Houston Residential and Commercial Lawn Care and Landscape Services

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Lawn Care Maintenance Monthly Tips: Caring for your Lawn and Landscape

Spring is emerging, so take advantage of the cool temperatures to catch up on these tips.

February

  • 1. Trim and shape shrubs and hedges to a desired size before the growing season starts. Consider the possibility of giving your plants a new shape. Possible shapes are pyramids, cylinders, mushrooms, poodles, multi-tiered tabletops, spirals (junipers), bonsai (mature junipers), slanted (long hedges), and undulating waves. Whee! You can have a lot of fun here! If your plants are out of shape, the substance is amenable to trimming into a different shape. Look carefully, and do not be afraid to cut, using hand clippers to remove targeted limbs or foliage, and then fine-tuning the shape with shears.

  • 2. Clean out leaves and pull weeds from flower beds.

  • 3. Prune roses to a third of their height, to remove spindly growth and fortify structure. Remove deadwood as well as the deadwood draws energy from the plants. A desired, uniform shape can be established at this time for all the roses. The roses can be fertilized at this time with Color Star blooming fertilizer, which contains bone meal and blood meal. In addition, fish meal fertilizer is also available as a natural supplement. Valentine's day is a perfect time to plant new roses.

  • 4. Trench flower bed edges and define their perimeters with a sharp, straight-edge spade. Be aware of irrigation lines and utilities upon doing so. Use a 40-inch tall straight-edge spade that has a 7-inch wide X 11-inch blade. Sharpen it on both sides with a bastard file. To avoid user fatigue from pushing the spade into the soil with your foot, practice the following technique. With the right hand, firmly grab the handle top, and with the left hand, hold the handle shaft. While standing poised over the existing flower bed edge, raise the spade as if you are going to strike down forcefully on the edge where the flower bed and the lawn meet. Then aim straight down to where the new, fresh edge should be. Next, in a “throwing down” motion, impel the spade into the soil about 4-5 inches, letting go of the shaft with your aiming left hand, while continuing your hold with the right hand on top. Tilt back the spade to toss up into the flower bed the loose soil from the trench. With practice, this becomes a flick-of-the-wrist gardening routine that creates awesome, crisp edging on which to guide your line trimmer before mowing. Wear steel toes if possible for this gardening technique.

  • 5. Break time, break time! Attend the Texas Home & Garden Show this year, head over to their website for details, https://texashomeandgarden.com/.

  • 6. Turn soil in the flower beds to aerate. A sharp shooter spade can be used. Hold handle with right hand, guide with the left hand, and thrust the sharp shooter 3-4 inches into the soil at 10 o’clock, then twist handle to 12 o’clock. Repeat motion in close-knit patterns to produce an even, lightly turned soil, breaking any clumps as you go and leveling out with a leaf rake. Aerating allows oxygen, water, and fertilizers to reach plant roots for absorption. Sharp tools are always easier to use and reduce fatigue. Beware of sprinkler pipes, utility cables, or gas lines to lamps or BBQ pits.

  • 7. Apply a granular pre-emergence herbicide to the flower beds. This is a selective herbicide that will kill only broadleaf weeds and grassy weeds. It works by preventing seed germination. The best products are available at a public chemical store. Hardware stores do not carry professional grade products. Their products are diluted and not worth the money spent.

  • 8. Mow bi-weekly.

  • 9. Mower blade tip: sharpen or replace mower blade every 2-3 months during the growing season. A sharp mower blade creates a cleaner cut and reduces operator fatigue.

  • 10. Mow grass at 3 inches high with a grass catcher. The grass catcher will collect any weeds that have gone to seed and prevent re-seeding. Apply Scott’s weed and feed fertilizer with atrizine. Atrizine is excellent for eliminating dollar weed.

  • 11. Using a broadcast spreader, apply Scott’s weed and feed fertilizer with atrizine on your lawn. Atrizine is excellent for eliminating weeds and is specially formulated for dollar weed.

  • 12. Begin Bi-weekly mowing.

