By Bob Dailey
With proper lawn maintenance, your yard can thrive. Compost and organic fertilizer are critical to achieving a lawn this green.
Located outside the WJPA building on Lake Robbins Drive, this lawn has not received irrigation, except for rainwater for the last 11 months.
How is that possible? Good lawn practices, proper (and inexpensive) care of the soil under the turf and only a small bit of organic fertilizer.
Here’s how it was done:
The lawn receives about an inch of compost per year. Two compost applications (each a one-half inch deep), made in October and early April, add organic material to the soil, as well as adding essential microorganisms that assist grass roots to grow and resist disease. Once a year, again in April, a scattering of organic fertilizer is spread on the lawn (about a tablespoon per square foot).
The lawn is mowed weekly ONLY between April and the first of October.
No large patch, take-all patch, sooty mold or insect problems are present. Because of that, no herbicides, fungicides or pesticides are used or needed.
Soil with sufficient organic matter can hold three quarts or more of water per cubic foot. Instead of rolling off the surface of the soil when it rains, good soil absorbs much of it. This transforms the soil under the turf into a passive rainwater catchment, which grass roots can access during dryer periods.
Water stored in the soil, and increased permeability of the soil because of the organic matter, allows grass roots to grow, enhancing the turf’s ability to withstand disease and pests.
For more information about lawn care, please visit the blog at wjpa.org.
By Bob Dailey
July is one of the best months to find out where grass is doing well and where it isn’t. Areas with deep shade might do better with some type of shade-tolerant ground cover than with turf grass. Conversely, hot spots in the yard where grass seems to die can be a great place for a shrub that loves heat and lots of sunlight.
Mowing can be problematic as well during times of high heat. Set mowers to their highest level. Mulch, don’t bag. The top third of grass blades is rich in nitrogen. Mulching the grass drops the blades back onto the lawn where they compost back into the soil. Contrary to what some believe, mulching does not cause thatch. Overwatering and overfertilizing causes thatch.
It’s important to check sprinkler systems now. Not all yellow patches are caused by fungal infections like take-all patch or large patch, nor are they all caused by chinch bugs or sod-web worms. Some spotting is caused by poor positioning of sprinkler heads.
Control fire ants by using the Texas two-step method recommended by Texas A&M. A treatment with the organic pesticide Spinosad, followed a few days later by drenching the mound with orange oil is particularly effective on fire ants. A third step, sprinkling diatomaceous earth on the mound, will take care of stragglers.
Occasionally, during hot summer months, St. Augustine grass may suffer from iron chlorosis, which means that the plant is not getting enough iron. This is probably because the soil is too alkaline. Alternating yellow and green streaks running lengthwise along the grass blade is a clear indication of this. Apply an iron chelate to the lawn. Iron does stain concrete, so do not spread it across sidewalks or driveways.
In The Woodlands and in many areas of the state, water utilities employ The W.I.S.E. Guys (Woodlands Irrigation Systems Evaluations) to check their sprinkler systems. It is a free service.
Keep mower blades sharp so they make clean – not ragged- cuts. Ragged cuts damage the individual grass blades and weaken the structure of the lawn.
It’s possible to seed or sod a lawn this month, but remember, the summer heat will create much more watering.
It’s been a long, wet, relatively cold winter in The Woodlands, with three snowfalls. Now, our yards are greening up, flowers are blooming, insects are buzzing and we are all attacked by the same debilitating disorder – spring fever.
As we walk out shoeless on our lawns, blades of St. Augustine tickling our toes, we might want to consider some chores which can extend the life of our lawn and add to its emerald presence.
By Bob Dailey, WJPA
In 2017, residents of The Woodlands needed to irrigate their lawns only 12 weeks out of the year. Sounds unrealistic? Not with new information and technologies developed by Texas A&M and research conducted by other universities.
Now, A&M turf experts can track needs of turf grass by on the spot testing of various environmental factors which directly affect lawn irrigation. These factors include rainfall, humidity, temperature, solar exposure, soil moisture and wind velocity. A&M currently operates 56 Evapotranspiration Testing locations across the state.
The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency’s (The WJPA) system takes in rainfall information from locations in the county, including some strategically located in The Woodlands.
Using a series of equations, the systems calculate the amount of water needed a geographical area of the state for a variety of turf grasses. Warm season turf grasses, such as St. Augustine, Zoysia and Bermuda, flourish in southeast Texas. Other grasses, such as fescue, buffalo grass, Kentucky bluegrass flourish in the colder parts of the state.
