9 Things You Can Do to Use Less Water and Have a Green Lawn
Core Aerate Your Lawn.
This is the simplest and least expensive thing you can do. I get asked all the time, "how many times a year should I core aerate my lawn?" There is no "one" answer to that question. I would say that you should aerate, organically fertilize, (and water your lawn on the same day or next day), at least once a year.
I will tell you this, last year I started rehabbing a repo property that had sat empty for 3 years. Because it was my property and I didn't have time or energy to topdress the lawn, I would aerate, put down an organic fertilizer, molasses and humate once every two or three months during the summer, fall, and twice this spring. There are still some areas that need improvement due to poisons and neglect for the 3 to 4 years this house sat empty, but the lawn has done a 360 degree turnaround in terms of health, color, and water retention. As of June 1st of this year, we had not irrigated our lawn one time since last fall. The only water our lawn had received was what nature provided during the 4th driest winter and spring in North Texas on record. Yet this lawn is unbelievably green.
Core aerate your lawn on or the day of or the day before your scheduled watering day once every two or three months. To get the best results of your aeration: (1) Water your lawn briefly in the morning to soften up the ground. Don't over water because we don't want to aerate in mud. This could tear up your lawn. (2) When your lawn is aerated, add organic fertilizers and soil amendments such as molasses and humate. This process will deep root feed your turf and the organic fertilizers will help hold water around the root zone of your grass. Beware of chemical fertilizers that will burn the roots and kill your grass when you combine them with lawn aeration. Also beware of natural based fertilizers that use high concentrations of urea. This also could burn the root system of your turf. Use OMRI certified organic fertilizers when aerating your lawn. (3) Water that evening or the morning after the lawn aeration to deep water the turf root system. This process will improve the density and color of your lawn if you do it on a regular basis.
Topdress Your Lawn.
The #1 thing you can do to improve the water holding capacity of your turf is to amend the hard clay and rock soil that most of us inherited with a 3/8ths to 1/2 inch layer of topdressing. Topdressing will: (1) Act like a sponge and allow your turf to hold more water before run off. (2) Your grass will retain moisture longer. (3) It will keep the root zone of your turf cooler in the hot summer months and warmer in the winter months. (4) With the right soil amendments, topdressing is the best fertilizer you can use to feed your lawn. Spriggs Brothers has developed and improved upon a topdressing formula over the past 15 years that we think is the absolute best thing you could do to improve the health of your soil and lawn. During these drought conditions and water restricted days, topdressing is the best thing to save and preserve your lawn. We use molasses, humate, zeolite turf aid, worm castings, compost, Actino-Iron, lava sand, green sand and corn gluten meal in our topdressing formulation. Every one of these ingredients has a specific purpose in greening up your lawn and helping it maintain soil moisture.
Spriggs Brothers Texas Turf & Garden Tea.
Our Texas Turf and Garden Tea is one of the secret weapons that we have to keep your lawn green during the summer months. You can use our Texas Turf and Garden Tea in conjunction with any (chemical or organic) fertilization program you may be on. Those of you on our annual organic program already receive 4 applications of our Texas Turf and Garden Tea. If you are not on one of our annual fertilization programs, we have a 4 spray summer special package that you can add to your current lawn and landscaping feeding program. That's right, we will spray your lawn, garden and flowerbeds and it won't burn or hurt your plants in the summer heat!
FourPlay is a patented blend of liquid humectant and hygroscopic compounds that attract and hold moisture like tiny water magnets within soil. Golf course managers have used a similar product called "Hydretain" to reduce water uses for up to 50% the past few years. FourPlay incorporates seaweed extract biostimulant with a potassium humate soil conditioner along with the patented liquid humectant. Tests have shown that FourPlay enhances root growth, aids in penetrating moisture absorption and water holding capacity of soils and increases nutrient availability to your turf and plants. FourPlay extends watering intervals of indoor and outdoor plants, flowers, vegetables, shrubs, trees and grasses by as much as 2 to 3 times. This is a break through product for those of you on once a week or once every two week watering schedules. Nature's Guide, a Fort Worth company that is a leading innovator of developing and bringing organic products to the general public, is working with Ecologel Solutions, to bring this product to the market place.
