Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Why Isn’t the Grass Greener on My Side?

The truth is, a healthy lawn is the easiest thing in the world if you have a healthy soil and the right light conditions. A healthy soil means no chemicals, fertilizers or otherwise; you need a proper depth of soil, air, proper mowing and watering schedule. Sods here in Central Texas really need a lot of sunlight to thrive but there are ways to attack that too.

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To begin with you must assess your lawn issue. If you have deep shade, bald spots caused by pests, fungus, poor soil, poor drainage and/ or compaction, you have to address that first. In Central Texas the most common lawn diseases are fungi such as brown patch or take all, or pests like grubs and chinch bugs. You will have to do some homework to find the best organic remedy. One way to decrease the chance of fungi in our high humidity is to water early morning to avoid excess moisture on the lawn over night, which promotes fungus. A sick lawn will ultimately attract pests and the next thing you know you have bald spots and  weeds.

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Buy a quality weed popper and mow often to keep new plants at bay. Once they go to seed, you’ve got 99 problems and weeds are one of them.

Lawn pests can be address with beneficial nematodes in the spring. These should be watered in to treat pests like grubs and chinch including fleas and ticks and there are loads of natural products like Spinosad, Liquid Garlic and homemade remedies.  Visit any organic lawn and garden site such as http://www.planetnatural.com where you can type in your problem and they’ll offer a solution, or visit your local nursery to purchase products and encourage them to provide organic products if they don’t.

The best thing you can do for your lawn besides ditching the chemical weed and feed protocols, is to compost your lawn every spring and aerate every 2 to 3 years. Fertilize with liquid fertilizers like Medina Hasta Grow, liquid seaweed or liquid molasses. Control weeds with Corn Gluten by applying every spring and fall when the weather is in the 70’s or so, and be sure to mow every 7 to 10 days to be sure weeds never go to seed. One weed seed head can sprout hundreds of new little headaches. A sad lawn is vulnerable to weeds and pests so it is important to keep both at bay.

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Again, a healthy lawn begins in the soil. Once you have resolved any pest or disease issues it is crucial to begin a fertilization program. Local products like ‘Lady Bug’, or any organic lawn fertilizer, when applied correctly is superior to chemicals and here is why. Think of your soil as a body; if you sleep well, exercise, and eat well you have energy to last, if you are counting on Red Bull’s and fast food to get you through the day, you are going to need a lot more to get through. The same is true for your lawn. The chemicals are bound with salt, these chemicals kill much of the naturally occurring fungi and bacteria and the salt binds nutrients making them insoluble  to your plant. Now your plant needs more chemicals and it gets weakened, now here come the bugs,…and scene. The organic lawn protocol is the surest way to a beautiful lawn and it is that simple.

if you have high traffic areas, full sun near concrete or too much shade, convert some of that lawn into a water saving Xeriscape bed.

Always avoid chemical treatments whenever possible. Many chemicals like weed and feed kill young trees and shrubs (says so right on the bag) so you already know what it does to your soil. Compost is one and done. Compost the living daylights out of your lawn trees and beds and within 3 years you’ll have the best lawn on the block.  The lawn below was composted a few weeks earlier and you can see the large areas that were previously exposed are already filling in.

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When doggies are your problem you need to be a little more strategic. Some doggies like to choose “their spot”. If you have time, you can train them to move on by giving them a designated area out of sight, or be choose a sod that isn’t as reactive to urine. Spaces with doggies must be cleaned up daily, aerated annually and composted twice a year for best results.

When compaction for foot traffic, bad drainage and shade re the problem, y0u really don’t have a lot of choices. Sometimes the only solution is to make the path of least resistance. Trampled grass in shade will never grow and you’re better off creating a solution instead of throwing money at a problem.

When your soil is compacted from construction, full of weeds or just plain awful, you have to begin with the ground up. Composting twice a year is essential to soil recovery and it will take you bout 3 years to really see the results in your beds, but your lawn should recover after a season so if it doesn’t, replace it.

When replacing your sod you MUST have quality composted top soil. It should be dark in color, (not gold or orange!) and you should expect to water regularly for the first year as needed. The good news is that its a little hard work and positive change up front for years of reward. Deferred gratification.

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Deer resistant landscape, lawn revived with compost and proper mowing techniques.

Now for the water schedule, if you are adding 1/2’ compost to your lawn each spring and aerating every second or third year, you are going to build a healthy turf. Use organic fertilizers according to the directions and water every 7 to 10 days as needed during the summer, then turn the irrigation to once a month over late fall and winter. If we get a decent rain once a month over the winter months, just turn your irrigation off and you will save money on your city of Austin water bills because winter is when they access your average for the whole year!

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Be sure to fence off your new lawn for the first couple of weeks until established to avoid root damage, or pet damage.

Your water schedule for a new lawn or seed is once a day for the first couple of weeks then I suggest you try the “tug test”. If you pull a corner of your sod and it won’t come up because the roots have taken, its time to cut back to watering every few days and so on, until the lawn sustains itself on a once a week watering.

If you have struggling St. Augustine, I highly recommend you remove it and replace the space with low water plant and rock beds and a smaller lawn area with Zoysia (above) or high-end Bermuda. Check with your local grower, then buy the best sod you can afford. St Augustine is disease prone and a water hog so avoid it whenever possible. If you have healthy Augustine or healthy spots with low maintenance, keep that space and turn the struggling areas into beds and patio, increase tree rings and add paths and alternative living areas, especially in shade.

And sometimes it comes down to compromise.

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Find the good points and work around them. Here the St. Augustine lawn to the gate was a muddy waterway that never dried, but the other side didn’t suffer. Now, it’s a rock path that doubles as a creek bed and it’s bordered by a stellar lawn accent that requires no more than a mow and annual compost.

If you would like some specific help with your organic lawn, lawn conversions, Xerophytic garden or tree needs, an Educational Consult or Landscape Design will give you everything you need to get started. Give me a call or text to 512-733-7777 (though I’m on the road and draft board a lot), or you could email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com with your address and information so I can respond even sooner to your specific needs.

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Rodney Kornegay

    Lisa, I am thrilled to have joined your “blog” and teachings. I am already learning so much from you. A million “Thank you’s” !

    • Hi Rodney! Thanks for your message, I love what I do and I’m so happy you’re finding value here; I’m always looking for suggestions so let me know if there’s content you’d like to see.

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