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January Landscapes – Aeration, Topdressing, Pre Emergent time!


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Beware the cold, dry winter!

Weather has trended dry in much of Texas during December, with January the driest month still ahead

 

One of the last things most folks want to think about during the month of January is their landscape. After all, it’s cold out there. lol . . well, sometimes it is.

 

One of the things we have to look at each month is what the previous month brought us. The southeastern and northeastern parts of Texas received ample rainfall during December. The rest of the state did not. So much of Texas is a little dry right now.

 

No big deal, right? It’s January, what can go wrong?

 

January happens to be the driest month on the calendar. Its even more dry than the month of July albeit just slightly. So this can represent a problem for us coming off a very dry December. Compounding this problem is the fact that with these winter cold fronts that don’t have much moisture do have a lot of wind. So the landscape can get very dry and at risk during this month.

 

For those of you who turned your sprinkler systems off before Christmas – get them turned back on. Program them for once a week at at least 15 minutes per zone (spray heads). If you do not have a freeze sensor included with your system, you’ll want to make sure you do not start a cycle or let a cycle run when its freezing weather.

 

Dry turf, dry soil in freezing weather is a very bad set up. Small trees, your turf, your bedding plants can all suffer damage or death in this situation. Simply have wet soil can be the difference in life or death for your plants and trees.

 

That said, if you have beds with desert plants such as yucca or cactus, you’ll want to avoid watering them at all during the winter. Their instincts cause them to soak up water as much as they can when water is made available. So we want to keep them dry as possible during freezing weather.

 

We’ll get back to winter preparations later in this column. For now, lets move over to the bread and butter of January . . . . topdressings and aeration.

 

 

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Winter Topdressing and Aeration

 

Sping and summer lawns are made – or not – during the late winter. Thats right. It all starts in January. What we do later this month will go far in how lawns perform over the season.

 

Each year we perform lawn aeration and compost topdressings in late January and early February. In the past, we’ve used dairy cow manure compost to topdress our customers’ lawns. However, this year we’ll change over to Cotton Burr Compost instead. It is always good to mix up things rather than repeating the same things over and over.

 

Cotton Burr Compost is an amazing product. Its loaded with nutrients, enzymes and microbes that are instrumental in turning an average lawn into an above average lawn. Its got that kind of impact. The product contains nothing but composted cotton plant waste so there’s no manure compost odor to deal with.

 

Cotton Burr Compost also conditions and soften clay soils, which is especially helpful for homeowners in Texas where clay is so common.

 

What is aeration and why do we combine it with topdressing? Aeration is where we use a machine and create thousands of little holes, approximately 4†in depth, in the lawn soil. This allows oxygen into the soil which revives it. It also allows organic matter, such as the topdressing, to filter into the soil. Remember, the more organic matter the better.

 

By doing this in late winter, the nutrients will be in place right when they need to be – early spring, when the turf begins coming out of dormancy.

 

First Pre Emergent Application of the Year

 

We finish off our topdressing and aeration by applying the first round of pre emergent of the season. We get it down early so that its in place when weed seeds begin germinating in February. This in effect reduces the number of weeds in the lawn during the spring season. The only function pre emergent has is to sterilize soil. It does not kill weeds and will not prevent existing weeds from re-emerging from dormancy (such as crab grass will do). It will however prevent new weeds from forming from seed germination.

 

When applied three to four times a year at strategic times, you create a cleaner lawn and less need of post emergent applications for weeds.

 

The heavier the ratio, the more protection you will get for your lawn. So applying lightly will only have minimal effect on reducing weeds. You will want to get a product that continues to work for 60 to 90 days once applied. Remember to water it in immediately after you’ve applied.

 

Winter Protection and Preparation

 

In places as far north as Dallas-Ft Worth, winter weather will get so extreme that protecting some of the landscape becomes necessary. We like to use “freeze blankets†which are specifically made to protect plants and keep the temperature below the blanket a full five to seven degrees warmer. These blankets are easily installed in minutes.

 

We use what are called “lawn staples†to help secure the blankets to the ground. However, it is also good to use heavy items such as small boulders to help anchor the blankets at the ground on each side of the shrub line. The blankets cover the shrubs and protect the foliage.

 

Freeze blankets are made of synthetic material and will last several winters. There are many styles, including some long enough to cover sections of shrubs and others including one that will cover a single shrub.

 

What do you need to protect? And for how long? When you know a cold front or winter storm is coming, install the freeze blankets. After the front has passed and when temperatures moderate again, remove them. You do not want them on the shrubs any longer than they have to be.

 

You will want to pay special attention to covering shrubs on any north-facing landscape and to a lesser extent an east or west-facing landscape. Shrubs such as Pittisporums, Azaleas and even Boxwoods can suffer damage. So its best to get them covered and protected.

 

Replenish Mulch

 

After the leaves have been cleaned up a few times over the past month, you may have lost some of the mulch that has been protecting the plants in your bed and providing a nice look. Now would be a good time to get those beds replenished with mulch. If you have small weeds trying to come up, remember to remove them before you put down additional mulch.

 

If you still have leaves accumulated in the beds or around the property, you need to remove those first. They are a fire hazard and are unsightly. If you can, compost them. If you’re not into that sort of thing, someone in your neighborhood probably is and would be glad to accept your organic waste donation to their compost.

Off-Season Repairs

 

Now is a great time to get your equipment out and make necessary repairs. Gas powered Blowers, weed-eaters, edgers and mowers will often need their plugs changed. Air filters should be changed. And change the oil. You should also remove and sharpen your mower blades at this time. If you’re not equipped to do this yourself, you can take them to your local mower shop and they will sharpen them for you at a nominal charge. You should sharpen your blades at least once a year and preferably twice a year (again at mid-season).

 

Fill up your gas tanks with gas (or gas/oil mix if appropriate) and mix in a product called “Stabil†which will reduce or remove the chances of condensation forming inside the tank. Condensation leaves water in the fuel which causes poor performance.

 

Crank up your equipment after making these maintenance repairs to make sure they operate properly.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Prodiamine. There are numerous brands that sell this product under various names, one being "Barricade." Prodiamine is your active ingredient. There are basically two types, prodiamine being one of the two. This particular type works better at stopping your grassy weeds, such as poa annua. The other type is Dithiopyr and is sold under the name "Dimension." It works best against the broadleaf weeds, such as crabgrass.

 

John Deere outlets, Ewing Irrigation outlets and Longhorn Irrigation are places that will sell these products.

 

 

 

 

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What should I do now for me work out grass in the back yard? I'm a new home owner and my two dogs have worn out the grass in my back yard pretty bad in patches. Is there something I can do now to make sure it comes back healthy and full in the spring? I live in the Dallas suburbs. Thanks for any help.

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What should I do now for me work out grass in the back yard? I'm a new home owner and my two dogs have worn out the grass in my back yard pretty bad in patches. Is there something I can do now to make sure it comes back healthy and full in the spring? I live in the Dallas suburbs. Thanks for any help.

 

 

Its not so much that your dogs have worn out the grass. Its that their traffic has compacted the soil to where root expansion just isn't happening. Therefore, grass won't grow there.

 

I would aerate the lawn and double dose the areas where the dogs have compacted the soil. I'd then topdress the lawn with a cotton burr compost. You should also put down the first pre emergent of the season right now.

 

Green Thumb is currently performing the aerations and topdressings in the Dallas area. Shoot me an email if you'd like an estimate.   greenthumbtx@verizon.net

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