Answers to Your Lawn Care Questions & Keep Watering

In Episode 7 of the Houston Grass Podcast, Michael answers the lawn care questions we’ve been receiving in your phone calls and reminds everyone why and how much you need to water your grass in these days of high temperatures and continuing dry weather. Call 281-431-7441 for answers to your questions and a quote for your project.

Summary of Episode 7 – Answers to Your Lawn Care Questions & Keep Watering Your Grass

Good morning, everyone. This is Michael Romine from Houston Grass, and I welcome you to the Houston Grass Podcast. As we’re in late July, we’re bracing ourselves for a record-breaking heatwave. Despite a couple of showers over the last few days, it seems we’re in for more hot and dry weather, with little respite in sight.

In this episode, we’ll focus on subjects pertinent to the current season and climate. Some topics are universal, applying to all times of the year, and others are more seasonal. For instance, we’ll discuss rye grass, typically a subject of late fall or wintertime discussions.

One common lawn care question that comes up year-round is about the existence of St. Augustine grass seed. Unfortunately, there’s no such seed. While it would be convenient to fill in lawn patches with a sprinkle of seeds, it’s not possible. While St. Augustine grass does produce a seed head, I’m not sure if these seeds are sterile or if no one has found a cost-effective method to harvest them. Hence, you cannot buy a bag of St. Augustine grass seed online.

When we plant large areas at our farm, we take blocks of grass, feed them into a machine that chops them up into four-inch pieces, drop them on the ground, and then use a roller to press them down. They’re spaced a few inches apart and then watered profusely. This process, known as vegetative propagation, requires a piece of the plant to start a new one.

Using plugs, another form of vegetative propagation, isn’t something we typically recommend to homeowners due to the difficulty of managing weeds in the interim. Farms have the necessary chemicals and expertise to handle the weeds. However, homeowners usually don’t have access to these chemicals or the requisite expertise.

In our part of the world, solid sodding is generally the best approach. Though I’m in the business of selling grass, I assure you, if it were my yard or a friend’s, I would recommend the same approach.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Grass Varieties Used in the Houston Area

Another popular lawn care question we receive is about the types of grass suitable for our part of Texas. St. Augustine is common along the coast, while Bermuda grass is more prevalent inland, towards the Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas areas. We carry several varieties of grass, including St. Augustine, Bermuda grass, and three types of Zoysia grass, which have different blade widths. You may not see Zoysia as often as St. Augustine and Bermuda grass, but there are numerous varieties available, with us carrying three of them.

Let’s discuss St. Augustine, particularly Raleigh St. Augustine which we keep in our yard all year round. You can purchase it from us anytime throughout the year, and we usually maintain a steady stock. It’s a popular choice because people are familiar with it. However, it does require at least six to seven hours of direct sunlight per day to survive. Planting it under trees would be ill-advised.

To address such situations, we also provide Palmetto St. Augustine. It resembles Raleigh St. Augustine quite closely in appearance and requires at least four to five hours of direct sunlight per day. This is the minimum requirement; there aren’t any grasses known to us that can survive on less than four hours of direct sunlight, especially in our geographical location. Thus, if you’re dealing with shade, Palmetto St. Augustine is the best option.

A mixture of both types can be used in your yard. If you have a lot of Raleigh in your yard but notice some thin spots due to a tree’s shade, the first recommendation is to thin out the trees as much as possible to allow sunlight in. More sunlight will be beneficial for any grass in your yard.

If thin spots persist, there’s no need to replace your whole yard with Palmetto St. Augustine. You could simply put the Palmetto in the problematic areas, and it should be fine. There might be slight differences noticeable initially, as they may enter and exit dormancy at different times, but these changes should even out within a couple of weeks.

Now, let’s talk about Bermuda grasses. We carry TexTurf 10 and Tifway 419, which are very common names you’ll likely hear. Another frequent mention is Common Bermuda, often used on roadsides. It’s characterized by a sprout that shoots up, branching into three seed heads. It’s commercially available and used for ground coverage in new construction sites or roadsides. However, it’s a coarse, stringy grass that we don’t recommend for home yards.

