Houston Residential and Commercial Lawn Care and Landscape Services

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

Summer is winding down and Autumn is in sight. Its time to plan for the fall garden.

August

  • 1. 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.

  • 2. Facts about lawn fertilization. A regularly fertilized lawn will maintain its rich, green appearance through the month of December. Healthy grass will be more resistant to insects, disease, and weed infestation due to its vigor and tightly knit thatch.

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

  • 4. Be on the lookout for sod webworms. In the month of August, be aware of small, tan colored moths visiting on your lawn and inside your plants and shrubs. This small, innocuous appearing moth is laying eggs for sob webworm larva, which will hatch and begin eating the leaves of your grass, stripping it down to the stolons, or runners. There are three common signs to watch for. If birds are flocking to your lawn, they are dining on sod web worms. Also, a large infestation will cause the grass to appear from a distance to be yellowing and paling in color compared to the surrounding green grass. The third and final sign is to actually walk to the suspect area, get on your knees, and consider the chewed-up appearance of the leaves on the runners. To discover the web worms, open several affected grass areas and look for fresh, green pellets of poop about 1/32nd inch in diameter. The web worm will be curled up near its own poop. Damage caused by feeding web worm larva spreads rapidly and so quick action in required. Visit a local chemical store, or Home Depot, and purchase a product called Power Force, by the Bayer Company. This product is a topical application consisting of cysluthrin and comes in a 32-ounce hose-end sprayer. One container covers approximately 5,000 square feet. Purchase enough to spray the lawn and all the shrubs, where the web worm moths continue to hide until the day cools down in late afternoon. After the Power Force is applied, return the next day with another Bayer product called Bayer Complete. This product also comes in a 32-ounce hose-end sprayer and has both a topical, cysluthrin, and a systemic, imidaclotrid, to remain in the grass leaves and protect from a further infestation. The coverage area is 5,000 square feet. These products are awesome and your problem will disappear within 1 week. After an infestation like this, an application of premium slow-release 15-5-10 fertilizer to your entire lawn is advisable, to bring new life and vigor to your damaged grass. Run your irrigation system purposely to activate the fertilizer and see the results within 1 week after the Bayer treatments. Be sure to check afterwards for any further web worm activity, during which time you should see dead worms and old poop. Spot treat any remaining area as necessary with the above Bayer products.

September

  • 1. Hummingbird feeders should be kept full to prepare the hummingbirds for their annual seasonal flight to Mexico and warmer weather. They purposely feed to store up energy for the trip.

  • 2. Aerate the lawn with a core aerator machine. These can be rented for a day for about $100.00 at a local tool rental store. The machine almost looks like a soil tiller, except it has a hollow steel roller drum at the front instead of a rotary plow. The roller is roughly 1 foot in diameter and 2 feet long, and on its surface it has many hollow steel tubes sticking out about ½ inch in diameter by 1 ¼ inch in length. The aerator is used to roll over the entire lawn digging up soil cores, or plugs of soil, and dropping these plugs on the lawn as the machine advances. The concept is to alleviate soil compaction, improve oxygen delivery to the grass roots, as well as facilitate the intake of irrigation, rainfall, fertilizers, and chemicals. The soil plugs extracted from the lawn will dissolve on their own and improve the lawns growing environment. Before performing a lawn aeration be certain to identify the location of all sprinkler hear and valve boxes. For this purpose, use colored plastic irrigation site marking flags, which are available at an irrigation supply store. These flags on an 18-inch length of stiff wire and are ideal for sticking in the ground to identify irrigation utilities.

  • 3. Plant your first vegetable garden this fall season and enjoy the pleasures of fresh, homegrown cooking ingredients. An excellent starter for this project is Bill Adam’s book Vegetable Gardening for the South.  Bill is graduated from the Texas A&M Agricultural Extension.

  • 4. Use a broadcast spreader to apply a turf fungicide if your lawn appears to be yellowing from brown patch. Brown patch is a fungal bacterium in the soil that lays dormant in the hot summer months and becomes active in the cooling weather. It will appear as circular rings and the rings usually have a tendency to grow and expand. This fungal bacterium breeds in the soil from a combination of over-watering and poor drainage, which cause stagnation of the soil’s balanced nutrients. A good product to purchase is Turfcide, a granular treatment available in a 50-pound bag. Apply at the recommended rate and repeat the treatment as suggested on the product label until your grass regains its normal, healthy green color. If your lawn has developed a fungal condition for the first time, this is a good reminder to check your sprinkler system’s operating time and reduce the run time.

  • 5. Spray your home’s foundation with a 32-ounce hose-end container of Bayer Complete if fire ants are migrating into your home through the expansion joints, or “weep” holes. This may not be necessary if you have been faithful in applying insecticide granules on your lawn as recommended.

