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Landscape Thread - March ushers in Spring!


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March is here and it’s transition time again. Winter is on the way out and the first glimpses of spring are started to show. It’s an exciting time of year in the landscape.


I will address the things to do in March and will welcome any questions from the board.


March and the Live Oak molting season


March is the month where our native Live Oaks will go through a period called “molting†whereby they will dispose of their leaves all the while growing their new ones for the year. The process lasts about three weeks. They are never without leaves but each year I think we are re-amazed at how many leaves a single Live Oak can dump.


Because they are small, they’ll get everywhere. So a more thorough clean up will be required. And they do need to be cleaned up as later they’ll just become a fire hazard, particularly if next to a home.


I encourage the composting or mulching of these leaves. If you’re mulching them, it’s good to blow them out to the middle of the lawn and repeatedly mow over them with a mower with a mulching blade. Once they’re chopped up well, disperse them into the turf or in areas where the soil needs replenishing.


If you choose to compost them, be sure to put into your composting bin in “layers†of dead matter and green matter. This will provide for quicker and more even composting. Composting bins should be wet at least once a week. It’s best to allow rainfall be that weekly watering and use your chlorinated water as a last resort when you don’t get rain. Chlorine can kill many of the microbes and bacteria that are busy composting your materials. So use it at a minimum.


I would advise waiting until after the molting period is finished before you mulch your beds. 



Do Not Trim Oaks


Just a quick note, we highly discourage trimming any Oaks during the period of March 1 through June 30. It is during this time when pollens from Oak Wilt are at their peak and thus the disease is spread more easily. It’s fine to trim other types of trees but it is generally better to get it done in early spring so that you’re not putting them under stress during the heat of summer.



Spring fertilization


Homeowners in the San Antonio and Houston areas (and points south of that) can begin applying their spring fertilization during the third week of March. This is a general rule so by all means, go by the weather conditions we have at the time. If winter is still hanging around at that time, bump your application back a week or so. Austin area residents can begin applications during the last week of March while DFW homeowners need to wait until at least April 1. Of course, mother nature has final say.


Stick to the recommended ratio and adjust your spreader accordingly. Too much fertilizer can cause stunting of growth and turf fungus issues. Ratios for most products are found on the back of the bag.


A gardening friend emailed me this past month and asked me what the difference was between a straight fertilizer and a weed/feed. Straight fertilizers do not have a weed killing ingredient mixed in. Weed/feeds have a weed killing ingredient. Most weed/feed products are slow release and thus continue working for at least 90 days or so.



Picking a fertilizer product


Treating a St Augustine lawn with a Weed/Feed designed for Bermuda can have fatal results. Likewise, a St Augustine or Zoysia weed/feed can have detrimental results on Bermuda. So make sure you are selecting the correct product for your lawn. Zoysia lawns should be treated with the same products as St Augustine.


St Augustine lawns do best when the nitrogen ratio is at 15-25 and no higher. All fertilizers have a series of three numbers on the label. That first number is always the nitrogen ratio.


Bermuda lawns can have higher nitrogen ratios, so products that have as much as 37-0-0 can be applied, although something like a 27-32 is sufficient.


For St Augustine/Zoysia lawns, I recommend Fertilome’s St Augustine Weed/Feed. For Bermuda lawns, Scott’s Turfbuilder is hard to beat on the retail side.




If your lawn is relatively clean (no weeds), you may opt to go with a straight fertilizer. There are many fertilizers on the commercial market that are top performers for certain turf at certain times of year. This is where a landscaper can really help as they have these products available to them. The Triple 18-18-18 Hydromulch fertilizer is about as good as fertilizer gets. Makes lawns really sing and dance.





Bed Fertilization


RIGHT NOW is the time to be applying a mild fertilizer to your beds. You will want to choose a granular product that is time released. If you have a rain event coming, it would be beneficial to apply shortly before its arrival (unless its a deluge). But now is the time to be getting those nutrients in the soil as we’re now only weeks away from the emergence of spring. This will give your beds a great start as what they want is already in the soil right when they want it.


Apply sparingly throughout the beds by hand. Wash hands after applying or wear gloves.


I have all products available to me on both retail and professional side of the business. However, when it comes to bed fertilization I’ve had great success using an ordinary retail product found at Lowes. Sta-Green makes a version of it and also Ultra-Green makes a version of it. Comes in 5 lb bags and runs about $7 a bag. It’s called Azalea Food 10-5-4. While it’s designed for azaleas, it has similar positive response from all plants, including palms. It’s a great bang for the buck.



