Houston Springtime Lawn Care – Tips from Michael Romine

In this episode of the Houston Grass Podcast, Michael talks about Houston springtime lawn care and shares tips for getting your lawn off to a great start for our Southeast Texas climate. He covers information about fertilization, using weed and feeds, mowing heights, watering and tree trimming. He also talks about how to prevent chinch bugs and gray leaf spot from killing your grass. Demand for grass is high and Michael has information about getting the grass you need when you need it. Houston springtime lawn care creates the foundation for your lawn’s appearance in the months ahead. Call 281-431-7441 with your questions and for a quote for your project.

Houston Springtime Lawn Care Tips

Summary of Houston Springtime Lawn Care Tips with Michael Romine

Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Michael Romine, and this is the Houston Grass Podcast. Today we are, about a third of the way into April here, and we’ve gotten some significant rain and wind last night. Our farm has actually been hoping for some rain. We’ve fertilized several times, this year so far, and nothing beats good rainwater to green up and grow good grass.

So, we’re right on target. Hopefully we’ll keep these rains going, and don’t end up dry like we were last year. It’s nice to have the rain every so often. That goes a long ways towards growing all stuff, grass included. I’ve kind of got a few notes jotted down here and, we’re just going to kind of talk about things we should be doing in April.

Some of these venture into things we would be doing probably in May as well, as we’re starting to heat up and get towards summer regarding mowing and watering and fertilization and whatnot. So I just want to touch on some of those things. We’ll start with fertilization.

Now Is the Time for Springtime Fertilization

if you haven’t fertilized yet, here we are mid April, you definitely need to get some fertilizer out for spring. It’s really something that should probably be done in March, especially if you’re going to do a weed and feed, either the Trimec or Atrazine weed and feed. Because that will get those weeds before they get really mature. And once they get really mature, a lot of these weeds are hard to kill. Once these weeds mature, it’s almost impossible to kill them, at least with the weed and feeds, so, however, if you have not fertilized at all, it is a good time to fertilize.

Sooner rather than later is my answer. If you’re following the schedule, it’s really, either the Imperial, which is just the straight fertilizer, the 15-5-10, or one of the two weed and feeds that really needs to be done in March, early April. 

The next one coming up is going to be the Super Turf, the 19-4-10, that’s got some of the slow release nitrogen. That’s going to be in May. We’ve actually ordered quite a bit of it and we’re selling quite a bit of it with people just getting ready. Anytime in May is a good time to put down the Super Turf. It will get you through the summer because it does have that slow release nitrogen. 

And May is the right time for another dose of the Barricade pre emergent as well, so, keep that in the back of your mind as far as scheduling and what needs to be put out.

Houston Springtime Lawn Care Requires Coordination with Mother Nature

We did get some good rainwater last night. I think we’ve got about three quarters of an inch. That is a great time to go out and turn your sprinkler system off. If you water in the next five days, you’re doing more harm than good I would say.

 We’re still getting those cool nights. You’re inviting things like brown patch and stuff like that when you overwater most times of year, especially during these transition times of year, when we’re transitioning from hotter to cooler or cooler to hotter like we are right now.

So, turn off that irrigation after a decent rain event. If you don’t have the automated system with the thing that turns it off for you, then go out there and flip it off and, you can skip a watering or two. 

The grass is going full steam right now. The grass is almost 100 percent green. It is growing, and it needs the regular waterings. You need to get an inch of water out per week. I tell everybody it’s an inch of water a week, whether it’s coming out of the sky or coming out of the hose or a sprinkler system, preferably in two half-inch waterings.

And, people ask, well, how long is that? And I, we try to answer because a lot of people don’t want to take the time to stick a rain gauge out there in the yard and see exactly how much water that is and how long it takes. so generally we say 12 to 15 minutes on the sprinkler heads that pop up and stay stationary.

Those are called the spray heads. They don’t, they don’t move or anything like that. That’ll put out about a half inch of water. Then the rotor heads, the ones that pop up and move back and forth and cover a large area, those take probably 25 or 30 minutes to do that. So, best thing to do is stick a rain gauge in the ground and, see exactly how much it is. And again, preferably two one half inch waterings per week is where you need to be and need to carry that through the summer. 

 If it gets really hot and really dry, you might have to turn that up. That is what I do at the office here. And that is what I do at my house year round.

Watering Prevents Chinch Bugs from Killing Your Grass

We’re getting a ton of phone calls from people that lost their whole yards or portions of their yards last year do to chinch bugs. And what did I do to prevent that from happening in my yard and at the Houston Grass office? I have an irrigation system, and I was watering. I had no problems with chinch bugs in either place. That is actually the key.