  • 6. Correct poor drainage in your property by observing water retention patterns on your lawn during heavy rains. Take digital photos so you will remember where and how wide the water collects. Then, identify the center of each major area with a colored irrigation work site flag. These will be the common low-center areas where “location” drains need to be added. Location drains are simply underground catch basins with a grate on top meant to collect and remove rainwater from the flood-prone areas via 4-inch PVC pipe onto the city street.  A city permit must be obtained. A logical flow pattern can be sketched out for the pipe installation. From this sketch, the total linear footage for pipe can be conveniently calculated, as well as how many basins, basin outlets, sanitary tees, and elbows are needed. The catch basins are available in 6-inch, 9-inch, and 12-inch. The 6-inch is available only in round; the 9-inch and 12-inch in square. For PVC pipe grading purposes, to assure proper water flow, use adjustable basin outlets for attaching the pipe to the basins. These outlets can be attached in 4 positions: high, low, left, or right. The sanitary tees are designed to speed up the water flow away from the area. Be sure and install the tees in the proper flow direction. The elbows should all be long 90’s, which have a speed flow pattern compared to the short 90. Gutter downspouts are also a source of water flooding on your lawn. If you have gutters, the downspouts can be conveniently attached to the drainage system using round-to square gutter adapters. They come in 3-inch and 4-inch gutter sizes. Do not overburden the drainage system. If necessary, or practical, make plans to divide the system in half by installing one PVC pipe outlet on the left side of your home and one on the right. The curb at street will have to be cut with a 14-inch concrete saw and the PVC terminal cemented in at street level. Using PVC pipe with flares on one end will eliminate the need for connector sleeves between pipes. The flares should face away from the street, so the ridge of the entry pipe does not collect and build up soil. Use purple primer and PVC cement on all joints. This makes for a water-tight seal and dissuades the entry of tree root fibers foraging for water to drink. These root fibers will grow the length, collect soil, and clog up your system. Plan to add one or more clean-outs using sanitary tees with a screw-on cap terminating at the soil-top level. Make certain the cap is at a safe height for mowing purposes. These caps can be removed for inserting a hose and hosing out any collected soil. First, plug the exit at the curb, fill up the system, and then remove the plug. The heavy weight of the backed-up water will whisk your pipes clean as a whistle. Periodic addition of copper sulfate to your system will kill any root fibers that managed to enter your drainage system.

    Special notes: There are elevated, ribbed grates for the basins called atrium grates. These are for high-leaf areas and they allow for drainage below the elevated “ribs” while the leaves are floating on top. All pipe and connectors must be approved SDR35 grade to pass inspection. These materials are available at a local irrigation supply store, such as Ewing Plastics and Irrigation. SDR35 material sturdy. The inspector will step on the PVC pipe. If his weight makes the pipe compress beneath his foot, he will have you replace the entire pipes and return again on an appointed day.

  • 7. A drainage system should be installed inside of an excavated trench 7 inches wide and 9 inches deep. The catch basins will require a 12-inch square space. A sharp, straight-edge garden spade should be used excavating the trench. Mark out the trench by tightly stretching a length of ¼ inch rope between two stakes in the ground made from ½ inch iron rebar. Then use black spray paint to mark the centerline alongside the rope. Remove the rope and first start removing the grass in lengths 7 inches wide and at least 12 inches long. To remove the grass, inscribe the area with the straight-edge spade to a depth of 3-4 inches, and then forcefully push the spade lengthwise completely under the piece of grass. Lift the grass up and place to one side on the lawn. Repeat this procedure until all the grass is removed. The best way to forcefully push the spade under the pieces of grass is to assist your right hand by placing your inside right thigh against your grip and combine with your body weight to push the spade in one clean motion. This assures that the soil underneath the grass piece will not fall apart, as opposed to striking repeatedly underneath with the spade in the traditional way. The soil excavated should be moved by wheel barrow to a convenient space where it will not be compacted into the outlying grass by the wheel barrow traffic. Plastic tarps can also be laid out on the grass for this purpose but do not leave on site more than 2-3 days or it can kill the grass underneath. A sharpshooter spade can be used to tunnel under sidewalks from both sides until a clearing is made. Once the pipe and catch basins are in place, fill the system with water with a garden hose and time the flow with a watch to the exit at the street. With a thoughtful installation, your system should work like a charm. Your home is now safe even from heavy rains from a hurricane or large storm. Finally, you will have to call the city inspector from the public works department and he will approve your installation, and you can close your trench, or he will ask you to change an attachment and will return at an appointed day. Displaced, left-over soil can be discarded at a dump site, donated to a neighbor with low-lying areas or possibly used as a base and amended with enriched store-bought materials to begin a vegetable garden.

  • 8. Visit a local plant nursery and find out which flowers will be available to plant by the first week of October. The month of September is still too hot for any cool season flowers. It is better to wait for those to mature at the growers until mid-November and get re-stocked at the nursery. Meanwhile, some pre-fall color that will tolerate mild heat will provide color until your gardens are complemented fully with the seasonal color for winter.

October

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

  • 2. Plant available seasonal color that will tolerate mild heat until cool season flowers become available.

    Special note: Bulbs of many varieties become available in November. Plant them the day after Thanksgiving for a splash of color and amazement during January and February.

  • 3. Decorate your garden’s appearance with pumpkins and other items that have a fall season motif.

  • 4. Leaf maintenance season is just around the corner. Roofs and gutters will need to be maintained every 4-6 weeks through January. Remember to clear out the gutter downspouts with a garden hose!

  • 5. Irrigation can be reduced to every other day.

  • 6. Mowing of the lawn can be changed to bi-weekly and the blade lowered to 3 inches. It is best to collect the leaves with a gas-powered blower and bagging them before mowing. These can be disposed of or composted for your vegetable garden. If you have lots of beautiful, fresh pine needles, these are awesome for insulating azalea plants at their base.

  • 7. Take a break from the garden chores and visit the Texas Renaissance Festival in Plantersville, Texas. Don’t forget to see The Mud Show, a hilarious comedy troupe! Take your digital camera as there is a fabulous botanical display garden arranged with bromeliads and many other colorful blooming plants! The Texas Renaissance Festival runs every weekend in October and November. It’s a great family event!

  • 8. Check on the progress of your vegetable garden to ensure what plants are going to be a good choice for the next season. Take notes of your findings for future reference. Educate yourself on the insects and bacteria that will affect your success in producing bountiful yields from your plantings.

  • 9. Important Flower Purchasing Tip: Visit a local plant nursery and order and pay for your cool season flowers ahead of time. This will ensure that the nursery does not experience a run on their deliveries and you are left without your planting material. Some commercial nurseries sell to the public. They are the ones with better nursery stock.

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!