Lawn Care Maintenance Monthly Tips: Caring for your Lawn and Landscape
Spring is practically over and Summer is revving up.
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!
1. Add tree silhouette lighting and landscape lighting to your gardens and property. These landscape upgrades create an exciting dimension at night, as well as security for your home.
2. Use a broadcast spreader to fertilize your lawn with a premium, slow-release 15-5-10 fertilizer. This is a non-burning fertilizer that does not require watering but, of course, works best when watered in. Purchase a spreader that has a dispersal guard, to keep granules from going unnecessarily onto streets, sidewalks, driveways, and patios. Be especially careful with the inside of the pool for the iron granules will cause rust marks to appear all over the paint job of the pool’s floor. The pool may need to be drained and repainted in the worst case scenario. After the application, be sure and use a powered blower on all paved areas to prevent oxidation marks from fertilizer granules. These granules can be blown into the lawn or garden areas.
3. Fertilizing tip: Any time Bermuda start to grow in your St. Augustine grass, this is a sign of poor fertilization practices. Bermuda always takes over when the St. Augustine becomes weak.
4. Explanation of fertilizer ratios. The ratio is described by three numbers. For example: 15-5-10. To illustrate the purpose of each number, the 15 is nutrients for the leaves of a plant; the 5 is nutrients for the stem of a plant; and the 10 is nutrients for the roots of a plant. Chemically, the three numbers stand for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, in weight percent, in this illustration 3-1-2. The nitrogen is for greening, the potassium for stem strength, and the potassium for root health and stamina.
5. Use a broadcast spreader to apply insecticide granules for chinch bugs on your lawn. If you, or your neighbor, have not watered well and the weather has been very dry and hot, chinch bugs could develop in your lawn or migrate from your neighbor’s lawn to yours. These insects thrive in very dry and hot conditions. Chinch bugs cause the grass leaves to appear like the grass is dying for lack of water, but watering is of no avail. The reason is that these insects suck the sap from the leaves, but they first inject an enzyme to cause the sap to flow easily. This enzyme is poisonous and stays in the leaves, causing a discoloration and subsequent death of the entire lawn. In addition, the adults lay eggs and the larvae hatch to continue damaging the lawn. The adults are black, with a white diamond on their back, and about 1/16th of an inch in length. The nymphs, newly-hatched, are slightly smaller and are oval in appearance, like a pill, with a white stripe in the middle and pink and brown respectively opposite from the white stripe. An early warning sign to watch for when chinch bugs are present is a yellowing, or discoloration of the lawn adjacent to concrete areas or concrete edges, since those areas are naturally the driest and hottest.
6. Identifying chinch bugs for certain is to catch some, at least an adult. Look in a green grass area adjacent to a discolored area, in case they have already moved. Get down on your knees and quickly use all the fingers of both hands to spread apart the grass all the way to the ground. Scan the open area quickly with your eyes for insect movement. If you do not see any chinch bugs right away, move to another spot. You might see an adult or a nymph. Change locations until you do find some chinch bugs. If none are found, the yellowing could be caused from lack of water or a fungus called summer patch. If the area is watered and improves, all is fine. If it does not improve, apply a granular fungicide to the entire lawn with a broadcast fertilizer and water in.
7. Apply chelated iron to all plants and shrubs. It is a non-burning granular product and can be broadcast by hand. There is a brand named Ruff N Tuff. During the hot weather, plants may go into stress and the foliage begin turning yellow due to iron depletion. Broadcast by hand using the technique to fertilize seasonal flowers. Manually run the irrigation system or wait until it turns on automatically the next day.
8. Inspect pine trees for stress. If the pine needles begin to appear faded in color during the hot months, and it has been very hot and dry, the pine trees could be attacked by Japanese pine beetle. These insects bore holes about 1/16th of an inch through the bark, reach the tree’s cambium or hardwood layer, and “girdle” the bark of the whole tree. Girdling is the separation of the tree’s bark from the hardwood layer, leaving the bark to loosely hug around the tree, like a girdle. The pine tree will of course die, as did thousands in Houston from the recent historical drought. Examination of the bark will find countless entry holes, as well as sawdust trailing down and collecting at the base of the tree. If the bark is pulled off, the beetles will be seen “working” underneath. Stress from lack of rainfall, or sufficient irrigation, will weaken a pine tree and make it susceptible to Japanese pine beetle attack. The problem lies in not knowing that the Japanese pine beetles are present. It is too late when the signs are seen and the damage found. The best preventative is to irrigate and to spray the base and some of the trunk with Malathion, so the larvae will not seek out the pine trees from the nearby host plant where the eggs were laid.
