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Important Notices

Brown Patch isn’t Brown Patch anymore!

By Bob Dailey

That’s right. The fungal plague that makes big splotches of yellow and brown in your yard is now known as “large patch” – at least here in southeast Texas. Both are caused by the same fungus (Rhizoctonia solani – try saying that quickly three times.) But there are two different strains of the fungus.

One affects cool season grasses – like Kentucky bluegrass, rye grass, fescues – none of which we should have planted in our lawns here in The Woodlands.  This cool season disease is now called “Brown Patch.”

The second strain, “Large Patch”, affects St. Augustine, Bermuda, Zoysia and other warm season grasses. Large Patch usually affects grass in the winter, but most often the damage isn’t visible until spring. Somewhat circular patches that are yellow, tan or straw-brown initially are 2-3 feet in diameter, but they can grow to 10 feet or more in diameter, hence the name “large patch”. Sometimes, several Large Patch infections will grow together, causing an even bigger problem.

Aerate your lawn to keep it healthy and lush

By Bob Dailey

Landscapers know that one of the most crucial elements to having a beautiful lawn is healthy soil. Healthy soil is loose and aerated, a place where roots can spread deeply and organisms thrive.

Compacted soil, which lies underneath most lawns in The Woodlands, actually sets off a chain reaction.  It encourages puddling.  The soil dries out quickly and becomes rock hard. When that happens, air, water and nutrients cannot penetrate the soil. Beneficial organisms that are necessary for healthy soils die and the soil becomes barren.  The consequences don’t stop there.

April Lawn Care

By Bob Dailey

Emerald colors are emerging in The Woodlands and thoughts are turning to soft, cool, green lawns.  

For decades, homeowners have looked at conventional ways to keep lawns healthy and lush. April sees scores of bags of pre-emergent herbicides, fertilizers, soil amendments, humates and myriads of other products strewn on turf.

Many who want lovely lawns are looking at simpler and less costly methods to keep that turf growing.  Here are some helpful tips for keeping grass healthy:

Caring for trees

By Bob Dailey

Trees are attractive. And they’re especially attractive in The Woodlands, because they’re, well, in The Woodlands.  They also have purpose. They help reduce energy costs, filter the air and remove pollutants, as well as providing habitat for wildlife.

First, remember that trees, like all other plants, can suffer as much from overwatering as from under watering. Diseases, such as root rot fungus, are caused by overwatering. With the plentiful rain received in the area recently, there is really no need to water trees (or lawns for that matter).

In fact, even in drought conditions, trees should only be watered once or twice a month. 

"Cycle and Soak" Saves Money, Creates healthier grass

By Bob Dailey

Untold thousands of gallons of drinking water pour onto the Woodlands streets (and into the storm sewers) during lawn irrigation for much of the growing season.

Much of that runoff is caused by running the irrigation zones too long. More water is being placed on the ground than the soil can absorb at any given time.

Using a “cycle and soak” method is a much more efficient way to irrigate lawns. It’s simple, will help save water, and will develop a healthier and more deeply-watered lawn. By getting water deeply into the soil, grass roots will grow longer and deeper, making the plants more resistant to disease, drought and insect damage.

Running each zone for 30 minutes, and then ending the irrigation event, doesn’t get the water down where it needs to be. And much of it runs off into the street. The “wetting front,” which is how far the water goes into the soil, will only be about two inches deep. That’s where the grass roots will stay, because there is no need for them to grow deeper.

Earthworms: Free fertilizer for lawns

By Bob Dailey

“It may be doubted that there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as have these lowly organized creatures.”

-Charles Darwin, The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms.  

The best method to judge the health of the soil beneath a lawn is to discover how many earthworms are present.

Earthworms can restore the hard pan of compacted dirt so prevalent in lawns. Their castings are rich in nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, three major elements necessary for plant growth and photosynthesis. Castings also contain magnesium, carbon, calcium – all very important plant nutrients. In just one year, a thousand earthworms (and their descendants) can transform one ton of organic waste into high-yield fertilizer.

Use your lawn to harvest water

By Bob Dailey

With water prices rising, and the conservation of drinking water encouraged, new findings have discovered ways to save water, cut water bills, and save money on lawn care. How?  Make the lawn its own water harvesting device.

According to studies completed by Texas A&M, Michigan State University and Rodale Institute, adding organic matter to soil significantly increases its water-holding capacity. Scientists report that for every one percent of organic matter, a cubic foot of soil can hold roughly 1.5 quarts of water. A two percent increase allows that same soil to increase the volume of water to three quarts.  

The math is easy. If soil is made up of two percent organic matter, a 4,000 square foot lawn (about the average lawn size in The Woodlands) can hold at least 3,000 gallons of water. Residents and commercial establishments alike can use a simple and relatively inexpensive method to increase the water-holding capacity of the soil in turf grass areas.

Good soil makes for good plants

By Bob Dailey

A productive soil looks, well, healthy. It’s crumbly when you squeeze it in your hand. It will smell sweet – some say good soil smells like chocolate. It’s dark, full of organic matter. And healthy soil means healthy lawns.

Healthy soil will have a half million microbes in every gram. These microbes include bacteria, algae, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, microscopic insects and mites.

Microorganisms are essential to soil health. As they go through their life cycles, they help decompose organic compounds. They also help plants obtain nutrients by binding minerals in the soil and making them available to plants. These tiny organisms help improve soil structure, fight plant disease and insects, and, in the end, contribute their bodies to the overall organic matter in the soil. In fact, in an acre foot of soil, there may be 10,000 to 50,000 pounds of beneficial microbes.

How much water are you putting on your lawn?

By Bob Dailey

You understand the reason for water awareness and conservation. You’re diligently following the Defined Irrigation Schedule mandated in 2013 for the 10 MUDs served by The Woodlands Joint Powers agency. You receive the WJPA’s weekly irrigation recommendations, and you want to follow those too.  (If you don’t receive the weekly email, you can sign up at wjpa.org.)

But the question remains: how long should I water to put 1” of water on my lawn? How long will it take to put ½ inch? After all, water pressure may vary, different types of sprinkler and rotor heads put out different volumes of water, and other factors may contribute to variations from household to household.

People, pets and lawn chemicals

By Bob Dailey

Most people in The Woodlands want a beautiful lawn and are willing to pay big bucks insuring lawns are lush and green.

In the endless process of having emerald expanses in front of homes, residents here spend millions on lawn beauty products -  pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers -  to achieve that special look.