People ask, what can I do? Everybody’s gun shy about chinch bugs right now. People are calling us and asking, what can I do to keep chinch bugs away? And, the answer is water. If you’re watering, chinch bugs don’t show up.

If you’ve got a drought stressed grass, that’s when chinch bugs come in and they’ll eat you out of house and home. So if you’re watering enough, chinch bugs stay away and no chemicals are necessary. And there’s certainly no pre treating for them or anything like that, that I’m aware of that keeps them away. You’ve just got to keep the water program going.

You’ve got to make sure you’re staying on top of that. A lot of times, you are irrigating. But there are not many perfect irrigation systems out there. The perfect irrigation system would cover 100 percent of the yard. Your irrigation system may be getting a little more over here, but not as much in this corner or this spray head is not making it quite as far as it needs to.

When your system is what you’re depending on and Mother Nature is not helping at all you may have dry spots. Those chinch bugs will find the dry spots and they will move into them and they’ll start right there. And move on from one dry spot to another.

So, you’ve got to be mindful of making sure you’re getting 100 percent coverage. Especially if we get back into a drought situation, like we did last summer. So, making sure you’re staying on top of that. Water is critical. Those are kind of the things that you need to be doing. Best practice things that you need to be doing. 

You come home in the afternoon, and it looks like a patch of grass is a little more dried out than the rest of it. It kind of gets a grayish look and the leaves will kind of close up. Your grass is trying to protect itself if you see spots like that. You would want to water those areas immediately. They might just be a hotspot because of all the heat radiating to an area or it’s an area with a less desirable soil. Maybe it’s not a good deep top soil there.

But it might already have chinch bugs. So, first thing you want to do is get down and kind of spread the leaves and look for the chinch bugs. And, if you see chinch bugs, definitely you want to treat them. But the most important thing you can do is turn the water on.

And at that point, I would say you stick a sprinkler with a hose out there and you run it for about four hours. Four hours puts out about an inch of water –that is my experience at my house. The ideal thing is to put out the rain gauge and measure yourself. But really stay on top of that water, so you can keep the chinch bugs at bay and keep that grass growing.

Houston Springtime Lawn Care Includes Mowing at Least Once a Week

 You definitely should be mowing once a week at least. We’re going to move into the prime growing season here before too long, probably in six or eight weeks when grass is going to just be growing in leaps and bounds. It’ll be warm every day, and it’ll be humid every day.

The grass really at that point really needs to be mowed like every five days. People that are pushing it to two weeks. That is not good to do to grass. The rule of thumb is never to take more than a third of the leaf tissue off the grass at one time. And, if you wait two weeks, you’re going far beyond that. If you’re doing every seven days, you’re probably taking more than a third of the leaf when your grass really hits its stride here in a few weeks.

So once a week minimum for mowing. Probably at three and a half to four inches is a good rule I would say when it gets real hot. If it gets real hot and real dry, you might even bump that up a little bit, but the three and a half to four inches is probably fine for spring.

Mulching or Bagging or Both?

 I know that sometimes people ask us if you should be mulching or bagging the grass. There’s different blades you can have on your mower, and you can change those out in different settings to either to do the bag or make it mulch. I think a little bit of both is if somebody asked me, that’s normally my answer.

Returning that good organic clipped up grass, chopped up, mulched up grass to the dirt is a good idea. It adds some good organic nitrogen back to that soil, and I think that’s a good thing. However, I think that you can overdo it, especially if you’re not mowing frequently enough, and you can build up a thatch layer in there that is not a great thing to have. So a little bit of both I would say would be my answer to that. You save some money and do some good and not fill up the landfills if you’re mulching on a regular basis as well. 

 Houston Springtime Lawn Care Includes Preparing for Summer Heat

There are things that you can do to prepare your lawn for the Houston’s summer heat. In May as I’ve already mentioned, you need to put out that Super Turf. You don’t want to be fertilizing in the hottest months of the year because it’s real easy to burn your grass, if you don’t get enough water on it immediately. Super Turf has that slow release nitrogen in it so it extends the release of that nitrogen into the soil over a few months and gets you through the summer. So that’s the purpose of that. Do that in May to get ready for summer.

Keep Your Trees Trimmed to Provide the Sunlight Your Grass Needs

Another thing that we talk about year around is keeping the trees trimmed. I know tree trimming, just like water bills, can be kind of expensive. But if you live in a 15 or 20 plus year old neighborhood and you’ve got two, three, or four oak trees out in your front yard, which is way too many by the way, you’re getting a lot of shade. And if you’re not trimming those trees annually, you’re going to start losing grass. There’s nothing that you can do.