  • 13. Remove clover individually by hand, root and all, from your lawn. Do not mow it over because it will reproduce and begin to overtake the grass. The same applies for crab grass. An aluminum flower planting trowel is ideal for removing crab grass that is not full grown. With one hand, grab all the leaves like a strand of hair, pull strongly and maintain pull at a 45 degree angle. With the planting trowel, stab into the soil 2-3 inches in a semi-circular fashion back and forth around the base of the crab grass, rocking the plant sideways as you pull. If it does not come out then, turn around and repeat from the other side of the plant. For large, established crab grass, use a sharp shooter, pushing the shovel at 45 degrees around the plant to complete a full circle. Pop plant out by tilting sharp shooter down and fill plant hole with topsoil for lawn grass to patch in.

  • 14. Visit a local nursery and discover what trees, plants, and flowers they carry; when they bloom; whether they are for planting in shade, full sun, filtered sunlight; what is hardy long-term and will not freeze; what is prone to certain diseases. Please note that, at the nursery, shade-type nursery stock will be store in the shade under canopies, and full-sun stock out in the full sun. A continual, year-round cascade of blooming plants can be enjoyed by organizing a planting scheme based on the time plants bloom by month.

  • 15. Create your own “spring break” by planning to visit The Mercer Arboretum, a multi-acre botanical garden on Aldine Westfield just north of FM 1960. The azalea trails bloom between February and April, depending on the weather, so call now for a status and do take tag along your digital camera for awesome photos! Engaged couples, sweet 16’s, and a host of other visitors have their professional photographers meet them there on purpose for photo shoots.

March

  • 1. Check your sprinkler system to ensure all stations are working properly. Check for broken heads or broken water lines. Poor pressure could indicate a broken or leaking pipe. Install risers or relocate sprinkler heads if the spray is not reaching properly. This is sometimes necessary as plants mature and grow and the spray pattern is obstructed to other plants. Flower beds can be timed 5-7 minutes per station. Lawn areas, 8-10 minutes. Lawn strips may vary, perhaps 5-7 minutes. A daily operating schedule set to 5:00 am is advisable March through August, but every other day is also a reasonable schedule to begin the season. First of all, learn to assess your properties watering requirements by looking at the condition of your lawn, plants, flowers, and trees. Then, find out how many minutes your entire program is running and taper down the number of minutes per station that appears to run longer than necessary. A rain sensor will automatically turn off the system during a rain and prevent needless irrigation. Don’t forget to check for rotors or heads that are spraying onto the street needlessly and make the necessary adjustments.

  • 2. Reduce your monthly water bill by applying with the city waterworks department for a permit to install a separate water meter expressly for the irrigation system. There is no sewage cost attachment on water used for irrigation purposes since it is not disposed of into the city’s sewage plumbing system. The city has its own list of approved plumbers who will install your irrigation water meter for you. Prices vary between plumbers, and $1000 is not uncommon, but the savings are worth it when you consider that each dollar of water used is matched on your statement with another dollar charged for sewage disposal.

  • 3. Sprinkler upgrade attachments are available to enable distribution of organic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and mosquito killer on a regulated schedule. A mechanical attachment with cabinet storing contained chemicals can be spliced in to your existing irrigation system at a modest price.

  • 4. Thin out Liriope borders if these plantings are overgrown. Replant where needed without making a new purchase. A fun and easy technique is to press a sharp straight-edge spade 6-7 inches straight into the soil along the outside edge of the growing “row” of Liriope. Do this for a length of 2 feet, then repeat along the inside edge of the “row”. Next, repeat at the end of both 2-foot lengths. Now use the shovel again at the front of the “row” to tilt and thereby loosen the Liriope. After this, set the spade aside and, using both hands, grab the Liriope “by the hair” and pull. Out will come a beautiful, rectangular section of Liriope. Lay it on its side and quarter it with the straight-edge spade or a machete into a desirable re-planting size. It’s as easy as dividing up a cake. Repeat until all the Liriope is quartered. Then, space out all the new plantings in the resultant 6-7 inch deep trench and backfill with bagged garden soil on both sides of the new row.

  • 5. Apply tree and shrub fertilizer to flower beds, as well as blooming fertilizer around blooming plants. Color Star is an excellent blooming fertilizer as it contains blood meal and bone meal.

