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January Landscape thread – Compost now, success over the season!


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We’ll start this edition off with a trivia question:
Q: What is the driest month of the year in Texas?
A: Lots of folks will answer with “July†but they’d be wrong. January is our driest month of the year for most of Texas, averaging slightly less rainfall than the month of July does.

Combine the lack of rain with the fact that January typically has a lot of windy cold fronts that move through and the set up exists for plant/tree/shrub stress.
During the summer, you can easily tell when one of your plants aren't getting enough water. The foliage will droop or become discolored. But during the winter, the foliage isn’t there on most plants to let you know water is needed.

That’s significant because a lot of homeowners turn off their sprinkler systems for the winter months. Homeowners should continue to water their lawns and landscapes once a week through January and first half of February.

Sprinkler systems that have been installed in the last decade will have a “freeze sensor†which will not allow the system to come on when temperatures are near freezing. This protects the system and the homeowner from having to make untimely repairs due to cracked pipes caused by ice or hard freezes.

 

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The Before picture, right after compost topdressing is applied.

 

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The same lawn, a few months later.

 

 

Aeration/topdressing
The end of January and beginning of February is the ideal time for aerating your lawn and replenishing minerals and nutrients in the soil by applying a compost topdressing.

You would want to aerate first, then follow with the topdressing.

The aeration is something that should be done to a lawn at least once every 3-4 years. However, I recommend it be done every 2 years as to maximize the benefits more frequently.

Aeration is done by puncturing holes into the turf that are about 4 inches deep. A gas-powered aerator is usually the tool to use for this job. Operating an aerator is much like operating a tiller. If you’re going to do this yourself, make sure you mark the sprinkler heads first with small flags so as to not damage them during the aeration process.

Aeration enables the soil to trap and hold more oxygen, loosens the soil, and promotes healthier root growth in the turf. By applying the compost topdressing right after, much of the organic content will fall into these holes, improving the soil and putting the nutrients down there at the root level.
With these two jobs combined, your turf is set for the emergence from dormancy and a great spring “bounce.†Email me at greenthumbtx@verizon.net if you're interested in having this done to your Austin area, DFW area or Longview/Tyler area lawn.

 

 

Pre Emergent!
There is a third step to the aeration/topdressing process, it’s called pre emergent. You will want to apply a granular pre emergent over the top of the topdressing. Apply heavily for this application as you’re fending off the onslaught of spring weeds, which will germinate by mid-February. Pre emergent prevents germination. The heavier you apply, the more protection you receive.

Even if you do not perform an aeration/topdressing, I highly recommend you go ahead and apply the pre emergent. This application is the first of three you’ll do for the year, the other two coming in late August and mid-November.

Pre emergent is not a product you can apply and expect immediate results. It is a product that works over time. If you’ve never done it before, I advise you to take a photo of your lawn now. Apply pre emergent the three times during the year that I recommend. Then shoot another picture of the lawn at the same time the following year. More benefits will be observed in years 2 and 3.

At my own place, I have a neighbor who refuses to spend a cent on his lawn. It’s a weed factory. And you can literally tell where the property line is because of the pre emergent I’ve applied over the years.

If you’re shopping Lowes or HD, look for a product in a 40 lb bag called “crabgrass preventer†or “weed preventer.†That’s pre emergent. If you have access to buying commercial products, use Barricade 0-0-7. It’s fabulous.

 

how-to-mulch-a-tree.jpg

 

Excessive-Mulch.jpg

 

 

Mulch Volcanoes
One issue I often see, especially in landscapes where a homebuilder has installed the landscape, is the choking of trees by piling mulch over the root flare. I say choking in a literal sense. It is the same as if I were placing my hands around your neck and slowly squeezing. Trees should be planted where the root flare (bottom of the trunk) is at least an inch above the surrounding terrain. This provides for proper drainage AWAY from the base of the tree. You do not want water/rain draining back to the trunk.

In the picture you can see an example of a tree planted too low and consequently the improper installation of mulch around it. If left this way, this tree will slowly die.

If you have a relatively new home (1-2 years) and observe this issue in your landscape, it’s not too late to replant the tree properly and redo the mulch around it. It’s so worth it in the long run because the growth rate, health and appearance of your tree will improve greatly, if planted correctly. It will suffer, struggle and look haggard if not. Some tree are able to overcome this problem over time, with luck.

 

Reminders/Notes

1. If you have pansies in your landscape, this is a great time to fertilize them. Use a water-soluble, mild fertilizer made for blooming plants. If you have access to higher grade products (like if you know a landscaper), you can choose from a product made especially for pansies by Carl Pool. There is also a product called “Color Star†that works very well, too.

2. If you have over seeded your bermuda lawn with winter rye, now is the time to hit it with a 25-0-0 (or lower) fertilizer. Rye must be fertilized to keep it looking its best. Water well immediately after applying.