We talked about the Palmetto St. Augustine that can survive on a little less sunlight than the Raleigh by a couple hours a day. I usually say like four or five hours of direct sunlight is what Palmetto needs, whereas the Raleigh is more like six or seven hours of direct sunlight a day. But if your trees are more overgrown than that there’s nothing that can survive in that. So staying on top of trimming those trees. 

And I tell people too, there is trimming a tree to make it look pretty and for the health of the tree. And then there’s trimming a tree to get sunlight in there. Tell your arborist or tree trimmer guy hey, I need to get some sunlight in here. I’m trying to grow grass too.

To have both, grass and trees you got to have some sunlight and it might mean taking some big branches. Branches that you wouldn’t otherwise take if you weren’t trying to grow grass under there. Or you need to be strongly considering rock beds, other shade loving ground covers and plants and stuff like that if you can’t get enough sunlight under your trees. Because you have got to get that sunlight if you want grass to grow. Four hours is an absolute minimum. 

Omar does all our install work, but he can’t visit your home and tell you which areas get adequate sunlight and which don’t. We only show up and we’re there at your home for 15 minutes or so. Nobody can measure the amount of sunlight an area gets in 15 minutes. 

We tell people if you have a security camera on the area of concern, flip through those pictures throughout the day on a sunny day or go outside and take a picture every hour on a sunny day of the area that you’re worried about and flip through that and it will tell you real quick as to how much sunlight it’s getting.

And we talk people out of putting grass in places every day because we don’t want you calling us back and wondering why the grass didn’t grow. We’re going to educate you. And, there is no silver bullet out there. There is no grass that I am aware of out there that can tolerate less than four hours of sunlight. That’s just an absolute minimum. 

Watch for Gray Leaf Spot in Shadier Areas

Another thing to be looking out for will be gray leaf spot. We didn’t see as much of it last year because it was so hot and dry, but those if we get those kind of wet, humid, still summer days, especially in the shade, you’ll start to see the gray leaf spot pop up. At first you’ll see the little brown dots on the blades of grass.

And they may be the end of a number two pencil eraser size or smaller. That’s what they start as. And then the whole leaf will turn brown and wither away. and it’ll get kind of a yellow sickly look to it as well. If you see gray leaf spot you would want to treat with Heritage G. 

Heritage G is a granular fungicide that we carry or you can get it a lot of places. It’s not a Lowe’s and Home Depot though, I don’t think. Get that out and you would definitely want to back off the watering because excessive nitrogen, our warm humid climate, and excessive watering are what it thrives on. You might get it in sunny areas, but it will recuperate a lot quicker there because the fungus dies as soon as you quit pouring the water to it, because the sun dries that fungus out. In the shadier areas, your grass is going to need some help. And that’s where the Heritage G comes in. So those are things to be watching for.

Houston Springtime Lawn Care Can Include Planting Grass Sod

We’re halfway into spring and just like our usual spring, we’re getting lots of people calling around, looking for grass. And I think a lot of farms are in the same boat that we are.

A lot of people are running short on several of the different grasses right now. Because we’re hearing from people we’ve never heard from before, and people are surprised when they call us, and we do have grass. But, we are selling out of grass a lot, so we’re telling people to please call ahead, and, we’ll let you prepay for the grass, and we’ll hold it here for you, when you need it. And it’s obviously a lot easier to do it when Mother Nature is cooperating, and there’s not rain in the forecast.

When there’s rain in the forecast, we don’t like to take payments because we want to know for sure that on the day you choose, we can get you that grass and we’re not going to take your order until we do know that we can do that. 

For Bermuda grasses, our farm has told me we are out of the Tifway 419, for the next few months. So we’re not going to have that one. They’ve got some that they’re trying to grow back in, but we need those warm days. Rains like this and warm, humid days are what’s going to grow it back in. We are limited on the amount of TexTurf Bermuda that they’re letting us have, and it’s going to be that way for a little bit. 

The Zoysias are going to be the same way, the fine bladed Zoysias especially. For the Palisades Zoysia, we’re real close within a week or two of getting a fair amount of that back in. So, Palisades and the Raleigh St. Augustine, we will not run out of those.

Our farm does limit the quantities that they’ll let us have in a day. So, we have to work within those parameters and that’s what we do. So calling ahead is a good idea and, that way we can try to keep on schedule, and get you your grass when you need it.

So, please, give us a call at 281-431-7441 if you have any questions and, thank you for listening.