Our closest option to Common Bermuda is TexTurf 10. This is a denser turf, with finer leaves and fewer seed heads. It’s a nice addition to a homeowner’s yard and used quite extensively. Tifway 419 and TexTurf 10 are often used interchangeably in home lawns, sports fields, and even golf courses.

On golf courses, Tifway 419 is used on the tee boxes and fairways. Putting greens are usually a hybrid of some specific type of grass that can be mowed extremely short. Tifway 419 is more specific to golf courses, while TexTurf 10 and Tifway 419 are common in homeowner’s yards and sports fields.

The Tifway 419 is even thinner bladed and can be mowed even shorter than the TexTurf 10. Both types yield better results when mowed with a reel mower, which operates differently than a traditional rotary mower. Reel mowers have a scissor-like cutting action and can be gas-powered, similar to regular push mowers. However, they are quite expensive and require regular maintenance.

If you’ve ever driven by a house and seen a yard that looks like carpet, they’re likely using a reel mower and mowing every three or four days. Bermuda grasses do better with a reel mower than a rotary mower. Although it’s possible to cut them with a rotary mower, the vast majority of Bermuda grass that leaves our location ends up being maintained with a rotary mower. That’s just a fact as far as mowing goes.

We offer three types of Zoysia: Emerald, Cavalier, and Palisades. Both Emerald and Cavalier Zoysias are fine-bladed, whereas the Palisades Zoysia is coarser. These types of Zoysia generally perform better when cut with a reel style mower. However, their sales volumes are relatively modest.

The most popular variety we sell is the Raleigh St. Augustine, followed by the Palmetto St. Augustine. Zoysias, while valued, come last due to their higher cost. In particular, the fine-bladed Zoysias – Emerald and Cavalier – are slightly more high maintenance.

This is primarily because they are not very aggressive growers. Consequently, any disturbances such as drought stress or shade can lead to thin spots where weeds might emerge. Despite this, their growth is not intrusive into your flower beds, unlike St. Augustine or Bermuda grasses.

On the other hand, Palisades Zoysia tolerates shade equivalent to the Raleigh St. Augustine, requiring around six or seven hours of direct sunlight. In contrast, the fine-bladed Zoysias like Emerald and Cavalier can survive with just four or five hours of sunlight, making them suitable for shaded lawns.

When mowed with a reel-style mower, specifically Emerald and Cavalier, the Zoysias fare better. At our farm, we exclusively use this type of mower for these Zoysias. They have softer blades that are quite tough, and unless your mower has an extremely sharp blade, it tends to tear the grass rather than cutting it cleanly.

The fine-bladed Zoysias are a bit higher maintenance due to these issues, but they look fantastic, especially when freshly cut at our farm. However, maintaining them requires commitment. They’re likely to be cut with a rotary mower once they leave our farm and will probably be taller than intended. But as long as you keep the blade sharp, they should be just fine.

Palisades Zoysia is more aggressive and grows faster. It also tolerates mowing with a traditional rotary mower better than its fine-bladed counterparts. Its main drawback is its reduced shade tolerance.

Given the right conditions – plenty of sunlight, for example – I’d choose Palisades Zoysia for my own lawn. Its uniqueness and appealing aesthetics, its density and softness, and its straightforward maintenance routine make it an ideal choice. If you’re accustomed to taking care of St. Augustine grass, managing Palisades Zoysia will be similar – watering, fertilization, and mowing are essentially the same.

However, the one major disadvantage of all Zoysias, including Palisades, is their cost. They’re more expensive than the St. Augustine varieties. For reference, Zoysia is about 30% more expensive than St. Augustine.

Another potential issue is that we only sell Zoysia by the 450 square foot pallet, unlike Raleigh St. Augustine, which we sell by the piece. If you need to repair a small area, unfortunately, we don’t sell Zoysia in small quantities. We’ve tried this in the past, but the demand has been too infrequent to make it feasible.

We carry a variety of grass types including the two types of St. Augustine. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.