3. Now is a great time to have your mower serviced. Most any lawn mower dealer will offer repair services. Take your mower in, have them change the oil, sharpen the blade and change the spark plug. Those three items will go a long way toward keeping your mower’s performance at top level this season. It’s not nearly as expensive as you might think.

If anyone has questions they'd like to ask – Fire Away! I'd be glad to address anything you want to talk about in the landscape! I can also be reached via email at greenthumbtx@verizon.net

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I overseed the fenced backyard with winter rye every year to protect the turf from the wear of my two Golden Retrievers.  Did the over seeding in West Travis County in early December probably need to start mowing this weekend.  I don't think I can apply mulch now, need to wait till the Bermuda takes back control, right? 

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I overseed the fenced backyard with winter rye every year to protect the turf from the wear of my two Golden Retrievers.  Did the over seeding in West Travis County in early December probably need to start mowing this weekend.  I don't think I can apply mulch now, need to wait till the Bermuda takes back control, right? 

 

 

You'd be applying compost, not mulch and it would not be a problem to apply it in late January. You'll want the more powdery version of compost so that it will sift down into the soil level and not sit on top of your rye. Dairy cow manure compost is good as it is light and powdery.

 

The compost will help both your rye and your bermuda which will come back in early spring.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi SHA

 

I have a St. Aug lawn, with an aerobic system & sprinkler system.  I have noticed some circular like areas that appear to have suffered from the recent freezes more than the rest of the lawn.  The best description I can give is it looks as if the area lacked water, but I do not believe that is the case because of our recent rains.  Could I have "take all" showing at this time of the year? The grass still appears to be alive just a different color and look.  I was not able to apply the fall fertilizer this year.  Any ideas would be appreciated.  Thanks in advance.

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It could be Take All Patch or Brown Patch, both are common lawn fungus that can strike St Augustine lawns.

 

You didn't mention where you're located. If you're in the northern half of Texas, the freezes we get will kill the fungus.

 

It's probably a good thing you didn't apply a fall fertilizer. The nitrogen in fertilizer will enhance lawn fungus, making it worse.

 

St Aug doesn't actively grow this time of year. When it emerges from dormancy it will begin to grow and the color issue will go away.

 

We don't normally have fungal issues in spring time. But if we have a damp, cool spring like last year, you may see fungus trying to emerge in your lawn. Farmer's Almanac calls for a drier than normal spring this year for North and Central Texas.

 

A couple of suggestions:

 

1. You can buy a bottle of Immunox at Lowe's and spray the affected area. Mix in a few squirts of dishwashing soap into your tank. Doing this will keep your fungicide on the leaves of the grass longer. This is an immediate kill type product, but you may have to repeat the process two weeks later unless you notice the area has bleached in color (browns and yellows turn to light, light brown). That means you have a good kill.

 

2. Note this area because it's a fungus-suseptable spot in your lawn. In the future, when you first see it appear you can take a couple of measures that are cheap and organic, but take a little time to work. And they'll keep working until they break completely down. One is Spaghum Peat Moss. Another is a good multi-ingredient compost. The acid in the peat moss will kill fungus. The enzymes in the compost will also kill fungus. This is not a good option if the fungus is well developed and large. But they're both great preventative measures.

 

I would spread some compost or peat moss in this spot about the middle of August this year. Doesn't have to be a lot. May have to be reapplied after mowing.

 

As for how this happens . . I'm thinking this is a low spot in your lawn where water will accumulate. And if you're fertilizing through a sprinkler system, then this spot is receiving a disproportionate amount of nitrogen and will remain susceptible to fungus as long as you're fertilizing via sprinklers. You might consider dialing down the fertilizer intake on your system when you do it again.

 

Hope that helps.

 

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Help SHA, youre my only hope!

 

So we just changed homes in November and the previous home owner created a weed factory.  Astounding considering the very nice sprinkler system the home has.  I would like to start repairing all of the damage he had done over the past 8-10 years.  Attached are pics of the backyard and the tree in the front yard.  Short summary of what I know so far:

 

Not sure what the actual grass is.  Seems to be a mixture of several.  Short stick/bushlike weeds dominate the backyard.  Two trees in front and back drop acorns and have barren dirt patches around them.  

 

Im to cheep to re-sod the whole thing but Im more than happy to aerate/seed/water and fix this over the next 3-4 years.  Please give me some guidance if you will.

 

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Where are you located? That is pertinent to the advice I can give you.

 

Just from what I see . . . you have Bermuda turf but only about 1/3 of the lawn is still turf. The rest are weeds. Looks also like the tree in the back may need trimming since there is no grass beneath it. Bermuda will not grow in shade so when it's not present, I look at the trees. 

 

It appears the tree is a Live Oak though I can't see a canopy. The acorns on the ground tell me Live Oak.

