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Sirhornsalot

January Landscapes – Topdressing sets the tone for the year!

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You can set the tone for the coming growing season by topdressing your lawn this month

What on Earth could you possibly have to do in the landscape in January, of all months? Why don’t you just take the month off, Mark? After all, it’s cold outside. lol

Well, cold is a relative term in Texas. It depends on where you’re standing. We can have some very spring-like days in January so no, there’s no excuse in not coming through in what I consider the most important landscaping month on the calendar – January.

How can January be the most important month? Nothing is growing in January. Right?

The last two weeks of January, and into early February, is the time when we typically aerate lawns and follow that up with a topdressing of compost over the top of the lawn as well as our planting beds and veggie gardens. Big deal, huh? Well, yeah, it is. It sets the tone for the whole growing season.

Let me explain. When you aerate your lawn with a typical aerator machine, you create hundreds of 3-inch to 4-inch holes in the lawn. These holes act like little catch basins. With the compost over the top of it, any water filtering through it (rain or sprinklers) will create a tea-like liquid we call compost tea, which sifts into the catch basin holes, allowing more of the minerals and nutrients to be absorbed into the soil. The result is a healthier, more robust lawn and garden emerging a few weeks later when spring begins to arrive.

 

Why do we need to do this? Aren’t the minerals and nutrients already there in the soil?

Each year we spray thousands of gallons of water on our lawns – tap water which contains chlorine. Chlorine is designed to kill bacteria and other bad things and unfortunately, it also kills important things in our soils such as enzymes and microbes. Soil depletion is further enhanced by our own hot Texas sun, which bakes nutrients out of the soil. Wind and water erosion also come into play. All of this is compounded if you’re one who bags their lawn clippings and does not mulch their leaves in the fall.

So we replenish our soil.

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Are all composts the same and if not, which one do I use?

It really depends on where you live and what your type of soil needs to produce more successful growth. I recommend purchasing a soil pH meter to find out what your soil pH is and if it needs some adjusting. If your soil pH is neutral, then you can use about any type of compost out there. If your soil pH is acidic, then use a pH neutral compost, such as cotton bur compost. If your soil is high alkaline, use an acidic cotton burr compost.

As you might guess, cotton burr compost is my favorite compost to use for topdressing purposes. It is made of 100 percent cotton plant waste, composted and is a natural clay soil softener. It is also loaded with minerals and nutrients while also being easy on the nitrogen. You’re not looking to put much nitrogen into the soil right now, you’re interested in literally everything else the turf/plants need that cotton burr compost naturally comes with.

Dairy cow manure compost is another excellent choice. It is very fine and this is helpful in that it takes less time to get worked into the soil. Dairy cows are fed a high nutrient diet, so the compost coming from that is also highly nutritious.

If you’re in the Austin area, you’ll be able to get “Dillo Dirt” which is a compost product created by the city of Austin and sold throughout the area. It makes a fine lawn topdressing.

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What do you mean when you say topdressing? How much do I put down on the lawn?

You’re not looking to cover the entire lawn and make it black. You’re looking to make a dusting of compost on the lawn, like a light snowfall (see photo, above) Once you’ve put it down, rake through it so that it disperses into the turf. At the same time, you want to put down enough to create the result you’re looking for.

Once this is done, you’re ready for rain to make the magic happen.

The most successful topdressing season I’ve seen was in January 2007 when only a day after we applied the last topdressing, a five-inch snow fell on the Metroplex. The ensuing slow melt of that snow caused even more penetration of the compost into the soil. It had a dramatic effect on our lawns later in spring.

Do I need to de-thatch my turf?

No, not necessarily. Mother Nature will take care of the thatch once temperatures begin to warm and the bio-degrading picks up. For now, that thatch isn't hurting anything.

Pre-emergent time!

A third component of this annual task is the application of pre-emergent. The first pre-emergent application of the year is due at the same time you are performing your topdressing. So just apply the pre-emergent last, so that it is scattered on top of the compost/turf. If you opt to skip the aeration/topdressing, go ahead and get that pre-emergent down anyway during the last of this month or early February.

On the retail side, pre-emergent is often labeled “weed preventer” or “crabgrass preventer.” It likely will not say “pre-emergent” even though thats what it is.

If you’re looking for a way to get your lawn back to beautiful, compost topdressing/aeration is where you start.

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Old Farmers' Almanac great for growing info, weather forecasts

The 2019 Old Farmers’ Almanac is out and on sale. Make sure you pick up a copy as there is a wealth of information contained inside. For the gardening/landscaping person, this is an invaluable tool as you’ll find. You can learn when the best time to plant your vegetables, when the first and last frosts will be, as well as learning all types of tricks to produce healthier plants and flowers.

But one of the main reasons I always get a copy is because of their weather forecasts for the year. They are a respected source of forecast information simply because they take into account the affects of solar activity into our weather, whereas most modern climatologists do not. Its strange that they don’t, but the sun has a profound affect on our weather.

 

For Winter 2019 they are calling for warm and dry through most of Texas. The extreme West Texas area and El Paso are shown as cold and wet this year. Keep in mind, January is the driest month of the year for most of Texas.

For Summer 2019, they are calling for a cooler and wet summer for most of Texas, with the Panhandle being shown in a hot/dry zone while El Paso in a normal/dry zone. The cooler, wet summer carries through to Kansas and east to the Atlantic seaboard.

I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have. Just fire away!


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

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51 minutes ago, tejasrulz said:

Well so far the "Warm and dry" part is way off. Jan 2nd, 2019, the wettest day ever in Austin. Friggin cold too!  :unsure:

Thanks as always for the tips!

Is that right? How much rain did you get?

We got about 3/4 an inch so far here north of DFW airport. They're saying snow later today.

On average, July is actually slightly wetter than January each year. We just don't notice it so much because of the cool/cold temps in January instead of the hot conditions of July.

 

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3 hours ago, Sirhornsalot said:

Is that right? How much rain did you get?

We got about 3/4 an inch so far here north of DFW airport. They're saying snow later today.

On average, July is actually slightly wetter than January each year. We just don't notice it so much because of the cool/cold temps in January instead of the hot conditions of July.

 

At my house I got ~3 inches of rain over the past 2 days (2nd & 3rd). The official count in Austin for 1/2/19 was at least 2.44 at one spot, even higher at the other (Airport & Camp Mabry). The avg for Jan is ~2.24 inches. 

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34 minutes ago, tejasrulz said:

At my house I got ~3 inches of rain over the past 2 days (2nd & 3rd). The official count in Austin for 1/2/19 was at least 2.44 at one spot, even higher at the other (Airport & Camp Mabry). The avg for Jan is ~2.24 inches. 

If you'll remember, Christmas was dry and warm. Had not rained in a couple weeks. But you got a month's worth of rain in one swipe there.

 

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3 hours ago, J.B. TexasEx said:

What pre-emergent brands do you recommend, SHA? I usually shop for lawn care @ Home Depot or Lowes.

https://www.solutionsstores.com/barricade-granular-herbicide?CAWELAID=120308880000000735&gclid=Cj0KCQiAj4biBRC-ARIsAA4WaFgpS9QPDwNSVppAoov7M6bcL-PH-C1pS8bkb4hB_PNoQbLMy0lciOkaApimEALw_wcB

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