Skip Richter, based in Houston, is a popular speaker for garden clubs, Master Gardener programs, and other gardening events across Texas. He has...Full Bio


My lawn care schedule is easy and time-tested

If you’ve followed my lawn care schedule and enjoyed great results, you may find this article old news and uninteresting. Maybe, though, you could weigh in on Facebook and confirm for everyone else just how well the simple, non-technical tenets work if they’re just followed for a full year.

Meanwhile, here’s the best news for newbies: NOW is the perfect time to “get on schedule.” And if you think you may have missed something on it, in most cases it’s never too late to do the right thing.

The pictures here are of Bermuda- and St. Augustine-based yards owned by ardent followers of the schedule.

Anyway, here’s what prompted this article: When the Facebook friend of a Houston newcomer shared the schedule, the newcomer responded, “Didn’t know fertilizing the lawn was this technical.”

It’s really not that technical. And it’s really not that difficult. But in our instant-gratification society, some people may expect a lawn version of Shangri-La to happen after a single fertilizer application. You know what?If the soil under a lawn is the healthiest, richest, most organically diverse soil ever, a couple of months of Shangri-La might follow. In reality, though, most lawn soil just isn’t that great. So, we should work at making it better over time through continued fertilizer applications.

Is working a bit on your yard once a month - on average - really asking too much?In fact, if you just want to adhere to schedule basics, you could get away with just four fertilization applications a year. But for real schedule benefits the maximum visits to your lawn would be six. In February, there are technically two things to do, yet since they could actually be done on the same day, that’s just one visit, right?

Let me ask this a different way.Is attending to your lawn once every other month really overwhelming? Or too technical?”

Well, here’s an even simpler plan if you couldn’t care less about pre-emergent herbicides or the optional early green-up. Just apply a spring and a summer controlled-release fertilizer, then a winterizer or fall fertilizer application. That’s only three lawn chores a year.It ain’t all that complicated, and it certainly ain’t technical either.Even the bare minimum will work and produce results, assuming you have decent soil.If your soil is so hardpan or clay-based or so devoid of any organic matter, it isn’t going to matter what fertilizer you put down. So if that’s your situation, start an aeration, compost top-dressing regimen today!

By the way … if you wonder why I don’t recommend national fertilizer brands in the schedule, let me set the record straight. First, Fertilome Southwest Greenmaker 18-0-6 is a national brand. But Fertilome understands the need for regionalized fertilizers – so it’s “Southwest” Greenmaker. It stands to reason that national brands that work in Ohio probably aren’t too good for southern climates.Not all grasses are created equal, and not all soils are the same.I feel that most national brands are way too high in nitrogen (the first number in the formulation ratio) and don’t qualify as the mostly “controlled-release” fertilizers I recommend.There’s one major brand whose formula is a 29-0-4, while the main one on my schedule is 19-4-10. (Close seconds are a 19-5-9 and a 18-5-9). Those with nitrogen less than 20 are, in my opinion, the best for Southeast Texas soils and southern turfgrasses.

But maybe even more important to me and, I hope, you, is keeping the money local.Who wants to give their hard-earned cash to some big, bad, corporate hypocrites who pretend to be interested in the environment but, for example, fight tooth-and-nail every time environmentalists call for an end to atrazine, the main ingredient in most national weed-and-feed formulations?You see, they make more money off their weed-and-feed products than probably any other item in their arsenal. They will be hit hard when atrazine is finally banned in fertilizers, so they continue to lobby for their treasured poison, keeping it on the shelves and in your soil, killing trees and shrubs and negatively impacting our groundwater. If you’re new to GardenLine and don’t understand my disdain for weed-and-feeds with atrazine, please read this previously published article.

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