 

If you are going to aerate and do a topdressing, the time to do that is NOW. I would top that off with an application of pre emergent. Otherwise, the aeration and topdressing are just as beneficial to the weeds as it is to the turf. Pre emergent does not kill weeds, it sterilizes soil so weeds cannot germinate. With pre emergent, timing is EVERYTHING. It has to be put down before the germination process gets going. The warmer the winter, the earlier that is.

 

You can spray weeds in that Bermuda (without killing the bermuda) by spraying a product called Speed Zone. It will kill weeds in cool/cold weather whereas none of the others will. Do not use that product in warm weather, however.

 

The key for you is to get pre emergent down three times a year (end of Jan, mid-Aug, early November). With each application that you do, resistance is built up. This time next year will show an improved lawn if you follow through.

 

You will need to consider changing your turf I'm afraid. Those Live Oaks will not get smaller. The larger they are, the less likely Bermuda will survive around them. Consider St Augustine or Zoysia for those areas. There is no seed for either turf, it must be done in sod or plugs.

 

If you need assistance the first year, we do chemical lawn maintenance throughout DFW and Austin.

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SHA, thanks a ton for the info.  Sorry for leaving this out, Im in the North Dallas area.  As for the pre emergent, is this Lesco product similar to the Barricade that you recommended?  http://www.homedepot.com/p/LESCO-50-lb-Crabgrass-Control-0-0-7-052388/100121942

 

Also, for the top dressing are there any that you recommend that can be picked up from Lowes/HD?  As you can see, I have my work cut out for me.  Thanks again.

 

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The Lesco product will work fine.

 

I would suggest you get your compost from a local supplier. Most places that sell stone/soil products will sell compost. This is sold by volume, not by weight.

 

You can buy it by the yard. If you have a pickup, then a half yard will be the max load for a half-ton pickup.

 

The compost products sold at Lowes or HD are inferior . . basically just chopped-up mulch. There are several places in Dallas that only deal with soil mixes. Soil Building Systems is one place in Dallas. Alpine Materials is another, they're in Southlake. Each will have numerous varieties of compost, so you have choices. I do recommend you go with the dairy cow manure compost. It's composition is that of a black powdery substance, so it's easy to handle and doesn't take long to sink down to the soil level. It's not expensive, either.

 

 

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SHA, I was just talking to my wife about this and we were making a plan for it.  We may have to skip the top dressing unfortunately as we are finishing up a kitchen remodel and the budget is thin but what would be my next steps after doing the following?

 

Aerate the yard

Lay down pre emergent (Lesco 0-0-7)

Possibly spray down the large weed patches with Speed Zone

 

Would I then weed & feed later in February or early March?  Will I be left with large dirt patches where the weeds were?  Just curious how this is going to shake out over the next few months.

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SHA, I was just talking to my wife about this and we were making a plan for it.  We may have to skip the top dressing unfortunately as we are finishing up a kitchen remodel and the budget is thin but what would be my next steps after doing the following?

 

Aerate the yard

Lay down pre emergent (Lesco 0-0-7)

Possibly spray down the large weed patches with Speed Zone

 

Would I then weed & feed later in February or early March?  Will I be left with large dirt patches where the weeds were?  Just curious how this is going to shake out over the next few months.

 

 

You won't be able to find the Speed Zone in a retail store. The John Deere stores you see will sell a product called "Red Zone" which is identical to Speed Zone. Otherwise, see link from Amazon.

 

http://www.amazon.com/PBI-Gordon-Speed-Killer-20-Ounce/dp/B001PCRKDC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1453778561&sr=8-2&keywords=speed+zone

 

The plan sounds good.

 

In North Texas, bermuda will not come out of dormancy until mid-March or end of March. So there's no sense in applying anything until then, regarding fertilizer or weed/feeds.

 

Keep in mind, putting down pre emergent means you won't be able to seed any bermuda. You'll need to go to sod for that. Pre emergent will stop bermuda from germinating.

 

Yes, it's probably going to be dirt until bermuda comes out of dormancy around end of March.

 

When temperatures start reaching 85 and above, stop using the Speed Zone and divert to one called Trimec. Same looking bottle, but won't burn turf in warm/hot weather.

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My neighbors and I are going to rent an aerator and knock out everyone's yard one afternoon. Our schedules (there are 7 of us) won't work until Valentine's Day. I was going to wait to drop the pre emergent until then but will that be too late? Or should I lay the pre emergent now and just aerate Valentine's Day? Thanks again for all of your help!

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My neighbors and I are going to rent an aerator and knock out everyone's yard one afternoon. Our schedules (there are 7 of us) won't work until Valentine's Day. I was going to wait to drop the pre emergent until then but will that be too late? Or should I lay the pre emergent now and just aerate Valentine's Day? Thanks again for all of your help!

 

 

That's not terribly late, but it is late. If it were my lawn, I'd pre emergent now and do it again after the aeration.

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