LAWN CARE FOR NORTH TEXAS HOMEOWNERS
Now is the time to start paying attention to lawn care to ensure the Texas heat doesn’t inflict its damage on your yard. With the heat rising and the outdoor season starting, start off the season right!
What Is My Lawn Made Of? Identifying the type of lawn you have is the first step toward maintaining it properly. Almost every lawn in North Texas will be made of one of two different turf grasses, or a combination. The most common turf grasses are:
• Bermuda – thin, trailing grass that’s very heat tolerant, doesn’t need excessive watering, and looks good mowed short. Bermuda is by far the most common type of turf grass in North Texas. Needs at least five hours of sunshine to get established. Bermuda is the only really good-looking permanent turf grass for the area which can be established from seed. Good for high use areas. Tif 419 is a type commonly planted as sod.
• Raleigh St. Augustine – a coarser, trailing grass that is also heat tolerant, but tends to need more water than Bermuda. St. Augustine is much more aggressive than most common turf grasses and will crowd other weeds and grasses out easily. St. Augustine is more shade tolerant than Bermuda, and will establish in a bit over four hours of direct sunshine. Mature St. Augustine lawns will continue to do well with even less light. Decent in high use areas.
• Zoysia – coarser in texture, Zoysia is not a water intensive grass. It’s slower growing than Bermuda or St. Augustine, and really is a pretty nice turf. Not common in the area because of higher cost. No homebuilder uses it; any Zoysia lawns in the area have been planted by the homeowner. Zoysia is shade tolerant much like St. Augustine.
There are a few things any turf needs to survive and thrive, anywhere around the world. Here are the main pointers for our area:
Sunshine: This is the first thing any turf needs to do well. If you’re getting less than five hours of direct sun, many turf grasses will have difficulty taking hold and growing vigorously. Provide this! Limb up trees, move things, whatever it takes to get enough sun in your area. If an area’s too dark, it’s time to consider a bed of ground cover.
When and how you water your lawn is the most important factor in the quality of your lawn and plant life. The industry standard for the amount of water your lawn needs is roughly an inch of water per week or 1/2 an inch twice per week, whether the yard gets water manually or from rainfall. The best time to water the yard is between midnight and 9AM, before the sun starts beating down on it. This will allow the water to soak into the soil and to the roots.
Too much water can be wasteful and damage the life span of the grass. Having your irrigation system checked and maintained during this time will ensure that water usage is appropriate for the needs of your yard.
During severe drought, your lawn can survive with a single watering per week. Your North Texas lawn needs a minimum of 1 inch of water weekly during the summer months. We recommend up to two solid waterings a week on any lawn during the summer. If you’re feeding your lawn heavily for the best green look, you’ll need to support it during the summer with the water it needs to perform. Watering more than every other day is not recommended, as it can lead to shallowly rooted grass, and increase disease spread.
A regular deep watering, two days a week, is better than a light sprinkling on the lawn every day and will encourage stronger, healthier roots. Overwatering results in waste and promotes turf problems, such as disease and excessive weeds. If you are operating your sprinkler system for 10-20 minutes a zone every 1-2 days - STOP! Follow our watering instructions and it will save on your water bills, and your lawn will look much better after 2-3 months of following our process.
This process consists of operating a typical zone for no more than 5 minutes but repeating the process four times at 2-hour intervals. This 2-hour interval allows the previously applied water to be absorbed by the clay soil before applying another application of water. Running a zone for longer than 5 minutes causes runoff and only wastes water, providing no additional benefit to your lawn.
The grass should be taller during the summer months, which will allow for deeper root growth and cover from the sun. The insulation also allows for the soil to maintain its moisture better. The general rule of thumb is to keep the grass roughly about 1 ¾ inches to 2 ½ inches for most turf types.
Building a fine turf begins with mowing regularly, and at the correct height. Turf should be mown for most turf grasses weekly for the best look. Every 4 to 5 days would be ideal for Bermuda! This may be a bit difficult to do, but shoot for at least a weekly mowing. Do not allow your turf to become too tall; you should avoid the need to cut more than a third of the green growing blades off at any time, as it places additional stress on the grass.
Different mowing and watering strategies are required depending on the type of grass. It is prudent to check the type of grass in your yard before taking any serious steps.
