It’s chinch bug season and truthfully, there is nothing to be excited about here. With the abnormally warm winter we had, it is likely that these pests are larger in number than usual. If these little guys get free reign they can devastate a yard within days. While chinch bugs most commonly affect St. Augustine lawns, they have been known to cause destruction in Bermuda and Zoysia yards as well.
What are chinch bugs?
Appearance: Chinch bugs are very small insects with six legs that only grow to about one-fifth of an inch long. When matured, they have black bodies that are covered with frosty white wings folded over their backs.
Up close picture of the lifecycle of chinch bugs.
The name chinch bug is derived from the Spanish word chinche. This word has come to mean “pest” and is used in many phrases such as tener de chinches la sangre, meaning tiresome or troublesome.
Lifecycle: In early spring, once temperatures reach 70° F, chinch bugs mate. Females lay up to 500 eggs on grass leaves, stems, roots or in other protected crevices over a period of two to three weeks. Each year we can experience up to four generations of chinch bugs.
Damage: In a short amount of time, chinch bugs can destroy large swaths of your lawn. They damage lawns by inserting their beaklike mouth into leaf blades and sucking out the moisture and nutrients, while also adding toxins back into plants. Grass leaf blades will turn yellow on the edges and then brown out in large patches. Chinch bugs love the heat so they tend to start by damaging the parts of lawns closer to hardscape such as driveways, curbs, sidewalks or along the foundation … anywhere it’s very warm.
Identification: Due to their diminutive size, you may not even know you have an infestation until the damage is already done. The best place to look for these insects are on the stems of your grass, near the soil surface. After you sit and watch closely, you’ll be able to spot them crawling around.
Chinch bug damage. If your yard has circular patches such as these above, seek help!
Beware of irrigation problems! Since we haven't gotten much rain in the last two weeks and the temperatures have been on a consistant rise, it is definitely time to set the sprinkler system to twice a week. If you are watering consitantly and don't see any signs of chinch bugs, do an irrigation audit to make sure that every part of the lawn is getting proper coverage.
As with any pest prevention practice, a healthy, robust lawn grown in nutrient rich soil is your best defense against most pests and diseases. Insects are opportunistic and will cull weak plants first. Because chinch bugs thrive on excess moisture, be careful not to overwater your lawn. Regular fertilization and soil feedings will help to keep soil biology healthy and beneficial predatory insect populations active.
Watering: It’s a hot topic when it’s hot! Unfortunately, most homeowners have been misinformed when it comes to watering practices. That’s why we are here to simplify things with our watering guide - AKA the soak, cycle, repeat method!
What are the steps to our watering method?
First, let’s determine what type of system you are using. Our watering guide is tailored for sprinkler systems with pop up and rotary heads. If you do not have a sprinkler system you will need to get creative. We suggest investing in a digital controller box which can be found at any home improvement store. If you have a drip irrigation system, consult your drip irrigation installer for proper watering regimens.
Second, let’s analyze how you’re watering. Do you water your lawn all at once and if so, for how long? If you’re only watering using one cycle, then all of the water you deliver may not get absorbed.
Our tough clay soil presents unique challenges when it comes to lawn irrigation. Due to our seemingly nonporous clay soil, the trick is to split up your watering times into multiple cycles, all in the same day. Clay can only soak up so much water until its pores close up and water begins to sheen off. Therefore, after an allotted amount of time (which is anywhere between 3-10 minutes depending on the slope and compaction) runoff occurs and water becomes wasted.
Why is water runoff bad?
Irrigation water that can’t be absorbed into the soil will drain off into the street, down the storm drains or into our lakes, rivers, and drinking water supply. This is bad for many reasons. First, it is a huge waste! There’s no sense in wasting all of that irrigation water if half of it is just going to end up in the storm drains. Plus, water runoff takes a lot of desirable and undesirable things away with it: nutrients your plants need plus toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Even if you are 100% organic in your garden, there is still soil sediment (erosion), pet waste, and other toxins that make their way to your yard to be carried away by the runoff.
When you see it start to runoff, shut it off!
Make yourself a cup of coffee on Saturday morning, stand outside, and start your stopwatch when the sprinklers turn on. Once you notice water running off onto the street or sidewalk, stop your watch and now you have your optimum water time for each zone.
