IF YOU HAVE ST. AUGUSTINE OR ZOYSIA GRASS, RIGHT NOW IS AN OPPORTUNE TIME TO CUT BACK ON YOUR WATERING.
The Fall Equinox is fast approaching on September 23, 2018. On this date the physiological characteristics of grass changes and it stops actively growing. When the turf is not actively growing, it needs much less water than it did in the summer. This is where some homeowners create self inflicted wounds to their grass due to overwatering, especially those with St. Augustine or Zoysia grass.
Right now is a great time to cut back on your watering not only because we’ve gotten so much rain lately but also because St. Augustine and Zoysia are susceptible to the dreaded Rhizoctonia Solani, AKA Brown Patch.
Brown Patch pictured above.
Brown Patch is a fungal disease that thrives in moist cool environments. Once infected, excess water exasperates the issue and it continues to spread. While Brown Patch is not something that will kill the turf, it does set the grass back in the spring when it is trying to come out of dormancy. Lawns that were affected by Brown Patch in the fall will be at least 2 weeks slower to green up in the spring than non affected turf.
Lets get ahead of the curve this fall and try and outsmart this pesky disease!
WHAT SHOULD YOU BE DOING?
1. Cut back watering to once a week per the watering guide. If there has been significant rainfall, turn the system off until 1 week passes with no significant moisture.
2. If you start to notice signs of brown patch in your yard, first call us and next turn your system off for 2 weeks or until further notice.
It’s no surprise that it’s hot.. in Texas.. in July. With all of this heat comes stress on your turf and landscape so some of you may be noticing some browning in the grass and plants. Is it lack of water or could it be something else? Let’s dig in and see!
Am I Watering Enough?
As a homeowner, watering adequately while being on our program is single handedly your most important role in our business partnership. If the plants or grass is not getting enough water, this not only compromises the uptake of our application but can put the turf in a weakened state, which can make it more vulnerable to diseases and pathogens. If you’re noticing some stress on your turf at this time of the year it is a good idea to take a look at the amount of time you’re watering and at what rate. A good rule of thumb is to physically check the soil to see if it’s wet or not. Cracks in the soil are also an indication of dehydration.
Our watering guide is a great resource for lawn novices. With the temps this summer it is best to increase your watering amount by 30%-50% at each watering interval.
Be aware of local watering restrictions. Most DFW cities have designated days to water so be sure that you’re in line with city code. If you’re curious about DFW watering restrictions, go here to see if your area is operating under any restrictions.
Even Sprinkler Coverage
While you may have ruled out the amount of water as an issue, there still could be the even water coverage factor. Sometimes when you turn your sprinklers on it appears that water is getting everywhere but, there could be a tiny particle of sand or dirt restricting adequate water flow to a specific area. This 1/16 of an inch could make or break the turf in these scorching weather conditions. Irrigation audits from a licensed irrigator are highly recommended if you have an inkling that even coverage is not being distributed.
Common Summertime Pathogens
Chinch bugs and grubs are the most common pathogens at this time of the year. While Chinch bugs like mostly St. Augustine, grubs don’t discriminate.
Chinch bugs are classified as piercing sucking insects and they LOVE the heat. Most common places to see chinch bug damage is near concreted areas. The way that they cause damage is by injecting a toxin into the plant to remove the nutrients. This fluid is toxic to the grass which in turn causes the grass to yellow, turn reddish brown, and eventually die. This damage can occur extremely rapidly if left untreated. Consulting a plant health professional is highly recommended if there is speculation of chinch bugs.
Chinch bugs can be seen by pulling the turf back to expose the soil. They usually scurry quickly once they are exposed so check in several different places on the outer edges of the damaged area.
Grubs have a very particular time of the year that they cause damage that is based on their life cycle. In North Texas it is Late July- August. Our culture has been trained to think that all grubs are bad but in truth, they aren’t. Grubs are very common to see when you’re digging around in the flower beds or in the yard because they play an important role in the soil food web. There are 12 species of grubs in North Texas and only 2 of those are root feeders. So, there are 2 species that could potentially cause damage to your turf and only do so in very large infestations.
This year, their life cycle has been delayed and we have just now seen the June Bugs emerge. Some of you may have thought the June Bugs had already come up but there happen to be other beetles that impersonate the common June Bug.
Once they emerge, they have a mating period of about two weeks and then the females descend back to the soil to deposit the eggs. After about 3 weeks the grub larvae hatch and begin to feed. So, grub damage should not be occurring until mid-late August this year.
A tell-tale sign of grub damage is the lack of effort it takes to pull up the dead turf. If it pulls up easily or rolls up like carpet, grubs could be the culprit. Also, seeing at least 6-10 grubs per sq ft of area is also a good indication they are causing the damage.
Whether it’s a lack of water coverage or a possible disease, seeking help by a professional is going to be your best option. While turf can come back from moderate dehydration, chinch bug or grub damage is classified as “what’s done is done.” The turf that has been damaged will not come back and depending on how large the area is that was infected, it may need resodding.
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.