  • 6. Mulch flower beds 3-4 inches deep with a premium pine bark mulch. Look for one with vibrant color and that does not appear in a dried out condition. Premium pine bark mulch can be purchased in bulk at a local soil and mulch yard. Stop by and visit before ordering to examine the materials on site. These stores also carry stone and other natural materials for your gardening needs. Mulches average $35 to $50 per cubic yard and a delivery fee. The delivery fee is waived if their minimum purchase requirement is met. There are other mulches available, such as hardwood, but they leach out the nitrogen and moisture available to the plants from the soil. The colored mulches appear attractive, but the artificial color bleeds out in a few months. These mulches are made from shredded wooden pallets. By comparison, the pine bark mulch provides alkaline enzymes, which azaleas love, and other nutrients for plants. Do not mulch plant roots more than 1-2 inches, to prevent root rot. Trees are often mulched notoriously high. This robs oxygen and moisture and draws insects to the tree trunk.

  • 7. Plant annual seasonal flowers. These are grown from seed and become available to the public by mid-March. Check with an established nursery for availability and variety. For best installation, the flowers should be placed for 5-10 minutes in a tub of water prepared with Miracle Grow, or root stimulator, to moisten and vitalize the root systems. To plant, first set all the flowers out in the desired pattern and spacing. Then, individually plant each one. The best method is to use an aluminum planting trowel. Start by holding the trowel in a downward, stabbing fashion, the trowel facing toward you. Then, in a vertical, forward, down, and stabbing motion, create a circle of movements that will stab and mix the soil and mulch to a depth of 4-6 inches in the area the flower will be planted. Scoop to one side the loose soil and mulch. Place the plant in the hole and smooth the loose soil and mulch around the base of the plant. Do not plant the flowers too deep or will not survive. Plant almost even with the flower bed surface, allowing for a ½ inch covering of mulch. After planting is completed, sprinkle snail bait among the flowers to protect them from snails. Snails love to eat flowers during the night, as well as slugs and pill bugs. Snails and slugs eat the edges of the leaves, while pill bugs make holes in the leaves. If you notice leaf damage to your flowers, get snail bait. It comes in pellets or flakes. The pellets are best as they last longer.

  • 8. Water the newly mulched flower beds to establish a uniform moisture level and deep enough to reach the plant roots.

  • 9. Birdwatchers and bird lovers: Add a concrete birdbath to your garden, as well as a feeder. Be certain to keep a fresh supply of drinking water for them in the birdbath for birds are thirsty. Plants that make berries are also a consideration. Check with a local nursery for the different varieties available. Your gardens can become both a haven and a food establishment for birds of all kinds. Don’t forget to attract hummingbirds as well by placing hummingbird feeders in your garden.

  • 10. Mow weekly March through June at 3 inches high. Use a measuring tape to measure the blade height. This should be done on a level concrete surface. By use of a mulching mower, the clippings can be recycled and nitrogen put back into the grass. The clippings are an organic fertilizer. If you mulch the grass, however, do not mulch grass that is too high. It will develop an excess of clippings in the thatch and the hot weather and humidity will cause a fungal bacteria to grow. The grass will begin to yellow and lose its vigor and rich, green luster. It is always best to use a blower or rake to disperse or collect any excess clippings if you are mulching your grass. Excess clippings on your lawn are an indication to raise the mower. Therefore, if your grass is hard to cut at 3 inches, raise the wheels 1 notch, which is 1 inch higher.

  • 11. Take a break and visit The Mercer Arboretum, a multi-acre botanical garden on Aldine Westfield just north of FM 1960. The azaleas bloom early in March, so tag along your digital camera for awesome photos. Engaged couples, sweet 16’s, and a host of other visitors have their professional photographers meet them there on purpose for photo shoots.

April

  • 1. Fertilize trees to take advantage of April’s generous rainfall. At a local hardware store, purchase a 40-pound wrecking bar, to be used as an earth augur. These tools are commonly used to break up concrete and tear apart lumber structures. The wrecking bar is an ideal tool for making a network of 18-inch deep holes in the ground at least 4 feet away from the base of the tree and approaching the drip line, or edge, of the tree’s canopy. Depending on the breadth of the tree’s canopy, the holes can be 2-3 feet apart. Standing with both feet apart, and using both hands, raise the wrecking bar 2-3 feet and bring it down forcefully into the earth. Depending on the earth’s hardness, it may take 2-3 “strikes” in the same hole to achieve a depth of 18 inches. Then, with the wrecking bar inside the hole, rotate the bar slightly around in order to create a small funnel at the top. Once the hole is completed, remove the wrecking bar and use the funnel opening to pour in 2 cups of tree and shrub fertilizer. The holes can be left open or dressed with topsoil. Your trees will benefit from this planned nourishment for 6-9 months. When performing this procedure, be aware or irrigation lines or utilities.