Regarding Bermuda grass, there are indeed a few other types. However, the two types that we carry most frequently are TexTurf 10 and Tifway 419. Zoysia grass is another common query among our customers. I’m aware that many other farms stock a variety of grass types and I often receive queries on how these compare to grasses like Zeon or El Toro.

Speaking generally, there are coarser-bladed grasses such as the Palisades, and finer-bladed varieties like the Emerald and Cavalier. We chose to stock these three types for a variety of reasons, and they seem to fulfill most customer needs. So, these are the types of grasses we offer.

Now, let’s discuss the best grass types. I love researching this topic. To determine the best type of grass for your yard, I would first ask how much shade it has.

If there’s no shade and your budget is flexible, I would recommend the Palisades Zoysia. I’ve never encountered anyone who regretted choosing this grass type. It’s a favorite among neighbors and kids alike.

If you’re willing to pay a little more and don’t have a large area to cover, this grass may be a great choice. However, the costs can add up when covering larger areas, like an acre. In that case, consider Raleigh St. Augustine grass, especially if your area has ample sunlight. It’s easy to maintain and if you have a problem, you can get pieces of it from most places. It’s a well-known grass type, making it easy to diagnose any issues.

If your yard has limited sunlight, I would recommend Palmetto St. Augustine grass over finer-bladed Zoysias. Not only are the latter more expensive, but they can also present certain issues.

If you desire a unique and attractive grass type and your yard has some shade, Cavalier and Emerald Zoysia are great options.

You might notice that Bermuda grasses are not in my list of recommendations. While Bermuda grass has its place, and some neighborhoods enforce its use for drought tolerance, it requires 100% sunlight. Ideal locations for it are open fields, sports fields, golf courses, and building fronts that have no shade.

Bear in mind, Bermuda grass will not tolerate even a slight amount of shade caused by a tree, fence, or a building’s shadow. I have a friend living in a neighborhood with such rules. His yard initially had two or three oak trees that grew bigger over the years, which resulted in his Bermuda grass eventually dying off, leaving behind bare soil.

These neighborhoods often require front yard trees, and that’s problematic for Bermuda grass, which requires full sunlight. While it does have better drought tolerance than most other grasses, its need for sunlight can be a significant drawback.

In most homeowner situations, it’s unlikely that your entire yard is going to receive enough sunlight for Bermuda grass to thrive, especially if you’ve planted trees. So, unless you live in a remote area with no trees, or are prepared to make special arrangements under your trees, Bermuda grass might not be the best choice.

Ultimately, the best grass depends on your specific situation, but these are the recommendations I would give my friends.

Should You Plant Rye Grass for a Green Winter Lawn?

 Uh, rye grass. We occasionally receive questions, especially as we approach winter, about rye grass. Rye grass is a type of seed that you buy by the bag. If you drive by the front of neighborhoods or someone’s yard and notice that it’s green in January or February, it’s because they overseeded with ryegrass. They call this process overseeding.

Basically, what you do is take your existing grass, whether it’s St. Augustine or Bermuda grass, and cut it down really short, usually starting late September or October. Then, you spread the rye grass seed thickly using a fertilizer spreader or a similar tool and water it well.

Rye grass grows through the existing grass, giving you a green yard during the winter. It has good shade tolerance and doesn’t require a lot of water. Farmers also use it as feed for cows.

However, there are some drawbacks to using rye grass. You’ll need to water it throughout the winter instead of conserving water. Additionally, you’ll have to mow it occasionally.

The biggest drawback is that when spring arrives, the rye grass will die off. This usually happens around late April or May when the warmer weather arrives. The heat essentially kills off the rye grass. There might be places where rye grass can grow for more months due to longer or cooler growing seasons, but that’s not the case here. It usually starts coming up in October, and you can expect it to last until March before it starts disappearing.

The problem with this is that when your existing grass starts to green up in the spring, the rye grass is still growing and competing for the same nutrients and moisture. This puts a strain on your year-round grass, whatever type you have.

That’s why some farms sell overseeded grass during the winter to provide green lawns. However, we stopped doing it because it’s tough on the grass you want to maintain year-round. We don’t recommend overseeding with rye grass.