To accurately provide irrigation information to residents, The WJPA maintains rainwater collection devices that communicate daily to an evapotranspiration system managed by the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District. Using the Texas A&M equations to calculate how much extra water is needed for turf grass in The Woodlands, the system then relays the information back to WJPA. That info is then transmitted, via weekly emails, to residents. (If you aren’t on the email list and wish to be, please access the WJPA home page at http://www.wjpa.org and sign up.
By Bob Dailey
Q. What’s the proper height to set your mower?
A. Different types of turf require different heights of mowing.
1. From April through September, St. Augustine should be mowed at the height of 3-4 inches.
2. Bermuda grass – 2 inches.
3. Coarse-bladed Zoysia (japonica) – 1.5 – 2 inches.
4. Fine-Bladed Zoysia (matrella) 1-2.5 inches.
Remember not to let the grass too tall (50% above the recommended cutting height). Too much off the top can stress the turf.
Q. I have trees in my yard, and the grass doesn’t want to grow well under them. What can I do?
A. Remember that grass is a plant too, and requires sunlight to convert energy to food. Of all the turf grasses that are adaptable to southeast Texas, St. Augustine grows best in shaded areas. However, if it can’t get any sunlight at all, it will cease to grow under your trees. If your grass is getting thin in under-tree areas, you might think of hiring an arborist to do some minor pruning on your trees to allow more sunlight in.
Q. Is now the right time to use a “weed and feed” product?
A. NO time is the right time to use weed and feed products. The proper time to apply the pre-emergence herbicide used in this product is before the weeds begin to grow…late February to early March. The proper time to fertilize or “feed” turf is mid-April. Applying them both at the same time is a waste of time and money. Applying “weed and feed” too early, and the fertilizer is dissipated or leached out of the soil by the time the grass needs it. Applying it too late, and the “weed” part has no purpose, because the weeds have already emerged and seeded.
Q. Why is the soil under my lawn rock hard?
A. Too much water, too many salt-based fertilizers and pesticides, too little organic matter in the soil are primary causes of hard soil. It has become compacted, making it harder for grass roots to penetrate. Pull up a handful of grass, roots and all. If the roots are shorter than three inches, your soil is too hard for the roots. Good St. Augustine, for instance, can grow roots as deep as at least six feet.
By Bob Dailey
Following these practices can give you a headstart on any problems that may arise in your yard. It will also save you money in the long run.
By Bob Dailey
While winter-dormant St. Augustine lawns have yellowed, something is going on under the soil.
Winter weeds are beginning to germinate. And a lot of weeds do well here. Plantain weed, nutsedge, henbit, spurge, purslane, chickweed, and thistle are a few of the unwanted guests that plague our lawns in late winter and early spring.
Don’t despair. St. Augustine is the best weed-suppressing grass there is, followed only by Zoysia. Both are aggressive plants and, if properly maintained, will keep the weeds to a minimum, if not entirely eliminate them.
Weeds do like compacted, poorly-drained soil, bereft of available minerals, nutrients and organisms.
Residents who apply organic matter to lawns in mid-fall and mid-spring have already established a strong defense against weeds. And although these are ideal times to spread organic matter, anytime is okay. Aerating the lawn before adding organic matter is another step in the weed war. The organic matter helps soil to drain, and simultaneously holds enough water to establish a strong root system, and is the first and most important step in having a beautiful lawn.
By Bob Dailey
In Texas, turf is the top crop, with 3,260,000 acres, far surpassing cotton (1,230,000 acres), corn (749,000 acres), sorghum (708,000 acres) and wheat (657,000 acres).
Lawns are the largest “crop” in the United States. Lawns cover 40.5 million acres of land in this country. Compare that to 9.7 million acres of corn, 6.2 million acres of alfalfa, 5.3 million acres of soybeans and 4.1 million acres of orchards, vinyards and nut trees.
The amount of water used on lawns each year is almost 50 million acre feet, or about 2 trillion gallons, more than corn, alfalfa, orchards and rice combined.
There are more lawns in the South than any other area of the country. 88% of Americans have a private lawn and 91% of those lawns are in the South.
About 85% of all water used in American households goes to watering lawns. In summer, that averages to about 285 gallons per day.
By Bob Dailey
Although there are various recommendations floating around out there, we prefer to rely on scientifically based advice.
Knowing there can be slight variations based on soil, shade, slope, season and species, we recommend no more than these water applications per the following plant types: