Questions about lawn care are blowing up my email and Facebook page, mostly related to the excessive heat.
So, I'm taking this opportunity to answer in rapid fire the FAQs of the season. In most instances, I have provided links to past write-ups on the subjects. If your question isn't addressed below, though, please feel free to call 713-212-KTRH (5874) to reach me live on GardenLine beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday or Sunday.
Q: I'm interested in doing "organic" lawn care this year. Where do I begin? - Curt F., Angelton
Q: You talked about drought-proofing a yard last weekend. What was the product you highlighted? - Paul G., Friendswood
A: It's humates. Several companies make a granular humate that really improves the porosity, and thus drainage, of the soil. When accompanied by an "organic" fertilizer, it can really make a heat-stressed lawn better utilize its moisture. What you were likely hearing though, was an advertisement for MicroLife and their regimen.
Q: When is the best time to water the lawn? I get different answers from different people! - Amy W., The Woodlands.
A: In general, the best time is early in the morning, especially in the summer months. I suggest 5-9 a.m. MORE INFO.
Q: I want to follow your schedule, and will — despite the heat. I was scared to put it down in 96-degree heat at first, but your message last week convinced me otherwise. However, I have a Scott's spreader, and the Nitro-Phos 19-4-10 bag doesn't list settings for it. - Terrance P., Houston
A: Set it a notch or two above the half-way point. So, if you have 20 settings, use 11 or 12. Here's more on spreader settings.
Q: You were talking about not using soft water on your landscape - Why not?! - William A., Pasadena
A: Too much salt! If you have an in-ground irrigation system, you don't have to worry because water softener systems are bypassed in them. But you should never use hose-dragging setups that come off a house with a water softener. While some evergreen plants can handle the excessive sodium chloride in the water, most annuals, perennials and herbs cannot. And lawns are highly susceptible to intense yellowing with salty water. While I haven't written about this in the past, a detailed article is coming, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I think this website spells it out well.
Q: You say not to use high-nitrogen fertilizers during the summer months, but isn't 19-5-9 higher in it? - Phillip T., Cypress
A: Phillip was not signed up for my weekly email tips, one of which covered this subject last week. I sent him a copy and reminded him that the fertilizers on my schedule are not considered high-nitrogen fertilizers, but "controlled release" products.
Q: We just purchased our first house, and the newly installed lawn is struggling. Do you have any suggestions on how to make it healthier?
A: Follow the fertilization schedule, for sure! Make certain, in this heat, that the lawn gets a bit of water every day for the first 30 days. Then use Medina Soil Activator, or any liquid soil activator, once a week for up to two months. That softens the mud/clay soil so the roots establish much quicker.
Q: My yard crew always has to be reminded to raise their mower deck for my lawn. I know they see a difference in how much thicker and greener my St. Augustine is than the other lawns the mow shorter in the neighborhood. Why don't they mow all of them the same way and make everyone's lawn healthier? Nancy H., - Houston
A: That is a questions for the ages! I think lawn crews would rather have shorter, unhealthier lawns to mow, especially in the summer, because it is less work. The ground is more compact and easier to roll a mower over. And obviously there's less grass to mow when kept shorter. Just recently, I reminded my Facebook fans about this, and these were some of the great responses.
Mow tall in summer - This mostly applies to St. Augustine grass, but during a hot summer Bermuda and Zoysia grasses will benefit as well. For St. Augustine, the taller you allow it to get, the more shade it provides to the soil and root system. People who mow St. Augustine too short always seem to have the most yellow-looking yards. Their soil dries out quicker, too, leading to things like chinch bugs.
- Sean Selman - Thank you! I just don't see how people dont get this!!! ~ Sunday at 9:42 a.m. via mobile
- Laura Strobl - NOT informed! ~Sunday at 9:51 a.m.
- Karen Clark - Randy thanks my hubby was upset at our yard lady for not mowing shorter. I informed him LOL!!! ~ Sunday at 9:55 a.m.
- Andrew Leeper - Plus mowing short provides a decent environment for grassy weeds to germinate ~ Sunday at 10:49 a.m.
- Geneva Atkins Jungman - I have been saying this and saying this. Landscapers hate the extra work? But I don't care. Cut my lawn short and you lost my business. ~Sunday at 10:55 a.m. via mobile
- Tracy Mitchell - Duh!!!