Now, moving on to other seeds, we often get asked about Bermudagrass seeds, especially for St. Augustine lawns. For Common Bermudagrass, you can find seeds available, but for varieties like Tifway 419 and TexTurf 10, which are vegetatively propagated, there are no seeds you can purchase.

Lawn Care Questions About Preventing Chinch Bug Damage

I’d also like to discuss a couple of seasonal concerns. The summer heat and dryness make chinch bugs a recurring problem here. Even in wet summers, we’ve always had to deal with chinch bugs to some extent. Recently, I noticed that my neighborhood is infested with them.

If you’re not irrigating your lawn properly, these bugs can cause noticeable damage, especially along roadsides where there’s no irrigation. The key to keeping chinch bugs at bay is to provide one inch of water per week, preferably through two half-inch waterings. People who rely on sporadic rain may face issues if the weather turns drier.

Typically, you’ll find hotspots where concrete intersects with grass, like where a sidewalk meets a driveway. The heat radiates onto these patches of grass, making them susceptible to drying out. Often, you’ll notice this when you return home from work, seeing that the grass appears a little dry.

Chinch bugs, which resemble small gnats, are attracted to these drought-stressed areas. If you examine them closely, mature chinch bugs display a white ‘X’ across their backs, formed by their folded wings. They tend to move from the brown, dry grass to the green, healthy grass. The best way to spot these pests is along the edges where the two types of grass meet. The most effective way to prevent their appearance is by adequate watering.

How to Kill Chinch Bugs if You Find Them

If you do find chinch bugs in your lawn, there are numerous products available for treatment. One such product we carry is Cyonara, a contact killer that you attach to your hose for application. Usually, a couple of treatments should suffice.

Unfortunately, chinch bugs are a common issue if your lawn isn’t properly hydrated. They target St. Augustine grass, and once they have eaten it, only weeds tend to regrow in the damaged areas, commonly Bermuda grass. To restore your lawn, you may need to remove the infested areas and replace them with new St. Augustine grass, especially if the damaged area is large. Maintaining a watering regimen is vital in preventing chinch bugs from showing up in the first place.

We’re Getting Lawn Care Questions About Lawn Fungus

We’ve also received inquiries about summer patch recently, which is often confused with brown patch. The difference lies in the seasonal appearance and the pattern of grass damage. Summer patch has a more erratic pattern compared to the circular pattern of brown patch, and typically appears during hot and humid conditions. While summer patch is not usually a serious problem, it shouldn’t be ignored.

To treat it, we recommend using Heritage G, the same product used for brown patch. Apply it when you first notice the symptoms and repeat the application two to three weeks later. Water it in after application, and it should effectively halt the progress of the summer patch.

People have also asked about fertilizers. We recommend Nitro-Phos Superturf, which contains slow-release nitrogen and helps prevent grass from burning during hot, dry periods. Ideally, it should be applied early in the summer, but an additional application can be beneficial at the end of the summer.

Keep Watering Your Grass During the Hot Summer Months

However, the main focus should be watering your lawn. Make sure your irrigation system is functioning properly. We suggest running it early in the morning rather than in the middle of the night to avoid fungal issues from the grass staying wet all night.

Inspect your sprinkler heads while you’re awake to ensure full coverage. Any missed patches may become the next hotspot for chinch bugs. For instance, if a rotor head that covers a large area is malfunctioning or watering the street instead, you may lose that patch of grass to these bugs. Proper watering is paramount in lawn care during the summer.

Heading into August and the following months, we expect to continue addressing these lawn care questions.

Houston Grass Sells Quality Grass Year Round

As a reminder, we are here to help with any queries you may have. Many people seem surprised that we sell grass during this period. Selling grass is our primary business, not landscaping or selling plants. We provide grass year-round, even when it’s dormant and less visually appealing. In those cases, you’re buying a root system that serves its purpose despite its appearance.

Besides grass, we also offer fertilizers and fungicides. So, if you have any lawn care questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 281-431-7441. Thank you for watching.