9. Education is the best prevention to any horticultural problem or dilemma on your property. University agricultural and horticultural extensions abound in free online and printed information on entomology, the study of insects, and a host of related disciplines. Make it an assignment to learn what will make or break your success in having an awesome lawn and landscape. The neighbors will praise your achievements and request an audience with you.
1. Trim shrubs and hedges to maintain their shape and appearance.
2. Tip when trimming: If you notice your juniper’s leaves turning to a brown color, chances are the plants have spider mites and should be sprayed with Malathion or other recommended insecticide. To check for these insects, hold a sheet of white paper under some foliage, then tap the foliage with the back of your hand. You should be able to see tiny insects crawling all over the white paper. Bag worms are another insect that attack junipers. These insects make a hanging cocoon with juniper leaves. You will find conical cocoons made of brown, dead juniper leaves. These are “sleeping bags” for the worms inside. At night, they lower the bags down about a third of the way down their body and eat the juniper foliage from their suspended hideout. Use Malathion to treat this problem.
3. Visit a statuary maker for quaint gardening ornaments and décor. There are two popular ones in Houston: Statue Makers, on 2003 Blalock Road and The Garden Gate, on 5122 Morningside Drive. In Hempstead, Texas, there is Frazier’s Ornamental Concrete, on 23200 Highway 6. Enjoy!
4. Visit The Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas, but first stop at the Museum District in Chapel Hill, Texas, home of Chapel Hill Sausage. The Rose Emporium has antique roses and hard to find specimens. Brenham is also home to Blue Bell Ice Cream. Call ahead of time for ice cream tour times.
5. Purchase new seasonal flowers to replace spent spring plantings. Consider new, blooming perennial plants, which will be new, permanent plants for several years to come.
6. Consider pruning your trees before the hurricane season begins in the month of August. Do not risk dangerous limbs from trees or top-heavy trees laden with heavy rain toppling on your home and personal vehicles, endangering you and your loved ones. Tree root balls give way when the earth becomes saturated with excessive rainfall during a hurricane.
7. Tip when trimming trees: If you are pruning oaks or pecan, consider making firewood, campfire wood, or BBQ wood. Have it cut no more than 18 inches in length. The thickness should be 2 inches up to 3 inches. More than 3 inches can be split using a rented log splitter. Why throw out all this wonderful resource? Store it in a dry, sheltered place for proper seasoning and later enjoyment at home, the back yard BBQ, or at the part. Why buy it when you have it?
8. Consider the cost of a natural gas backup-generator in the event of a major hurricane where city electrical power is unavailable. There are several companies in town who install these generators, including Home Depot.
9. Make certain your foundation is getting enough moisture to keep your home from developing structural cracks in very dry weather from the earth’s cracking, expansion, and lifting. Foundation flower beds are a most excellent means to keep your homes foundation level. Add some foundation beds as necessary, or add strip irrigation. Perforated soaker hoses may not be a sufficient source of necessary moisture. There are companies in Houston who install a mechanical moisture system for foundations, complete with an irrigation timer and moisture level reading equipment.
10. Protect your foundation from trees that are extremely close to your home. During very dry seasons, the tree roots can extend under your home seeking moisture and also cause structural building damage as they grow and expand. A root barrier consisting of sheets of thick polyurethane or other types of suitable material can be installed between the roots and the home. A trench is excavated to the appropriate depth, the targeted roots are truncated, the barrier installed, and the trench is then backfilled. Any subsequent root fibers that begin growing will be deflected to grow in the other direction by the barrier in place.
11. Check for chinch bugs again to determine that all is well with your lawn. Remember, chinch bugs migrate, and if neither you nor your neighbor has them, they can still arrive on a lawn mower from a hired service company. Surprise, surprise, surprise!
12. A new insect to identify this month is the June bug, sometimes called the May bug. This is a reddish brown flying beetle that likes to gather around the porch light at night beginning in spring. It tunnels 2-5 inches lays the eggs for grub worm larvae. The grub worm is a white, c-shaped larva that grows underground up to 1 inch in length. These larvae will feed on weed roots and other available root vegetation. By September the grubs begin feeding on St. Augustine, Bermuda, and other lawn grasses. Their mouths are for chewing and they will cut all the roots of the grass to the effect that the grass can then be rolled up like a carpet. To detect grub worm presence and damage, take a walk on your lawn. If at any point the grass feels spongy or springy underfoot, stop. Kneel down and press with your hand to consider how it feels loose. Next grab some grass with one hand and pull lightly a few times. If it is not tightly attached, but gives or lifts, there are grub worms underneath indeed. This can be confirmed by digging a 1-foot square hole. If up to 10 grub worms are found in the excavated soil, there is an infestation in your lawn. Using a broadcast spreader, apply a granular chemical called Ofthanol, or other suitable product recommended by a local chemical store. Here again, unseen damage can be preempted by a soil treatment in June.
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...