Mowing heights for common grasses (This is your tallest recommended cutting height):
Bermuda – 1.5″
St. Augustine – 2.5″
Zoysia – 1.5-2″
Fescue, Ryegrasses – 2-3″
Buffalo grass – 1.5-2″
You may mow up to .5″ taller during droughts or if the area is subject to heavy traffic. It’s important to not allow your turf to become too tall. Your grass will brown out for lack of sufficient sun at the base, and those areas will not green back up until the grass is short-mown and allowed to regrow, something normally done during the late winter only. Tall turf is a weak turf, and a turf that is far more prone to weeds once you do finally cut it back down to size.
Not only is it easier to simply leave lawn clippings where they fall, it’s much better for your turf, as long as you’re mowing often enough. Short clippings quickly compost down at the soil level and feed your lawn, and the nutrients from clippings can start to re-enter the turf in as little as ten days!
One mowing a year should be bagged, and it’s the clean up mowing you should do in late February. Remove the dried, dead material and throw it away. This dry material is slow to break down, and it’s a nuisance for a barefoot lawn. Mow one to two notches shorter than usual, and then immediately raise your mower to your normal maintenance height when you’re done. Never scalp down into the soil! If your mower blade hits soil at any point, you’re cutting the turf way too low. Don’t mow below your normal thatch level.
Never mow when the turf is wet. Not only is your cut ragged and uneven, you will easily spread lawn diseases if they are present.
Preventative Care, Weed Control, Pest and Insect Control
The actions you take now will be seen a month from now. One key preventative measure is fertilization and aeration of the lawn. But not all fertilizers are created equal when it comes to summer lawn maintenance.
It’s critical to take care of weed problems during the summer before they’re able to germinate and seed in the fall. It is also recommended to apply weed treatment while the temperature is less than 85 degrees to prevent harming the grass. Aerating and loosening the soil is another pivotal step in the process. This act ensures that the dirt retains its moisture. Tight, compact soil typically leads to quicker evaporation. Keeping the soil less compact allows for greater water penetration down to the roots.
The summer months are also a time when you’re likely to see more pests and insects in your lawn as tiny creatures search for water. Many beetles and other insects lay their eggs in the grass during the early parts of the summer, which hatch into grubs during the middle of the season that will eat at your grass. A healthy lawn will help prevent insect infestations. Dry stressed, or dormant lawns are more likely to be home to insects.
Don’t Overdo The Weedkiller
No matter which lawn herbicide you’re using, read the label carefully and follow it. Those instructions are there for a reason! Homeowners throughout the nation do almost as much damage to their lawn by misapplying weed killers and fertilizers than the weeds themselves do. Don’t fear the weed killer, but do read the instructions, and don’t get creative with mix rates. Twice as much herbicide probably would kill those weeds faster, but your lawn isn’t looking too sharp where you sprayed that over-strength herbicide, either.
Here are the basics of lawn fertilization in our area:
Most lawns, particularly Bermuda lawns, need to be strongly fed with a good slow-release high nitrogen fertilizer, preferably with iron and sulfur. We recommend a Premium or High Performance lawn fertilizer for all common turf grasses in North Texas. It’ll give you a good solid push of greening that won’t quickly wear out like many fertilizers will.
For organic maintenance lawns, your choice of lawn fertilizer will probably vary, but something with at least 4% available nitrogen is desirable for your lawn’s upkeep. “Grass-cycling”, by leaving your clippings where they fall, helps as well. Just use a good mulching blade.
Weed And Feeds Are Terrible – We don’t care who makes it, what’s in it, or what it’s supposed to kill. Most post-emergent herbicides work better through leaf absorption, and are better applied as a spray – weed and feed fertilizers either are watered in (to wash the fertilizer off the blades of grass, highly desirable) and don’t kill everything you wish killed, or you leave the granules stuck on the blades (so the weed killer works better), and stress your grass from fertilizer sticking to the foliage. Additionally, rotary spreaders – which most of us use – can easily scatter granules of this product into flowerbeds and over the root systems of trees, causing damage to desirable plants. The most effective weed and feed fertilizers put so much active ingredient into the bag that they more or less work on a lot of your weeds, or else the companies making the products would be out of business – but it’s like using a hammer on your marble countertop to kill a gnat. It works, but you sure wish you hadn’t done that to your counter. Leave any weed and feed fertilizer, made by anyone, on the shelf.
Hand Pulling Is Your Friend – If you have no weeds, and you see one pop up in your lawn, pull it! An occasional bend-over and pull will save you major weeding later from the seeds that one weed you missed scatters all over your yard.