Lawn Care FAQs for May

Questions about lawn care are blowing up my email and Facebook page — mostly related to my fertilization schedule, but also about mowing practices. 

So, let me answer a bunch of them in rapid fire: 

Q: I missed the April fertilization called for in your schedule. Can I do it in May instead? ~ Reggie W. — Richmond

A: "It's Never Too Late to Do the Right Thing!" In fact, May is a great month for schedule newcomers to get started. Just remember to leave at least 60 days between the spring and summer applications.

Q: I'm interested in organic lawn care this year. Where do I begin? ~ Curt F. — Angleton

A: I may not have mentioned it recently, but I have an organic lawn fertilization schedule, too, similar one for synthetics. And, again, "It's Never Too Late to Do the Right Thing." 

Q: You say "mow your grass at the highest level your lawnmower will allow," but none of my neighbors do. My lawn's always the greenest around, but it always has the tallest grass around, even after a mowing ... it's well over three inches high. Other people say I'm mowing too tall. I'm perplexed.

A: First, your lawn is greener, right? 'Nuff said! If yours greener and healthier looking than your neighbor's, you should keep mowing tall. Let your neighbors figure this out on their own. I call it "bringing your neighbors up to your level." (Several meanings there, if you want.) Their lawns are likely yellower and more susceptible to Bermuda creeping in.

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 the drainage, of the soil. When accompanied by an organic fertilizer, it can really help a heat-stressed lawn better utilize its moisture. What you were likely hearing, though, was an advertisement for MicroLife and their regimen, or a humate and dried molasses product known as Stimulate from Soil Mender.

Q: When is the best time to water the lawn? I get different answers from various people!~ Amy W. — The Woodland.

A: In general, early in the morning is best, especially in the summer months. I suggest 5-9 a.m.

Q: Did I really hear you say you haven't run your lawn irrigation since last fall?~Tommy L. — Spring

A: Yes, because it has so much organic matter, courtesy of compost, organic fertilizers, humates etc. We've been blessed with consistent rains since the January freeze, so deep roots that have developed in my highly enriched soil have not needed supplemental irrigation since just after the August 2016 deluge! Aeration and compost top-dressing consistently for the past four years get the credit. But watering will change once we get temperatures above 90 consistently. Assuming you don't have the richest soil profile in town (that would be John Ferguson of Nature's Way Resources, by the way), refer to my "Irrigation Basics" tip sheet for the summer months. 

Q: My (Major Name Brand) spreader is not listed on my bag of fertilizer. How do I know what setting to use?

A: Set it a notch or two above the half-way point. So, if you have 20 settings, use 11 or 12. Refer to my tip sheet for using any spreader with my fertilization schedule.Q: You've talked about not using soft water on a landscape. Why not?! ~ William A. — Pasadena

A: Too much salt! If you have an in-ground irrigation system, you usually don't have to worry because they bypass water softener systems. But you should never use a hose that comes off a house with a water softener. While some evergreen plants can handle the excessive sodium chloride that softeners inject, most annuals, perennials and herbs cannot. And lawns are highly susceptible to intense yellowing with salty water. 

Q: You say not to use high-nitrogen fertilizers during the summer, but isn't a 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 recently. 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 the upcoming 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 or clay soil so the roots establish much faster. 

Q: A caller last Sunday tried to debate your advice to mow St. Augustine tall while Texas A&M's turfgrass web info says 3½ inches is fine. I thought that was interesting considering your tip last week that pretty much said that if you mow short, Bermuda grass will start taking over. ~ Howard — Northwest Houston

A: Good observation Howard! The fact is that, as we move closer to summer temperatures, you absolutely should mow as tall as your lawn mower will allow. The tip sheet essentially says that 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. I was also able to find some great comments to a Facebook post on the subject just last year. These are all responses from listeners, not mine.

  • Sean Selman - Thank you! I just don't see how people don't get this!!!
  • Laura Strobl - NOT informed!
  • Karen Clark - Randy thanks my hubby was upset at our yard lady for not mowing shorter. I informed him! LOL!!!
  • Andrew Leeper - Plus mowing short provides a decent environment for grassy weeds to germinate
  • 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.
  • Tracy Mitchell - Duh!!!

If I didn't address your question above, please call 713-212-KTRH (5874) 6-10 a.m. Saturday or Sunday to reach me live on GardenLine.

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