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September Landscapes – Change those settings now!

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Change those sprinkler settings from evening starts to morning starts!

The month of September is always interesting because it represents so much change. But the change we’ll talk about first is the change you’ll make to your water sprinkler settings – and why we make them.

Labor Day is the day I recommend to change your sprinkler settings from evening starting times over to morning starting times. Anywhere between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. is a good time to begin your watering cycles.

We make this change so that we don’t create conditions favorable to fungus. We want the lawn to dry out each day before nightfall. Nights are longer and cooler. The sun is tilting back in the sky and days are shorter. The hot temperatures may still be with some of us, but the amount of time spent at that temperature is now rather short compared to a month ago.

Additionally, you will want to adjust your times for each cycle. We no longer need to put out as much water to keep our lawn/plants/trees going as evaporation is reducing. An ideal set up for right now would be three days a week at 10 minutes per zone (spray heads).

In a previous column, I talked about how not all sprinkler zones are the same. Zones against a house on the north side no longer need as much water as zones on the south side which are still getting full sun. So the times for those type zones can be reduced compared to what you’re giving the south side. Now, some areas on the north side of the house will still require the same water as the sun may still be hitting it directly. But in all likelihood, shade is already dominant in those beds against the house.

The sun begins tilting it way lower in the sky at the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. That day is during the third week of June. Each day after that summer solstice is shorter than the one before. By early September, we start noticing the changes. Places that were getting partial day sun no longer are. Its important that we respond to those changes.


Autumn Sage (aka Salvia Greggi)

September has some other changes at hand, those that don’t require resetting anything. Namely, the Autumn Sage and Russian Sage here in Texas begins their most glorious time of the year in September. And of course, the Gulf Muhly and Pink Muhly grasses send up their breathtaking, iridescent plumes during September. In Central and South Texas, the Copper Canyon Daisies will become full with blooms this month. They are primarily fall bloomers. All this to say – it’s an exciting time to be outside and in the landscape this month!

Other things you should consider doing this month . . . . 

1. Clean out gutters before the leaves begin falling in October.

2. Trim trees during fall but before the leaves fall. This way you can easily see the dead limbs for removal, and see where the weight of the canopy may need attention.

3. If you’ve been thinking of putting in a new landscape or outdoor living space, September is a great time to do that. Installing landscapes in September allows for abundant time for plants/trees to get established before the stress of next summer’s heat sets in.

4. September is a great time to have your sprinkler system checked out, after performing at peak for the past several months. Mechanical things wear down, break, etc., so its best to get it checked out before it costs you.

5. If you haven’t done so already, apply your pre emergent and weed/feed now. Remember, conditions before favorable for fungus during the fall so keep your weed/feed spreader ratio lighter than the recommendation on the product. With pre emergent, the heavier the application the better your results will be.

6. Now that we’re about to get rainfall again, know that each time we get a rainfall of any significance, there will be an outbreak of weeds to follow. In the weeks prior to that rain, weed seeds were being blown around and many will find your lawn and germinate with a good rain. This is why we apply pre emergent.


Helping your fall color display, before fall gets here

Texas, or most of it, had a very dry summer this year. Some haven’t seen rain since late June. That can take its toll on trees, stress-wise, and ruin a good fall display.

So if you have Maples, Chinese Pistaches, Red Oaks, and other trees with beautiful fall color in normal years, you can help salvage some color by helping them as that time approaches.

For young trees, you can begin giving them water soluble fertilizer, such as Jack’s 10-30-20. Just a scoop per gallon mixed with water in a 5-gallon bucket will help get your trees out of stress and more able to perform the functions needed for that fall color change. Simply pour slowly around the base of the tree. Repeat this once a week or so but not so much during rainy periods.

Another product you can add to your mix is SuperThrive. There are plant hormones in that product that really make some species respond favorably. Most notably Maples. And let’s face it, there’s not many trees out there that can give the fall color of a Maple.

One tree I really enjoy seeing during the fall is the Sumac tree. It’s color will change from purple to red to orange to yellow before its show is over. Quite impressive and abundant in the wild in most of Texas.

For larger specimens in your landscape, just make sure the drip zone around the tree is getting plenty of water to make up for whats been lost over the summer. The drip zone is everything beneath the canopy to the edge of the canopy. Most of the tree’s roots are located there.



What is that thing on my Oak!

I received a question emailed to me the other day, I thought I’d share it here. I get this question a lot so maybe you’ve also wondered the same thing.

“I have this creepy knot looking thing that is growing out of the side of my Bur Oak’s trunk. What is going on? Is it diseased? What do I need to do?”

You need to do nothing. That knot is called a “burl” and is quite common and is not indicative of anything wrong with your tree. It can be indicative of past damage or stress however. That could be by injury, fungus, viral, and even insect and mold infestations. This is the tree’s way of dealing with the issue and healing itself, although it does leave behind an awkward looking place in the tree.

Many species of Oak’s respond this way as do Maples. It is highly valued in the carpentry field because of its unusual and dramatic grains.

Another question I receive often is about an “eye shape” that almost looks cut into an Oak trunk. This is a growth habit of the tree and not something to be alarmed with. Some trees shed their bark and grow new and it gets larger. While others will grow a sort of extension joint to accommodate growth of the tree.

What you should concern yourself with would be the “fungus balls” that will grow and hang from Live Oaks, particularly in the Central Texas area. Those are sucking nutrients from the tree and should be removed on a regular basis.

Late season flowers . . . 

I am seeing some requests for spring/summer flowers, still. This is the end of the spring/summer season so those flowers are going to be hard to find right now. It would be best to wait another month when the fall/winter flowers become available. We’ll talk more about those selections in next month’s column.

Perennial flowers are also going to be fewer in number this time of year at the nurseries.



The Exterior AC unit . . . 

Its been a long spring and summer with lots of mowing taking place during that time. Since this was an especially dry summer here in Texas, the amount of dust and dirt kicked up in the landscape was more than normal.

It would be beneficial to now take a look at that outside AC unit and clean the coils with a water hose. You would start by flipping the breaker to the unit, turning it off. Then remove the cover of the unit by unscrewing the various screws. Keep them in a safe place, you’ll need them later. Once that is off you’ll be looking at your coils and likely seeing it very dirty. 

You will want to clean by running water through the coils from the inside to the outside. This is why we cut the power so it does not suddenly turn on while your arm is in there. We clean from the inside to the out so the dirt does not become trapped inside the unit.

You do not want to apply much water pressure to clean the coils. Moderate to light pressure is recommended. 

If you’re not confident or comfortable doing this, call your local AC company and have it done. It can make a difference in your electric bill and your cooling/heating.

(Mark’s column each month is sponsored by Stagecoach Trailers, Inc., of Naples, Texas. Find them at www.stagecoachtrailers.com)


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Sir, I laid some new sod this past spring and while it is growing, it's not growing as I expected and the dirt under the grass is hard as a rock. I read where aeration would help. I'm thinking of having it done but would it be too late to do that? Thanks as always for your help.

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2 hours ago, tejasrulz said:

Sir, I laid some new sod this past spring and while it is growing, it's not growing as I expected and the dirt under the grass is hard as a rock. I read where aeration would help. I'm thinking of having it done but would it be too late to do that? Thanks as always for your help.

No, its not too late. I would also throw in a topdressing of cotton bur compost. This specific type of compost is used to soften and loosen black clay soil here in DFW.

I've got another Longhorn here in Dallas who bought a house last winter. We took his lawn in April. It was hard as concrete. We had to do the aeration and topdressing twice over the summer just to get the soil back in shape.

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