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March Landscapes – Time to think about how your property drains

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March is a great time to consider how your property drains

Spring is arriving and with it will also come the rains that make everything green and blooming again. Most of you know that rain in Texas can be a blessing or it can be a disaster, depending on the quantity that falls and how fast it happens.

When it comes in buckets, homes can be at high risk if the property it sits on doesn’t have proper drainage. The same applies to homes that do have drainage, but the drains haven’t been maintained. It would be wise to consider drainage this time of year before the spring rains begin.

First, determine if you’re even at threat for flooding. Remember, over time, the landscape can change. What may have been perfectly safe 20 years ago may present a risk today. So take a good look at your property to see where the water goes when it really comes down. If your house has water close to the top of the foundation line, then you truly should consider getting a drain installed.

Sometimes its just a matter of catching water coming off the home and taking it to the street. Other times, the property will drain toward the home thus has to be collected before getting there.


The foundation of a home is solid concrete. Above that, however, is mortar or wood which water will just seep through and get into the home. So it’s important to keep at least three inches of concrete foundation before your soil line, meaning, you should see three inches of concrete when looking at the foundation. Overmulching and failure to remove old mulch can sometimes create a problem that a homeowner may not know about unless they do the mulch themselves. That problem is the creeping up to the foundation line that can happen over time. Mulch will decompose and become another layer of soil over time. Mulch is piled on top of that, year after year, and suddenly there’s a problem.

So mulching jobs should not just include applying mulch, but also include removal of old mulch. This keeps the foundation line safe.

If you have drains already, know that you really need to flush them out once or twice a year. You can do this by removing your drain grates and extending your water hose (while on, full) through the drain grates and down the lines. Where the drains ends, you should see a considerable amount of leaves, twigs and other debris that would have ended up clogging your drain. If you have the black corrugated tubing for your drains, you may need to rent an auger rooter in order to clear some sections. The ribbed design of the black corrugated tubing is made to catch debris as it floats down the tube. Over time, it will inevitably fail if the tubing doesn’t crush, first. Obviously, I prefer PVC style drains.

If you’re unsure whether you may need a drain or not, have your landscaper come by and give you a consultation on the matter. You’re free to ask as many questions as you like and of course, ask for recommendations.


A few recommendations regarding drains . . . stick with PVC pipe and at least 4.” If you have large quantities of water to deal with, go to a 6” PVC. On drain boxes and their grates, many of them come with plastic grates with small openings for the water to fall through. In my opinion, this is a design flaw as the grate becomes easily obstructed by the smallest amount of debris. Clogged drains can cause flooding. Instead, go to the metal grates which have larger openings that don’t get clogged nearly as easy.

If you’re building your own drain, please know that you must call TEXAS 811 service. You literally dial 811 which puts you through to request your utility lines to be marked (cable, phone, electric, gas, etc). This service enables every utility provider who may possibly have lines on your property to mark their lines. Once notified, they will have 72 hours to respond and mark their lines. In cases where a utility has no lines there, they will notify you of that. This is a free service and is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. If you have a contractor doing the job, it is their responsibility to request the marking. Failure to do so can result in repair costs and downtime in utilities as well as a safety risk.


Practice Patience this month

One of the tasks I have each year here in Texas is reminding our gardeners and hobby landscapers that March is not a safe month to begin your spring planting. Inevitably, Old Man Winter will have another round or two for us during March.

And inevitably, I get asked “what would happen if we did?”

Bad things. Lol

For instance, if you fertilize in March and you’re having storm fronts bringing in freezing temperatures, it can stunt the emergence of your turf from winter dormancy. Everyone enjoys that nice boost you see in your turf once you’ve applied a fertilizer. Well, that won’t happen in March unless you’re in Deep South Texas. 

If you spend $500 on spring flowers and get them planted and a cold front moves through a couple days later, you risk losing your flower investment. Thats $500 you’ve spent, then $500 more you’ll have to spend again.

Patience is crucial in early spring. Wait until April 1. Thats a safe date. No April fools.

Feed Your Beds!
Around the middle of the month, you will want to put down a mild, time-released granular fertilizer in your landscape beds. There are a number of granular products on the market that are great for this use. But keep to a ratio of 10-5-4 or similar. You will see this listed on the front of the bag. 

There are fertilizer products as described above, but have systemic disease prevention included. This is an ideal product for use on shrubs and trees, providing some protection for them should we have another extremely wet spring this year.

Avoid applying your bed fertilizer too close to the stalk/stem/trunk of your plants and shrubs. A modest amount sprinkled around the drip zone of the plant works great. It is good time to your application right before a rain event as rain is oxygenated water, which allows plants to absorb more nutrients, getting more product into the plant(s). You will especially want to do this if your beds use drip irrigation. Granular products need water to pass over the pellets to dissolve them. Drip irrigation won’t achieve this.

March Molt
For those of you who have Live Oaks in your landscape, hold off on mulching your beds until the “March Molt” is finished. The Molt is when Live Oaks typically shed their leaves – ALL OF THEM, while also growing new ones in their place. The larger the Live Oaks you might have, the more leaves you will have. The Molt takes about three weeks or so to complete. Once its over, its safe to mulch. Otherwise, leaf collection will usually pick up most of your mulch in the process.

Trim your ornamental grasses now
If your ornamental grasses went dormant over the winter, you will want to trim them now before new growth begins. Trimming them back to a modestly short height will allow more sunlight to hit the middle of the plant, causing it to grow with the rest of the plant. If you don’t do this, you risk the middle of the plant dying off while the edges are still growing, creating an awkward look.

March Winds
March is typically one of the windiest months of the year. Is wind a bad thing? It can be because wind can dry out your landscape as fast as a heat wave can. I would suggest upping your sprinkler program to twice a week now with early morning start times.

If you put out your potted plants this month, remember they will suffer from wind even more with more exposure to that wind. So they will require more frequent watering.

I’ll invite questions if there are any you’d like answered!

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


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I invite you all to post pictures if you have something blooming right now! I love to see the spring flowers. The early bloomers are rocking it right now. Here's some shots of the Forest Pansy Redbud in my front yard.



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1 hour ago, nstr said:

How often/what time/how long should I be watering my lawn? Thx!

We've had a bunch of rain where I'm at so we're hoping to just dry out. lol

Here in the Dallas area, we're running twice a week right now at 10 mins (sprays) per zone or 20 mins (rotors) and 20 mins (drips). Starting time for your cycles should be at 5-6 am until June. We will switch to evening start times then.


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