Protecting your lawn from disease and pest damage
By Bob Dailey
Fungi is the leading disease vector for lawns in southeast Texas. Consider that as well as damage done by pests such as chinch bugs and sod webworms, and you’ve got real problems. More often than not, you may not see the damage until the late spring of summer. Here are some tips to keep your lawn healthy:
- Do not irrigate your lawn during the winter months of December, January, and February. We get more than enough rain during those months to provide water. Your lawn is dormant during this period. The only things that should be growing in your lawn should be the roots. All three major warm season grasses – St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Bermuda go dormant when the temperature hits around 50 degrees. Watering during winter dormancy is a great way to destroy your lawn and set it up for lots of problems.
- Do not plant winter rye. I know, your yard looks brown and lifeless, and you want some green to soothe your soul. However, winter rye robs the soil of the nutrients that your permanent turf needs. Also, winter rye needs a lot of water. If you’re watering winter rye, then you are also watering your lawn and helping to kill the roots of your permanent lawn.
- Have your lawn aerated in mid spring. This will allow air and water to penetrate deep into the soil. You can rent a power aerator or buy hand operated ones. You don’t have to do this every year, but maybe every few years.
- Follow your aeration with good compost. Spread ¼ to ½ inch of compost across your whole lawn. The compost will find its way down into the soil and inoculate the soil with important microbes. While you do not have to aerate every year, I would put compost down at least once a year either in late September or in mid-April, until you see a change in the health of your lawn.
- Fertilize your lawn with a slow-release fertilizer when it begins to break dormancy. This generally happens when the daytime temperatures are consistently in the 70s and the soil temperatures are in the 60s.
- Since turf grass is a plant, it needs its leaves (grass blades) to make food. Scalping might look good, but you are slowly killing your grass this way. Instead, cut only a third of the grass blade. That leaves enough of the leaf to make more food.
- DO NOT USE WEED and FEED products. They are a waste of money and time.