GARDEN VIEW: A review of lawn care basics

Questions on turf are always common, but in the past few months they have been so frequent I can hardly keep up. I’m not sure if that’s due to more people being at home and having time to focus on their yards or if it’s all the rain we’ve had this year.

Either way I think it is a good time to brush up on some important basics of lawn care. Due to the high heat and high humidity of our area grass can quickly become stressed from poor maintenance practices. Once the grass is stressed it is much more susceptible to pests and disease.

MOWING HEIGHT

Appropriate mowing height is very important to maintaining a healthy lawn. Each species of turfgrass has a preferred height range in which it preforms best. For example, St. Augustine grass is recommended to be cut at a height of 2.5 to 4 inches. When possible maintain grass at the higher end of the range to encourage deeper roots.

Especially, if your grass is in the shade, the shadier the area the taller you need to leave the grass.

Additionally, you never want to remove more than 1/3 of your total turfgrass height at one time. In my observations this rule tends to be broken far too often in our area. Especially during the summer when grass is very susceptible to heat stress. When grass is at its peak growth rate it probably needs to be mowed weekly to not break the 1/3 rule. As growth slows down so can the frequency of mowing.

Learn more about mowing warm season grasses here: https://aggieturf.tamu.edu/wpcontent/ uploads/ESC052-1.pdf.

WATERING

Watering can be tricky because there are many factors that affect the amount of water that needs to be applied. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that infrequent and deep watering is best. Deep watering encourages deep roots which makes healthier grass. When the grass is actively growing the goal is to get the water to move down 6 inches into the soil profile. If you can accomplish that, even during the summer watering once or twice a week should be sufficient.

As the weather starts to cool down and growth slows you will want to reduce water applications.

Things to keep in mind:

>> Water between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. to improve water-use efficiency and reduce prolonged leaf moisture to prevent disease.

>> Reduce water applications as grass growth slows.

>> Water only in response to visible wilt, especially during cooler weather Consider using the cycle and soak method to allow water to infiltration the soil and prevent run off.

Learn how here: https:// wateruniversity.tamu.edu/ media/1175/cycle_and_ soak_irrigation_method.pdf.

NUTRIENTS

If possible, soil testing should be done annually, and the fall is a great time to do that. Especially if you have been having issues with your yard. As with most maintenance practices there is a range you want to be within; while growth can be limited by nutrient deficiencies, excessive nutrients can also cause problems. Often when the lawn starts looking a little rough the first thing we want to do is fertilize, but most of the time the soil already has sufficient nutrients. This was the case with three soil reports that I reviewed with homeowners this past week.

Applying additional nitrogen when current soil nitrates are elevated often results in increased disease pressure, winter weeds and the potential for localized water impairments. Read more about fall lawn care here: https://aggieturf.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/TLCFall18_3.pdf. Utilizing best management practices can make or break your landscape. Taking the time to know and understand your soil and plant requirements will go along way in having a healthy lawn and landscape.

Ashley Gregory is the Horticulturalist for Hidalgo County with Texas A& M AgriLife Extension Service. She can be reached at the Hidalgo County Extension Office at (956) 383-1026 or by email at ahgregory@ag.tamu.edu.