We asked Erik Miller his thoughts on how to keep a yard in great shape heading into the summer and he gave us five things to focus on. Erik is the Field Supervisor over Land management and the Mowing Response Team. That means he supervises all the mowing contractors that mow for the City and the crew that is mowing/maintaining our two cemeteries. He has 14 years of experience in the landscape field and is a Texas Certified Landscape Professional through the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association.
Basically, he knows a lot about yards.
Mowing regularly is an essential practice for managing your lawn. The general rule of frequency is the 1/3 rule. For example, if the lawn is 1-inch-tall, then it should be mowed again as soon as it reaches a height of 1.5 inches. Mowing frequency can vary based on season, temperature, rainfall/ irrigation, and fertility. It encourages grass to grow laterally and can result in improved density. Knowing the variety of grass that makes up your lawn is important because different varieties have different recommended heights. To the left is a table from Texas Agrilfe.
I recommend mowing at the highest recommended height, especially as the temperatures rise. Taller growth generally corresponds to greater energy production and provides shade that helps keep the root zone cool, supporting deeper, more vigorous rooting. Deeper root systems can result in improved water infiltration, nutrient and water-use efficiency, and improved overall turfgrass stress tolerance.
While mowing and having dense, healthy grass is great weed control, you may still find weeds in your lawn. Physically removing weeds is one of the best practices for weed control, but you may find it laborious. Herbicides will likely be your next choice.
"There are many products available at local stores to treat weeds... Things to remember when choosing herbicides:
Not all lawn products are safe to use on all lawns. What might be safe in your Bermudagrass lawn could significantly injure or even kill your St. Augustine grass lawn.
Different active ingredients will target different types of weeds.
Incorporate preemergence herbicides into your program if you deal with bluegrass, crabgrass, goosegrass, or other annual weeds.
Be mindful of your other landscape plants. Wind, rain, and irrigation water will move herbicide treatments to undesirable areas. Take time to read all cautionary statements on product labels.
Timing is everything. Most herbicide products must be applied before weeds mature."
-Lawn Care Tips for Summer by Dr. Becky Grubbs:
Good weed control practice is essential for your lawn care maintenance. Weeds compete with your grass for sunlight, water, and nutrients.
Instead of just watering your lawn on the same schedule each week, adjust your schedule according to the weather. For example, we had a lot of rain in May. Therefore, there was no need to supplement with irrigation. However, if you want to be very water efficient, you can wait to water your lawn until the grass shows signs of drought stress like grass leaves turning a dull, bluish color, leaf blades rolling or folding, and footprints that remain in the grass after walking across the lawn. Once these symptoms show up, water deeply.
Watering helps promote a deep root system for your lawn, and deep roots encourage a healthy, dense lawn. Water in the early morning if possible. This is when wind and temperatures are the most favorable, and you won't lose much water to evaporation. However, watering at night can cause the leaves to remain wet for too long, increasing the chance of disease.
Aerating the Soil
When your soil is compact, it stops water and air from moving into the soil and reduces plant shoot and root development. Once or twice a year, aerate compacted soils to help break up packed layers. There are a few ways to do this.
First, you could buy a manual 4-tine aerator, which is a hand-held tool. Some sandals can attach to your shoes. These aren't the best, but they work and are cheap. They are also best for small areas. Another option is to rent a core or plug aerator from a big box home improvement store. However, your best option is to hire a lawn care professional. They have the expertise and the best well-maintained equipment.
The first thing to do is figure out if you need to fertilize, and you can do this by soil testing. A soil test will tell you the amount of nutrients available in the soil. They are easy and inexpensive. You can do this through your local county extension office. Learn more here. http://soiltesting.tamu.edu. Once you get the results back from your soil test, you can determine what your soil lacks and plan a fertilizing regiment.
Things you need to know about fertilizer:
You will need to measure your yard to determine the square footage.
Lawn care products are usually recommended in amounts per 1,000 square feet.
All fertilizer packages must list three numbers (such as 16-4-8). The fertilizer analysis represents the percentage by weight of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fertilizer.
It is best to fertilize grass when it is actively growing and able to take up the fertilizer. The growing season is usually the period between the last spring frost date and the first autumn frost date.
If you would like to learn more about fertilizer, a great article to read is Lawn Fertilization for Texas-Warm Season Grasses by David R. Chalmers and James A. McAfee.