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Important Notices

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.

New Years Resolutions to make your yard more lovely in the springBy Bob Dailey

  1. Follow the Integrated Pest Management program promoted by Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. IPM integrates best practices for control of pests and diseases. It includes preventive cultural practices, monitoring, mechanical controls, biological controls, and finally chemical controls if all else fails. For more complete information, call the Montgomery County Master Gardeners Hotline at 936-539-7824.
  2. Water your lawn only when the Weekly Irrigation Recommendation email advises it. Every week, WJPA sends out this eblast to over 21,000 residents of The Woodlands with irrigation recommendations based on evapotranspiration information as well as rainfall. If you’re not on the email list, go to wjpa.org and sign up for email.
  3. Always use organic matter when installing turf or other vegetation. You can accomplish this either by making your own or buying it from a facility that is certified organic. For more information, see findacomposter.com.
  4. Mow winter weeds before they create seed heads instead of using weed and feed products.
  5. Give a gift of landscape design (perhaps to yourself). If you want something less expensive but still of value, purchase a landscaping book. A large number of them, many featuring Texas landscape designs, are on the market.
  6. Mulch flower beds and shrubs. It saves water, helps prevent disease and weeds, and helps keep the soil at a more moderate temperature.
  7. Check your irrigation system. Make sure your sprinkler heads are spraying in the proper direction and not watering sidewalks, driveways and streets. If you haven’t done so already, schedule a free inspection ($75 value) by the W.I.S.E. Guys. Go to the WJPA website to sign up.
  8. If you mow yourself, get your mower tuned up and the blades sharpened.
  9. If you plan to buy topsoil next year, buy carefully. Much topsoil has nutsedge in it. Nutsedge is almost impossible to eradicate. Buy your topsoil from a reputable dealer and ask where it comes from.
  10. Thou shalt not commit “crepe murder” by over-pruning crepe myrtles or any other shrub or tree. Knuckling of crepe myrtles shortens their lives, encourages disease and pest damage, and overall damages the tree.
  11. Do not plant winter rye. Winter rye may be pretty, but this type of turf requires much more water than St. Augustine or Zoysia, and also requires a lot of nutrients from the soil.

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.

Beware the attack of winter lawn weeds

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.

Our love affair with lawns

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.

All plants need water. But how much and how often varies from plant to plant.

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:

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.