesses alike with a high-quality grass grown right here in Oxford.
Arbuckle keeps a fleet of tractors busy harvesting the turf on the site of the original Oxford airport, just southwest of the Highway 7/9W split. Oxford Citizen publisher Jon Rawl sat down with the former Lafayette County supervisor for a one-on-one conversation.
Jon Rawl: What led to the start of your business?
Kenny Arbuckle: I was buying sod from other people, and I always enjoyed doing sod. My dad (Kenneth) and brother went into the sodding business with me. I originally had 10 acres at this location, and now it’s 135 acres. It’s grown through the years.
Rawl: What types of grass do you grow and sell?
Arbuckle: Zoysia and Bermuda grass, which are the most popular choices. Zoysia will tolerate more shade than Bermuda. Zoysia is like walking on carpet, and Bermuda’s not. But zoysia doesn’t grow as fast. Bermuda is used on sports fields and takes stress and beating. Zoysia — top wise —you have to cut it, and will choke itself out if you don’t air it out.
Rawl: How do you establish the turf grown in your fields?
Arbuckle: We establish the turf from the root. Bermuda is a true hybrid, so you have to start it from a sprig. The growing season is right now (July). Once established, you don’t have to grow it anymore unless you have ‘winterkill.’ Once roots are cut the grass will come back from the roots. It’s perpetual.
Rawl: How did the intense rain this spring affect your business?
Arbuckle: It kept me out of the field. I’m doing spraying now that should have been done in March. The fields were so wet. Weeds started taking over, and you’re out of time to use chemicals to keep the weeds out.
Rawl: Do you have any tips for a good lawn?
Arbuckle: People have a tendency to fertilize once or twice a year. That’s not good. If your budget is $100, break that down over six months. People may over-fertilize once or twice, but the grass needs a 30-day feeding period. It’ll last during the winter months — 500 pounds of fertilizer over 30 days is a good rule, and generally rain will feed the grass. You can tell when grass needs water. Ideally, water every other day to keep grass at its peak. During a long dry spell, try and water three times a week.
Rawl: Is your operation a one-man band?
Arbuckle: No. We have guys that help cut the sod, cut the field and mow the field. We have others help out in the office (including his wife, Dianne). It’s a year-round operation.
Rawl: What happens with your business during the winter?
Arbuckle: Once sod goes dormant, it can be cut and sit on a pallet until next spring and it’ll still be good. When you buy it when it’s dormant, you don’t have to water during the winter months. When spring comes around and the spring rain hits, it comes back like it’s been there all its life.
Rawl: The most-revered natural turf in Oxford is in The Grove. Why is that a tough place to grow great-looking grass?
Arbuckle: Shade and traffic. Foot traffic is terrible on grass, and so is shade. But they’re doing a good job in making it look as good as it does because of the year-round traffic. They have to use a cool season-type grass (fescue, bluegrass). The university is limited in what they can do.
Rawl: How will the forthcoming four-lane widening of Highway 7 South affect you?
Arbuckle: They’re buying the right-of-way right now; but they haven’t talked to me yet. On the federal level, they’ve already signed off on it; and as the old saying says, it’s already set in stone. It will affect my business. It’s coming.
Rawl: Your main hobby is hunting wild hogs. What’s the status of wild hogs in Lafayette County?
Arbuckle: They’re getting to be more and more. They are here now and they’re going to stay. Lafayette County has the kind of habitat they love. They love cut-overs (where timber is cut and brush remains) and swampy ground. It’s an ideal situation for them, because the hogs go to the areas where people aren’t likely to go.
Photos by Gaetano Catelli