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January Landscape – Topdressing/aeration now brings fruit during the season

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Applying compost topdressing, aerating the lawn in January sets the tone for the season
There are several things about the month of January, landscaping wise, that most would not think to be true.
One, January is the driest month of the year for us, on average.
Secondly, the degree of success we have during the growing season is often decided during the month of January.
I’ll explain. The things you can and should do this month will set the tone for the growing season, whether it be your lawn or your beds.
For the past year, your lawn has been hit with extreme heat, bitter cold, dry periods, wet periods, hard washing rains, etc., so despite not really seeing it now, changes have taken place in your lawn. There is likely less topsoil, especially if you don’t use a mulching mower and bag your clippings.
These things need to be replenished, repaired, before the spring comes in March. (Spring most often arrives in March in most of Texas, with brief visits from old man winter through April 1).
Each year I recommend this and will again put it in print this year – it’s that important – aerate your lawn and top dress it with compost this month.

I’ll explain the benefits of this process:
Aeration – allows oxygen to get back into the soil, reviving it. Puts oxygen into the root zone of turf.
Compost Topdressing – Puts nutrients back into the soil that have been depleted over the past year. Each time the sprinkler comes on or rainfall happens, generous amounts of compost “tea” are soaked into the soil. We use Cotton Burr Compost, which I feel is one of the most nutritious available. Cotton Burr Compost is also an excellent natural clay softener, which is great in the areas with that black gumbo clay soil. It also, of course, introduces beneficial microbes and bacteria into the soil.
How it works – The aeration is done first. This is achieved using an aerator that punctures small, 3-4 inch deep holes into the turf/soil. The tines are hollow so the soil sinks into the tine as it punctures the turf and is deposited as it rotates. This leaves behind small tubes of clay at the top of the turf. You can leave these where they are as they will dissolve via rain and sprinklers over time.
To spread the compost, you can use a spreader that is specifically designed to spread soil – or – spread it by tossing it with a shovel. You would follow that up with spreading it in with a lawn rake.
For beds, you can simply create a 1” ring around the root flair (not on it) and as wide as the plant’s canopy using the compost. With each rain or sprinkler cycle, valuable minerals and nutrients get washed down into the root system.
Precautions – You will want to mark the locations of your sprinkler heads with small flags before you begin. If you’re unsure where they are, simply turn the system on and look.
Know that if you have drip irrigation in your lawn – you should NOT perform the aeration. It will severely damage your drip lines.
While you do not want to attempt to aerate beds with an aerating machine, you will want to top dress them with the same compost. You can manually aerate them with a pitchfork. Stab the soil, then twist as you pull it back out. You will want to be careful not to get too close to each plant’s root ball.
What is Cotton Burr Compost?
When cotton is harvested, it is run through a cotton gin which separates the good stuff (cotton) from the bad stuff (stems, leaves, seeds).
A cotton plant is famously known by farmers for sucking up all the surrounding nutrients and minerals in the soil. When you compost the plant, you get those nutrients and minerals back.
Cotton Burr Compost is 100% composted cotton plant. No manure or peat moss added.
Homeowners will want to refrain from walking in the turf for the first week or so after applying the topdressing, at least when it is wet. Otherwise you may track this back into your home.
I do advise applying a pre-emergent on top of the topdressing as this is the time you want to get that first pre-emergent application down. But to be sure, the pre-emergent application should be the last thing you do in this project.
But what about the weather?
Obviously, you don’t want to do this in freezing temperatures. But only because it’s inconvenient to you. Pick a nice day in the forecast which is common in Texas during January in most years, and plan this project on that day. Otherwise, the weather will not have an affect on what we’re doing here.
One of the most successful topdressing years I’ve experienced is when a day or two after we performed our last topdressing/aeration, it snowed 5 inches. And it stayed cold for the next several days, creating a rather slow melt of the snow. This was ideal as it slowly dissolved the pre-emergent and soaked it and the compost into the turf.
Weed seeds will be germinating during the month of February, so you want to get your pre-emergent down this month, with or without the aeration/topdressing.
Other items to do this month:
– During the last week or so in the month, you should begin trimming your Crape Myrtles. I highly advise AGAINST the hacking method. Instead, trim them like other trees, removing redundant and awkward growth as well as any “pods” remaining from the previous season. You can also shape them to your liking at this time. They will be budding out again next month (February).
– It is too early to trim back ornamental grasses. The stuff you’d be trimming off actually acts as protection for the rest of the plant. Wait until mid-February to do this. The same holds true with Liriope and Mondo grasses.
– If you’re wanting to plant a tree this year, January is an excellent month to do it. Trees are still dormant and won’t be budding out for another month or so. Planting now gives the tree more time to get acclimated and settled before the brunt of the summer sun begins.
– Soon you’ll be putting your bird baths and bird houses back into your landscape. Now is a great time to clean out the bird bath basin and remove the algae. You should also examine the bird houses for needed repairs and remove any nest material inside.


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