  • 2. Fertilize seasonal flowers with Color Star blooming fertilizer. Practice broadcasting by the handful from a plastic or aluminum bucket. With your right hand, grab and hold a closed fist-full of fertilizer. Next, a wide, deliberate sweep from 3 o’clock to 11 o’clock as your hand opens will spread the granules gracefully in an evenly distributed pattern. Make certain the flowers are not wet so that the granules will not attach to the leaves or flowers. Gently brush off with your hand any granules that did not fall to the ground.

  • 3. Butterfly lovers should plant milkweed. Butterflies love to eat the leaves and will purposely come to eat and lay their eggs. You and your loved ones will get to witness caterpillars in a state of metamorphosis and the emergence of beautiful butterflies.

  • 4. Hummingbird lovers should plant the fire bush. This is a fairly large-growing plant with flowers consisting of red tubules that hold nectar for hummingbirds. Check to be sure your hummingbird feeders are full. This should become a regular chore which will bring many rewards for the hummingbirds will keep your home on their radar.

  • 5. Trim shrubs and hedges to maintain their shape and appearance.

  • 6. Cut rose flowers that are spent to promote new stem, leaf, and bud formations. A spent “sprig” to cut can be identified by that cluster of stems holding all the spent flowers. Cutting this “sprig” off will prepare the cut stem to create another splash of colorful roses. Pruning brings new life, so do not be afraid to cut.

  • 7. Provide periodic care for roses to stave off damage from insects and bacterial disease. If the rose buds are opening but appear sickly, open partially or not at all and appear decayed at the edges, an examination will reveal movement of tiny insects called rose mites crawling about inside the petals. The rose mites will devastate the crop of new and setting buds. A more visible external insect is the aphid, which will cause the spreading of black powdery mildew on the plant and leaves and weaken its nutritive and growing capacity. A systemic rose insecticide spray should be applied to the entire plant in the cool of day, to avoid chemical burn in combination with the sun’s heat. Black and yellow spots on rose leaves are caused by a fungus, which should be treated with a systemic fungicide. The fungus could come from over watering; poor drainage, like a clay soil condition, which should be removed and replaced with good soil; or over mulching. The bud union, or “ball” of the rose plant, located at its ground level base, should not be covered with mulch or soil at all. If the rose was obviously planted too deep, it must be raised to expose the bud union. Systemic chemicals are preferred for all plant applications because they are absorbed into the leaves, bark, cambium, and roots and insulate the plant from insect and bacterial damage. Some rose fertilizers are available with systemic ingredients already added.

  • 8. Inspect crape myrtles, hibiscus plants, and azaleas for insects. Crape myrtle trees get aphids. They leave shiny, wet-looking clear exudates on the leaf, which turns into black powdery mildew and contaminates surrounding plants. Hibiscus plants get whitefly, which feed on the leaves and leave a clear exudate that turns into black sooty mold. The azaleas are prone to lace bugs, which suck sap from the leaves, turning the foliage from a healthy green to a mottled tan. There is a hidden insect world among plants. A magnifying glass is very helpful in insect identification. Malathion is a recommended chemical to spray for these three insects. Gilmore produces a fine, plastic hose-end sprayer that has a metering dial to properly mix the ratio of chemical to water.  Use goggles, a nose mask, and a long-sleeve shirt during any chemical applications, spraying in the direction of the prevailing wind patterns to avoid spray back-drifts.

  • 9. Inspect fruit trees for sap that is bleeding from the bark due to fruit tree borers. Lindane has recently been removed from the market but there are other replacement products at a local chemical store. The best ones are systemic which can be mixed in a bucket and used to douse the tree’s roots for absorption into the entire plant.

  • 10. Spray all shrubs with insecticide as a preventive measure.

  • 11. Tip on retail mosquito yard sprays: Do not purchase products labeled Mosquito Yard Spray! Read the label first, to find out the main ingredient, and then buy the cheaper product, with the same main ingredient, by the same company! Companies are selling the same product under a different label for more lucre!

Did You Know?

Every month the list of lawn care and landscape tips changes to match the season,
so come back every month and we'll help make your landscape look its best...
Year round!