Spriggs Brothers Texas Tea Turf Plus 4 combines all the great ingredients of our regular Spriggs Brothers Texas Turf & Garden Tea plus the added water features of FourPlay. We have put together a 4 spray program over the course of the summer and early fall months when we still have typically 90 degree plus heat and warm nights. Because FourPlay needs to be watered in to get the product into the soil to be effective, we need to schedule treatments on your scheduled watering days or the afternoon or evening before watering. So please call ASAP so we can coordinate with you on your city's mandatory watering schedule.
Organic Granular Fertilizers. One of the great benefits of using organic fertilizers is that they don't have to be immediately watered in order to not burn or destroy your turf. Organic fertilizers do not have to be watered in to be effective either. They are not a water soluble product like chemical fertilizers, but rather compost into your soil and feed your grass like mulch does in your flowerbeds.
Even an organic lawn will need some additional fertilizer to stay green in drought conditions. Organic fertilizers are slow release in form, providing a long-term green up of the lawn. Organic lawn care is based on the premise of feeding the soil as well as the grass, trees and landscaping. The "soil food web" is a complex ecosystem of microorganisms and macroorganisms. It is a scientific fact that lawns grown in soils with rich organic matter require much less water.
Proper Lawn Maintenance. Mow your lawn at 3 to 3 inches. The added blade tissue aids in water storage in the
blades of grass and photosynthesis. Also, taller grass will create shade which will reduce evaporation of water from the
soil and protect the roots from excessive heat.
Have an Annual Irrigation Tune Up. I am by nature a DIY type of person. But there are some areas of expertise that
you need a licensed professional to do for you. One of those areas is with your irrigation system. Please hire a Texas
licensed irrigator who specializes in wise water management. You should have your automatic irrigation system checked
out once or twice a year. Irrigation systems have moving parts and without your knowledge your sprinkler heads may be
watering the street or your neighbor's yard. Ask your irrigation specialist about updating your sprinkler heads to ones
that use less water but give you better coverage and a deeper soaking.
Spriggs Brothers has licensed irrigators on staff and we offer a tune up where we go through your system, adjust your
heads and make recommendations for any repairs or upgrades that you might need in order to save water and money on
your utility bills. The cost is $79 for average size lawns for an irrigation tune up.
Mulch and Organic Soil Amendments in your Landscaping. One of the big mistakes I see over and over in customers'
landscaping is that there is not a good 3 inch layer of native hardwood or cedar mulch. Mulch will hold in moisture
longer and moderate the soil temperatures, keeping your plant's roots cooler in the summer. A good layer of mulch will
help keep your plants from stressing out in the hot Texas summer sun.
Another mistake I see is customers raking out their old mulch before they put down a new layer of mulch or they just put
down layer after layer of mulch on top of one another. The old mulch should be turned and worked into the landscaping
soil. You want the partially decomposed mulch to break up the clay soil and allow the decomposing mulch to feed your
plants. On the other hand, I see customers who just add new mulch on top of the old mulch. Adding layer after layer of
new mulch on top of the old mulch leads to further soil compaction and your shrubs roots can't breathe. You need to
regularly work and loosen the soil in your flowerbeds to keep from having soil compaction.
To have proper soil drainage and for your plants to breath and have proper soil cation exchange capacity, you need to
add soil amendments regularly to your landscaping. Some of the items we suggest to work in are lava sand, greensand,
expanded shale or zeolite, horticultural molasses, compost and corn meal.
In problem landscape settings, the use of soil amendments can dramatically help to revitalize a challenging area. The long term
maintenance costs will be lower as well since the problems associated with an unhealthy landscape or turf area will decrease if
soil problems are resolved. A properly balanced and biologically active soil provides the key to your landscape success.
Choose the right turf or turfs for your lawn and the right plants for your landscaping. Time and space do not allow
us the opportunity to discuss this point in this newsletter. When it comes to grasses, do a web search on zoysia grasses
for Texas, particularly Palisades Zoysia or Zorro Zoysia. We also like to recommend Celebration Bermuda. These grasses
use significantly less water and are hardier than the typical "builders model" turf. Second, look up drought tolerant perennials
and shrubs for zone 7. When you are ready to make changes in your landscaping or turf, give Spriggs Brothers a
call and we can discuss your options.
It's been interesting to watch the industry the last few years and the pendulum shift of the chemical guys starting to
switch over to organic products and practices. The move to being organic has nothing to do with their concern with
their customers' health and the environment, but that organic fertilizers are proving to work better over the long term on
customers' lawns. We are convinced that you can retain your home's curb appeal, value and beauty by adhering to these
practices during these difficult days of temperatures and drought.