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Important Notices

"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.

Preparing your lawn for winter

by Bob Dailey

October is one of the best months to prepare your yard for winter. It’s also one of the best times to prevent diseases.

Compacted Soils

Most of the lawns in The Woodlands are sodded over compacted soil. St. Augustine and other warm season grasses thrive in soil that is alive – full of active organisms that create a soil food web, which is necessary for deep root systems and healthy, disease-resistant plants. A good way to discover whether or not soil is compacted is to drive a six-inch screwdriver into the soil. If it cannot penetrate more than a few inches, the soil is compacted.  If it goes up to the hilt, the soil is healthier.

Installing drip irrigation

By Bob Dailey

Most of the landscapes in The Woodlands are irrigated by sprinkler systems. A significant amount of this water evaporates before it gets to the roots of the plants, or it stays on leaves, making them susceptible to fungal infections. Because of varying heights of landscape plants, the water from some sprinklers is blocked from reaching all the plants. Misdirected water often ends up running down the street.  Sprinklers for landscape plants are inefficient, wasteful and costly to homeowners and businesses. During hot days, evaporation lost from irrigation sprinklers can be as much as 30% of the water used.

Simple, low-cost ways to win the battle against lawn fungal diseases

By Bob Dailey

Fungal problems are a fact of life in Southeast Texas, where fungus is the main disease vector in plants. Actually, most soils here are full of fungal spores. Some are beneficial. Some, harmless. And some, like the fungi that cause take-all patch, brown spot or dollar spot, are problematic. Given the right circumstances, unwanted fungus can explode into a serious situation.

Soil quality and quantity are important when sodding a lawn

By Bob Dailey

The adage “it’s better to put a $1 plant into a $10 hole than it is to put a $10 plant into a $1 hole” also holds true for lawns.

The amount of soil that lies beneath many lawns in the area is woefully inadequate. Sample plugs taken show that some sod has less than a half inch of soil beneath them. Beneath that, more often than not, lies an impermeable layer of clay. Grass roots have a difficult time penetrating that clay barrier. It also causes irrigation water and rain to sheet off into the streets, making watering more expensive and wasteful. In some places, sod was laid directly over clay or even gravel, with no soil added. Be wary of contractors who leave behind a thin layer of soil under the sod.