Summer Lawn Care Essentials with Michael Romine

In this edition of the Houston Grass Podcast, Michael provides with an in-depth look at summer lawn care, particularly for St. Augustine grass. The discussion covers key topics such as the importance of fertilizing with a slow-release nitrogen product like Superturf, proper watering techniques to avoid drought stress and chinch bugs, ideal mowing heights and frequencies, and the identification and treatment of common issues like gray leaf spot and sod webworms. Michael emphasizes preventative measures and timely maintenance to ensure a healthy lawn throughout the hot and humid summer months.

Summer Lawn Care Essentials with Michael Romine

Intro to Summer Lawn Care Essentials

Hey everyone, Michael Romine here with the Houston Grass podcast. It’s almost June, the second to last day of May 2024, and it’s already sweltering hot and humid. We’ve been getting a ton of calls from folks dealing with lawn issues due to the heat, so let’s get into some essential summer lawn care tips, especially for St. Augustine grass.

Fertilizing for the Summer Heat

If you’re following the Randy Lemon or Nitro Phos summer lawn care schedule, it’s time to apply Superturf fertilizer. This summer blend has slow-release nitrogen, meaning half the nitrogen greens up your lawn immediately, while the other half is slowly released over a few months. This gets you through the summer without having to fertilize again, which can be risky in the heat. Remember to follow the instructions on the bag and adjust your spreader settings accordingly, usually to a six or eight on those Scotts green spreaders. Don’t overdo it, as too much fertilizer can damage your lawn.

Watering Wisely is Part of Summer Lawn Care

Watering is crucial during the summer. If it’s not raining, you need to provide an inch of water per week, either through sprinklers or an irrigation system. If you don’t, you risk losing your grass to drought stress and chinch bugs. Aim for two deep waterings per week to encourage strong root growth. It takes about four hours with a typical sprinkler to put out an inch of water, so two two-hour waterings should do the trick.

With an irrigation system, rotor heads take about 25-30 minutes for half an inch, and spray heads take 12-15 minutes. Use a rain gauge (or a tuna can) to ensure you’re watering enough and adjust your irrigation system if needed. Remember, rainwater is the best, so turn off your system if you’re getting enough from Mother Nature.

Mowing High and Often

Raise your mower deck height to the higher end of the recommended range, closer to four inches for St. Augustine grass. Mow every four or five days during peak growth periods. Avoid cutting off more than one-third of the leaf blade at a time, as this stresses the grass. Water your lawn either the day of or day after mowing to help it recover. I know it’s hot out there, but mowing every other week is a big no-no. You’re cutting off way too much leaf tissue, which is very stressful for the grass.

Chinch Bug Patrol Is Part of Summer Lawn Care in Houston

Keep an eye out for chinch bugs, especially in drought-stressed areas. They’re a little bigger than a gnat, with wings that cross over to form an X. The hard part is identifying the chinch bugs. You can also use a can or tube filled with soapy water to force them to the surface to help identify them.

If you find them, treat your lawn with a liquid insecticide like Cyonara. Don’t use a granular insecticide, you want the liquid that screws on to the hose end. The way I do it is to just spray back and forth and walk backwards so you’re not walking through what you’ve already sprayed.

You do want to treat that though really quickly and you probably want to do it again two to three days later just to make sure you’ve eliminated them. And then you should still be on the lookout for them. Follow up the Cyonara with watering, maybe not day of, let that chemical work, but follow that up and start watering because watering is what keeps chinch bugs away. The key is to keep your grass watered and prevent those chinch bugs from moving in.

Tackling Fungus Problems

Gray leaf spot and summer patch are common fungal diseases in St. Augustine grass. Look for brown spots or yellowing leaves with brown dots. Treat these with a fungicide like Heritage G, following the instructions carefully. Preventative applications are more cost-effective than curative ones.

Avoid overwatering and watering at night to reduce the risk of fungal growth. You want the water to soak into the soil and the leaves to dry quickly, which helps prevent fungus. Water in the morning, ideally around 6-8 a.m., but be mindful of water pressure if your neighbors are using water getting ready to go to work during that time. If your water pressure is too low, your irrigation system might not get you the coverage you need.

Aerating Your Lawn

Core aeration is beneficial for your lawn, regardless of the season. It helps loosen compacted soil, allowing water, nutrients, and air to reach the roots more easily. I’m not sure there’s a bad time to aerate, but core aeration, which pulls out plugs of soil, is definitely better than just poking holes in the ground.

Sod Webworm Watch

Summer lawn care includes being on the lookout for sod webworms, especially if you see brown moths flying up from your lawn in the mornings. These pests can damage your grass quickly, leaving jagged cut areas. You might also see what looks like spider webs on the grass with heavy dew. Treat them with the same insecticide you use for chinch bugs, but you’ll probably need two or three treatments. Hopefully, they won’t be an issue this summer, but it’s always good to be vigilant.

Planting Grass in the Houston Summer Heat

When is the perfect time of year to plant grass? We are at the end of it. March, April, and May is the best time of year to plant grass. The next three months through August is probably the worst time. You can plant grass here 12 months out of the year though IF you water it.

If I’ve got an ugly spot in my yard, summer is not going to deter me from laying the grass. You just need to know that you’re going to have to baby it. You’re going to have to water it more than you would if you planted it in the more moderate temperature times of year like fall and spring.

Everybody says try to avoid summers because it’s hard to establish things when it gets real hot and dry. So just be ready with the hose if you do have to lay some grass, for example if you’re closing on a new house and you’ve got to get grass out there.

Wrap-Up to Summer Lawn Care Essentials

Summer is here, and it’s time to step up your lawn care game. Follow these tips to keep your lawn healthy and thriving through the heat. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 281-431-7441. Remember, the best time to plant new grass is in the spring or fall, but if you must do it in the summer, be prepared to water it diligently. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time!