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July Landscapes! – Q&A time!

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Some Timely Q&As from our friends in the landscape

Happy Birthday, America!

I trust that the landscapes are all decorated in the stars and stripes this July 4th. Its a great way to display your patriotism and add something special to the landscape.

This month, we’re going to share some questions I’ve received recently. Hopefully, they will be answers you find useful and helpful. Let’s get started!


That bare strip along the fence . . . .

QUESTION “I have a strip down my fence line that I can’t get to grow grass. I’ve tried everything. I’ve sodded over and over again and keep ending up with the same bare strip. What is causing this and what can I do?”

ANSWER – That bare strip can be caused by a couple of things. Fences which face south or west will have grass that grows right up next to the fence in most cases. The turf against north or east facing fences are the most likely locations where the “strip” will occur. This is because the amount of sunlight available to the turf is limited, especially Bermuda turf which requires full or mostly sunny conditions.

Another cause of the “strip” can be the fence itself. A fence which has been stained with an oil-based stain in the last two to three years will likely have this bare feature in the turf because of the rain/sprinkler runoff of the oil from the fence to the grass below. Once the oil stain is on the grass, the sun hits it and heats it up. The oil on the grass literally makes it fry.

And finally, another cause of course are our furry friends who patrol the backyard perimeter for their masters. They walk or run so frequently along the fence line that they wear a path. The repeated traffic causes the soil to compact and becomes prohibitive for root growth.


WHAT TO DO – IF you think your bare strip has been caused by an oil-based stain on your fence, there’s nothing you can really do until the residue stops coming off the fence. At least as far as growing grass there.

If the dogs have been wearing out a path by the fence, you can aerate that and will get some turf to return to the area.

One popular option involves taking the one to two foot space into a long flower bed against the fence.

Or, you could install river rock in that strip.



Two-Tone Grass?

QUESTIONI sodded my lawn with St Augustine about a month or so ago. Now, I am seeing two different colors of green in my lawn for some reason. Some parts of it are light green while others are normal (dark green). Is this okay or normal? If not, what is causing it and what do I do about it?

ANSWER – Apparently, your soil had something going on before you laid the sod. Now that the sod’s roots are entering your original soil layer, they are encountering what was present in the soil and covered up by the sod. That could be anything. A chemical spill. Female dog urine or someone dumping cat litter there. Soil pH is out of balance. Whatever the case may be, the lighter green grass is having a tough time photosynthesizing and absorbing nutrients.

WHAT TO DO – The best way to respond to a toxic location in your lawn is to go back to nature and let nature do her thing. In the discolored sections of the lawn, apply a light dusting of cotton burr compost. Not enough to cover the grass, but enough to cover the soil the grass is in. This will correct the soil pH and help break down the offending substance or condition. Re-apply the compost in the same manner over the next few months, weekly or every two weeks. Each time your sprinkler comes on or each time a rain event happens, the water will pass through the compost and goes into the soil as a “compost tea.” The enzymes and bacteria in the compost will do their thing in the soil. It won’t happen over night but it will eventually be corrected.

You may want to invest in a “soil pH meter” which is a hand-size device that is stuck in the ground and it reads the soil’s pH level. They are relatively inexpensive and can be found on amazon.


HOW YOU ADJUST SOIL pHTo get soil to be more alkaline in content, you can simply mix in some lime with the soil. Other homemade ways are to add egg shells, or wood ash, or bone meal, or ground up clam shells. All are effective at increasing soil alkalinity. Let me warn to proceed with such a plan in small increments. This way you don’t overdo it and change your soil issue to too alkaline.

To make your soil more acidic, you can simply add some spanghum peat moss (an inch or two) in the affected areas. Other remedies would be used coffee grounds, ground up pine material, azalea or rose planting mix. Sulphur can be used but it is a slow process. So use sulphur today to create a more acidic soil next season, so to speak. Iron sulphate can also be used but will require a large volume in small areas to be effective.

And lastly, your local County Extension Agent can be of assistance in this process. They can provide a soil test for you and recommend best ways to proceed.


Fading Green lawn?

QUESTION – When I mow my lawn, it looks plush and green. However, the next day, it looks more like a faded green, especially in the middle of the lawn. What can I do to stop this?

ANSWER – First, I would check the blade on your mower. It probably needs to be sharpened. A dull blade actually tears the grass blade instead of cutting it. When the blade is torn instead of cut, the ends are irregular and are a more harmful wound to the plant. This is why the day after your mow your grass goes to a lighter shade of green. The grass tips were burned by the sun the next day, turning them light brown.

Sharpen your blade and also water the lawn after you’ve mowed it. Watering after mowing speeds up the healing process in the grass. You’ll still have a deep green lawn the day after mowing.


To Install, Or Not To Install . . in July

QUESTION – I’ve just received a new landscape design from my landscape contractor (Houston) and we appear to be ready to proceed. Should I reconsider installing a landscape in July since it will be so hot?

ANSWER – While true, you would have an easier time during spring or fall, with a few minor adjustments in watering habits, you can have just as much success in July as you could in April. First, let’s make clear that we’re not speaking about xeriscape plants. With traditional landscape plants you simply have to make sure their root balls don’t go dry and that they’re located in places (shade, part shade, full sun) where they do best. Make sure you water in the evenings during hot weather, that way the plants get to spend hours more time with the water than they would otherwise.


Higher Salt Content Makes Lawns Toxic

QUESTION – My Bermuda turf just isn’t greening up like I want it to. The recent rains have helped, but I just applied my third round of fertilizer and it’s still not that deep green I’m looking for. Is there something different going on this year?

ANSWER – No, this is just another average growing season so far. However, seeing that you’ve now applied as much (three rounds) in one season (spring) as we recommend doing in a whole year, your soil may now be toxic. Especially so if you’ve applied this way for any number of years. When you apply fertilizer, you’re not just getting the nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus that you see on the label. You’re getting salts that you’re putting into the soil. These salts can become toxic to a lawn as they do not break down very fast. I would suggest stopping all fertilizing for the year 2020. Your next round would be in spring 2021. In January, apply a topdressing to help get the soil repaired. For now, all you can really do is water to help wash away the salts, provided you have good drainage on your property.


(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 – So far in July (DFW), we've had five days of 100 degree heat with none forecasted for the rest of the month. In fact, Wednesday we'll top out at 89 they say. 

Thats actually not a bad July at all.

Throw in the three days we had in June, and we're at 8 days of 100 degree heat this summer as we begin August. Thats great.


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Okay, I ran into my first diagnosis of Chinch bugs this season. They normally feed in late August, but are early again this year because of the very mild winter we had.

You'll know their presence by a patch of grass that has not grown since you mowed it. You water it, it does not grow although it stays green. Later, this area will start becoming brown. It would be located in one of the hottest locations in the lawn, where the sun shines the most.

Be on the lookout and don't wait until it's out of hand! Call in your landscaper! Chinch bugs can destroy a lawn if left unchecked.

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