The Organic Guy


If you’re one who sticks with the organic side of gardening/landscaping, I don’t forget you. :)  Now is the time when you should apply a dried molasses and then by third week of March, apply Corn Gluten (as a fertilizer alternative). The molasses will give your lawn’s insect population a head start. The goal being creating a self-sufficient harmony in the insect world within your fence borders. The molasses will attract the predator insects that prey on the pest insects.


This would also be a good time to drench your beds with Garret Juice (a product from Howard Garrett, the Dirt Doctor) (www.dirtdoctor.com)



Shared Question


Question from fellow gardener – “I just applied pre emergent to my lawn for the first time three weeks ago. Now, I have a bunch of weeds. What givesâ€


Answer – Pre emergent is a product that is not an immediate effect. It takes ongoing applications before the cumulative effect to be realized. So if you’ve just applied it for the first time, I’d expect you’d see a improved version next year at the same time. By year two, you should be almost weed-free.





Right now, some of you may have lawns that are under attack by early spring weeds. One of those weeds is likely Poa Annua. There are approximately 175 different varieties of this weed. You can have as many as 50 of those varieties found in one single lawn. And the kicker is – there is no chemical answer for all 175 types. Yet, this is the weed you’re likely seeing now as it’s a cool season weed. (see picture)




Note the seeds at the ends of each stem of the mature Poa Annua


A product called Gordon’s Speed Zone will kill weeds in BERMUDA lawns during the cold/cool season. Regular weed killers will not work until temperatures are at or above 85 degrees. Do NOT use Speed Zone in a St Augustine or Zoysia lawn. But it does work well in Bermuda and will kill many varieties of Poa Annua. It can be purchased on Amazon.


You should discontinue use of Speed Zone once temperatures are at or above 85 as it will leave ugly burn marks in the lawn.


The floor is open to questions! Fire away!

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I hate that Poa

Its funny but my friend in Northern Italy actually seeds with it as part of his winter lawn

But I kill it

And its best to jump on it right away (atrazine)



Atrazine isn't much help this time of year. It's a heat-activated chemical, so it doesn't kill much until temperatures are above 85 or so.


Poa can't survive in temps above 90 so they'll be gone by the time June gets here. But they are a nightmare until then unless you do something about it.

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Looking out my window this morning I notice that some strange white fungus has descended upon the entire neighborhood. It appears to be about four inches thick and has a bizarre crystalline structure. Is this some seasonal fungus caused by global warming? What should I do to treat this?



You should put your tongue on the nearest telephone pole and count to 5. That will make the white fungus go away.

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What fertilizer do you recommend for oaks and magnolia trees?



You can use the UltraGreen or Sta-Green 10-5-4 that I mentioned above for the Magnolias. They like a little acid in their food.


For Oaks, any standard shrub/tree fertilizer will work. The number combo needs to be in the same range 10-5-4 or similar. Use a granular, spread throughout the drip line area (under the canopy). Keep the product away from the root flare (base of the tree).


Not a fan of the tree spikes.

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For those of you in Texas who are going to have your lawn sodded or intend to sod your lawn this weekend . . . probably not happening.


I posted a picture on FB today of one of our sod farms outside of Brenham, Texas. It's under water. It won't harm the St Augustine, but it will keep them from cutting new sod for several days. There might be a temporary price increase as a result, when it becomes available again.


Lots of moisture in Texas right now. Should make for a very colorful spring. For those of you in East Texas, the Wildflower Trails should be a sight to see in a couple weeks. For those of you in the Hill Country, get ready for those Bluebonnets!!!


Still, Lake Lewisville is about 2 ft low, but at a 4-year high right now. So maybe the drought is coming to an end. Anyone got a reading on some of our other key lakes? Lake Travis? Lake Meredith? Is there still a Lake Meredith?





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And then there's California . . . 




NASA: California Has One Year of Water Left


Plagued by prolonged drought, California now has only enough water to get it through the next year, according to NASA.

In an op-ed published Thursday by the Los Angeles Times, Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, painted a dire picture of the state's water crisis. California, he writes, has lost around 12 million acre-feet of stored water every year since 2011. In the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins, the combined water sources of snow, rivers, reservoirs, soil water and groundwater amounted to a volume that was 34 million acre-feet below normal levels in 2014. And there is no relief in sight.