Third, now that you have figured out your optimum cycle time, it’s time to program your cycles on your controller box. Most controller boxes allow for 3 or more start times. The key is to water each zone for a total of 30 minutes. You’ll want to break the cycles up into factors of 30. See sample below for more clarification.
Timing Sample: If your system allows for 3 start times, then you will water each station for 10 minutes, 3 times - breaking for an hour or two in between cycles to allow for deeper penetration. Less watering time at more frequent intervals is recommended if your system allows. In other words, if you can water each station 5 times for 6 minutes, that is better than watering each station 3 times for 10 minutes. Optimum watering window is midnight-10 am.
Be sure to adhere to local watering restrictions and assigned watering days.
Healthy soil that is part of our Soil Building Program is naturally better at absorbing and using water efficiently. When your soil is healthy, well fed and full of organic matter, drainage and moisture retention is improved.
Finally, it’s warm! YAY! But in true Texan form, we will all be complaining in 3 weeks about how hot it is. Isn’t that an oddity? It never fails, e v e r y s i n g l e y e a r we have something to say about our weather and how we CAN’T BELIEVE that it’s this hot! Didn’t Albert Einstein once say that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity? We must be….
Anyway, now that the temperatures are rising what can you be doing to ride the wave of weather change?
Water! Water! Water!
Water is life. Without water we perish, along with any other living organism on this earth. Proper watering practices not only bring life to plants but sustain their health. It can alleviate compaction, nutrient deficiencies and also prevent certain diseases. It is extremely imperative to maintain a balanced watering regimen if you are concerned about the health of your plants. Maintaining this balance will also help reduce the overuse of water and if you are on our Soil Building Program, will allow you to get the most benefit from our treatments.
Over Watering Vs. Under Watering - Is one better than the other?
In regards to turf, it all depends on your variety.
Bermuda responds much better to over watering than under. St. Augustine on the other hand is quite the opposite. Over watering St. Augustine can dig you into a hole that is much harder to get out of than it was to get in. In St. Augustine lawns, overwatering can cause a dreaded fungal disease called Rhizoctonia - AKA Brown Patch. While Brown Patch does not kill the grass, it leaves it leaves an unsightly appearance and the affected areas are slower to green up in the spring.
It is crucial to maintain proper watering practices while still considering what mother nature brings to the table. This can get hard, right? Some of you may never be able to tell if you’re watering enough or too much. Don’t fret! We’ve got a perfect guide that is black and white when it comes to watering your lawn.
Our watering guide is universal for all turf varieties
Weed Alert! Our Summertime Nuisances!
Crabgrass is a thorn in a lot of homeowners’ side come summertime. It usually appears in May and sticks around throughout the end of the year. Crabgrass grows in a clumping manner and the runners branch out much like the legs on a crab. If you prefer to steer clear of chemicals, the best natural way to get rid of crabgrass is to cut it off at the crown (flush with the ground). This kills the weed and leaves the root intact to decompose and feed the soil. Win Win!
Clumps of Crabgrass
Nutsedge made an earlier appearance than normal this year. It usually shows up around May but started popping up in March this year. The blades appear to be long, skinny and dark green. Some may consider nutsedge to be a weed while others respect it as a natural addition to the polyculture that your landscape is intended to be. If you want this weed gone, whatever you do, DO NOT PULL IT. Nutsedge germinates through agitation.
If you are on our program and notice you have nutsedge, give us a call. Nutsedge requires an additional charge to treat but we can eradicate it.
If you see this weed, don't pull it!
Less Is More in Texas Landscapes!
In this day and age we are all about finding ways to make our lives easier. Naturally, that is the reason why most of you hire someone to do your lawn care maintenance for you. If you are one who has a hard time keeping up their end of the lawn care maintenace deal (i.e. watering), try planting Native Texas Plants. Any native varieties require little to no maintenance and are a beautiful addition to any landscape. Some of my favorites are: Texas Sage, Bird of Paradise and Vitex. Hardscapes also call for less maintenance which means spending less money! Plus, weeds and diseases are most of the time non-existent so you can still have the prettiest lawn on the block!