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June Landscapes – What to do with that side yard!

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What to do with that side yard!

Look at this space as a place of opportunity instead of a source of issues

One of the most popular requests I get when meeting with a new homeowner is – “What can I do about the side yards?”

That question is generally coming from someone who owns a home in a subdivision where homes are fit tightly together. In such an environment, the grade from each house declines severely so that rain will drain away from the home on each side and gravity takes it away to either the front or back.

The problem is caused because so many HOAs demand Bermuda turf and Bermuda wants a LOT of sunshine for it to grow as it should. Decrease the sunlight, Bermuda thins and often disappears altogether. And thats what happens on the sides of a home.


The next home is only 15 ft or so away and often times these are two-story structures. So the window of time for direct sun is often reduced to a couple of hours per day.

So often homeowners in these subdivisions and communities have kids and pets. So dirt and mud start coming back into the house. Homeowners feel helpless to do anything about it.

There are a couple of approaches one can take toward solving this problem and perhaps creating something useful/beautiful for the areas.

In many cases, a patio will be near or next to one of the two side yards. This is the logical choice for developing a small garden with plants that do not require a lot of sunlight. Place in some stepping stones (to get to the gate) and fill the whole area with either a small (1”-2”) river rock that you can walk on. You may also use a gravel that is pretty popular right now called “Black Tejas Rock” or “Blue Star Gravel.” Its consistent color can compliment any landscape. Of course, weed cloth will be placed beneath the gravel to limit the potential for weeds.

Depending on the grade of your home, you may have to rake the gravel back towards the home once or twice a year due to the effects of gravity.

Remember, in doing such a project, you need to make sure rain is able to drain down the side of the property as designed. Don’t create anything that will block the flow of water. With either river rock or gravel, the water will flow through it.

Meanwhile, the other side of the home is normally one with very little exposure or use from the homeowner. So a simple grade of cloth/gravel there will suffice. You will want to use metal edging or some barrier to prevent your rock from finding its way into your neighbor’s lawn.

Do not remove irrigation heads from your side yards in creating these “sidescapes.” Instead, we simply change the nozzle to a side-spray nozzle so that your foundation will still get moisture there. Most sprinkler designs have the heads along the foundation of the home.

So while you may think you have a real problem going on with the side yards, look at them as areas of opportunity instead.


It’s time to apply your favorite grub control product to your lawn. I’m calling for early treatments this year because of the warm winter we experienced for the second year in a row. A warm winter means that the grub worms will move closer to the surface, sooner, and begin feeding sooner. Normally, we treat in late June or early July.

Don’t underestimate the destructive abilities of grub worms. They feed on the roots of your turf grass and no matter how much water or fertilizer you put on it, the grass just continues to decline. Left untreated, lawn turf can be severely damaged.

How do you know you have a grub problem otherwise? If you stick a shovel into the ground and pull up the soil with your shovel, examine the soil very well, looking for the presence of grub worms. If you find one or two of them, thats normal. If you find five or six in that shovel full, you have an infestation.

If you are doing this yourself, there are several grub worm control products on the market, most of them are granular. With retail products, I advise you to treat twice, two weeks apart. Remember to water it in as soon as you’re done applying. You don’t want your pets walking on it until its watered in.



We’re already seeing an above average season for insect activity despite the season really just getting started. Things to watch for in the landscape are:

1. Spider Mites – This past week I was called to a home where a homeowner complained that the leaves were disappearing on a Red Oak in the front yard. What I found when I got there was an infestation in that tree and the beginnings of one in a Red Oak 20 feet away. But the origins of the spider mites was a nearby Crape Myrtle. Before I left, I had treated two Red Oaks and three Crape Myrtles. They are active already. If you have a tree with leaves that are browning and curling up, look to see if you notice webs, spiders and of course, the dirt dobbers which feed on the spiders. Products with bifenedrin (liquid) are effective here.


2. Scale and Aphids – I so often see them working together, I’ll list them together. You’ll find both trying to feed on your Crape Myrtle trunks and limbs and they sometimes will attack shrubs such as boxwoods and Texas Sage. These critters suck the moisture out of a tree/shrub day by day and release a sweet substance which draws in other insects like ants. Scale actually looks like a white crust substance on the trunks and limbs. Aphids love to congregate in large masses near the bottom of the tree. A retail product like Malathion (liquid) is effective in killing these insects.


It’s time to apply your second round of fertilizer or weed/feed to your lawn between the middle and end of the month. Get it done before June is over as you don’t want to have to put it down in the July heat.

Because it’s already getting pretty warm out there, reduce your ratio just a little so the lawn is not put under stress. Once you’ve applied, immediately water it in thoroughly.

Remember, use a product that is made specifically for your lawn. Putting down the wrong stuff can be devastating to a lawn. Read the label and make sure your turf grass is listed on there for approved applications.


If you'd like to speak in more detail about these or other subjects, email me at greenthumbtx@verizon.net.

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


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FYI – we're already seeing Chinch bugs. Look for sections of grass with stunted growth which turns completely brown over a few days.

Bifenedrin is the chemical answer. Can be found in both liquid and granular format.

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