"As our 'wet' season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows" Famiglietti writes. "We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek too."

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that one-third of the monitoring stations in California’s Cascades and Sierra Nevada mountains have recorded the lowest snowpack ever measured. 

"Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing,†Famiglietti writes.

He criticized Californian officials for their lack of long-term planning for how to cope with this drought, and future droughts, beyond "staying in emergency mode and praying for rain."

Last month, new research by scientists at NASA, Cornell University and Columbia University pointed to a "remarkably drier future" for California and other Western states amid a rapidly-changing climate. "Megadroughts," the study's authors wrote, are likely to begin between 2050 and 2099, and could each last between 10 years and several decades.

With that future in mind, Famiglietti says, "immediate mandatory water rationing" should be implemented in the state, accompanied by the swift formation of regulatory agencies to rigorously monitor groundwater and ensure that it is being used in a sustainable way—as opposed to the "excessive and unsustainable" groundwater extraction for agriculture that, he says, is partly responsible for massive groundwater losses that are causing land in the highly irrigated Central Valley to sink by one foot or more every year.

Various local ordinances have curtailed excessive water use for activities like filling fountains and irrigating lawns. But planning for California's "harrowing future" of more and longer droughts "will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon," Famiglietti writes. "Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin."


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As I commented in November 2014, I have reached the point of cussing the annual rye I plant every year to protect my backyard turf from the dogs and winter.


Fortunately thanks to my good wife's concern for my health last year, I have a John Deere tractor that now allows me to pop a beer and make a couple of passes at high/lower cut level with no harm done to my knees.


Life is good (exclusive of sports)

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As I commented in November 2014, I have reached the point of cussing the annual rye I plant every year to protect my backyard turf from the dogs and winter.


Fortunately thanks to my good wife's concern for my health last year, I have a John Deere tractor that now allows me to pop a beer and make a couple of passes at high/lower cut level with no harm done to my knees.


Life is good (exclusive of sports)



Translated – the wife let him buy a John Deere! I hope you took her out somewhere nice for that!

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Some of you may be preparing to mow your lawn for the first time of the season. Some of you may already have. For the first mow, lower the blade to a lower position so that your cut can be short. You do not want to scalp your lawn, but the first cut should be short.


This will enable more sunlight to hit the turf surface, which heats up the soil beneath and causes faster emergence from dormancy for your turf grass.


If you haven't already done this – sharpen your mower blades. If you don't feel confident in doing so yourself, most lawn mower shops will do this for $10 and will take them 15 mins. Go ahead and have them replace the spark plug and change the oil at the same time. Take care of your mower, it will take care of you.


The importance of having your blades sharp is because a sharp blade actually cuts the grass. The wound left behind heals faster and easier with a clean cut. A dull blade will tear the grass, causing the grass to go into stress. During the heat of the summer, a dull blade will also cause the tips of the grass blades to burn.




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I have a position with immediate opening in the DFW market for a landscaper. Good pay (depending on experience, other factors), and opportunity for advancement. If any of you know of someone in the general area of N Dallas and S Denton County, please contact me or have them contact me.





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Looking out my window this morning I notice that some strange white fungus has descended upon the entire neighborhood. It appears to be about four inches thick and has a bizarre crystalline structure. Is this some seasonal fungus caused by global warming? What should I do to treat this?

I would highly suggest a trip to the islands.

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You said to use Scott's Turf Builder for Bermuda grass.  Does it kill weeds like the Scott's Weed and Feed for St Augustine?  I notice there is no mention of weed and feed on the package, only turf builder.



There are several varieties of Turfbuilder. One is a straight fertilizer with no weed killer in it. But the most popular version is the one with the weed killer included.


There is a Turfbuilder Max and a TB with Halts (a pre emergent). Neither of those are what you're looking for.


The product you're looking for has a dandelion on the front, I believe and says weed and feed on the front.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Mark, I need to resod a portion of my front yard. I assume I should treat with weed and feed first, and then lay new sod. How long in between application and laying the sod to the dead areas? Should I till they dead spots (just dirt currently) and should I lay down something under the new sod. Any advice would be great. Also, do you have any knowledge on cleaning limestone masonry on a house? Mold/Mildew stains are present, is bleach safe on limestone or caustic? I figure to clean the spots first with bleach or whatever is appropriate and then power wash the area. Thanks!

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