June Landscapes – Tips for a healthier, happier lawn! – The Burnt Orange Board

Tips to help you get the most from your lawn this season!

The summer mowing season is now under way and this month’s column will be focused on the “do-yourselfer” mowing guy/gal. I will include some tips that will help you have success with your turf and mowing, in some cases success that you didn’t know you could have.

Let’s just say, there’s so much more than just cranking an engine.

To start off, let’s take a look at our mower itself before we get any further in the season. Here are some things you should do for your mower to get better performance from it. The better it performs, the healthier your turf will be.

Your Equipment

1. Depending on the age of your mower, it would be a good start to replace your spark plug each season. If your mower has an air filter, replace it also. Today’s gasoline contains ethanol, which is a byproduct of corn. Once it’s made, it is constantly trying to return to a solid form. This causes issues with carburators gumming up, fuel lines, etc. So it might be a good time to have those things checked out. A small engine mechanic can clean your carb for a nominal fee. Empty your engine oil and put in new oil.

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Above, a blade that is dull and needs to be sharpened.

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Above, a properly sharpened blade.

2. The all-important blade, It must be sharpened and you can do so by using a grinder after removing the blade from the mower well. If you’re not comfortable doing this, you can take your mower to a lawn mower repair shop and they’ll remove it and sharpen it for you. Mowing once a week, you should only have to do this once or twice a season.

3. For weedeatersreplace your spark plug each season and also the air filter.

Each time your mower cuts the blades of grass, it creates a wound on each blade of grass. If your mower blade is sharp then the wound is reduced in severity and healing takes place quickly. However, if the mower blade is dull, it will tear the grass instead of cutting it, causing a more severe wound and possibly distress. Distress in your turf is like a magnet for predator insects, such as chinch bugs, sod web worms, etc. This is why it is critical to have a sharp blade on your mower.

4. If you haven’t done so, take time to clean off your mower, removing old grass debris from the top of the mower deck entirely. After each mow, you should take your blower and remove the debris from the deck. Its always best to keep clippings away from your engine.

Getting the most from your lawn

Now, let’s take a look at moving the yard itself, and some ways to get the best results!

1. While you can get away with moving short during the spring, during the summer months you need to have your mower level set high. Your mower cut should be at 3.5 inches (blade height) or higher during the hot months. Some folks balk at such as idea but your turf can still have that sculpted look and be cut higher. And it will be much greener yet require less water.

When it’s hot, a higher cut lawn will be better able to shade the soil and will keep moisture longer compared to mowing short and exposing that same soil. The higher cut also reduces the amount of stress on the lawn. Remember what we said earlier about lawn in stress – it draws in predator insects.

2. Do you have a bagging mower? Get rid of it, or at least the bag. I highly recommend a mulching lawnmower, which will chew up the cut grass inside the mower well before distributing it over the lawn as it goes. This is a good practice because 1) Clippings sink into the turf and helps retain soil moisture, and 2) the nitrogen that you fed your turf when you fertilized ends up in the blades of the grass, which when returned to the turf will recycle that same nitrogen, adding life to your fertilization job.

Any accumulating grass clippings can be easily dispersed using a blower.

3. To prevent ruts in the lawn, make it a point never to move the same pattern. Mow in diagonal strips once, then back and forth strips the next, and maybe the square pattern after that. Then start over again. This keeps the lawn from getting ruts from where you mower wheels run each time. Do not move when the turf and soil is wet.

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4. Configure your watering to include watering the same day of your mowing, but after the mowing. As I mentioned above, when grass is cut, it creates a wound. Watering right after mowing will heal those wounds much faster and produces a more lush look from the lawn.

5. It is too hot during our Texas summers for fungus to really be a factor until mid-Fall. To get a better result in your lawn, water your lawn during the evenings. Doing so allows the water, turf, and landscape to spend many hours more together each day before the sun begins zapping the moisture out again the next day. This evening watering should last from first of June through Labor Day. After Labor Day, we’ll return to morning waterings so that fungus does not become an issue in the Fall.

6. It only takes 1.5 weeks for many weeds to produce seeds. If you are mowing every two weeks, then you are literally helping to spread weeds in the lawn each time you mow. Mowing weekly is important for this very reason.

If you follow the above practices, you will enjoy a healthy, happy lawn for the duration of the season.

ITEMS THIS MONTH

– Your second fertilization application should be done this month, sometime between June 15 and the end of the month.

– Grub worm treatments, if not applied in May, should be applied between the 1st and 15th of the month.

You need to water immediately after each application.

– It appears we’re going to have a dry, hot summer this year. It’s already here. For this reason we need to be on the look out for the insects which thrive in dry, hot conditions. Remember, they will gravitate to a lawn or landscape in distress. So keeping the lawn properly cared for will go a long way in avoiding the predator insects.

Chinch bugs are an insect that will attack your lawn grass. They will show up in the hottest spots in the lawn, the areas with the most direct sunlight. Their damage will often be found near stone, metal or concrete, such as sidewalks, driveways, bed bordering. Their damage will look like someone took a blow torch to the area, totally devoid of moisture.

Sod Web Worms will feast on the turf, too. These worms get their name because they will weave a funnel-like hole into the turf using grass thatch. They are difficult to kill because they only come out at night, thus they are often missed by chemical sprays during the day. Since they are nocturnal, you can detect their presence by seeing the holes in the turf, and also you may see little white moths fly up as you walk through the grass. Those moths lay the larvae that becomes the sod web worm.

Now would be a great time to check your Crape Myrtles for Aphids and Scale, Aphids are fairly easy to spot. You can find them up and down the limbs but also on the back side of the leaves. Scale is normally not recognized by most people as it doesn’t look anything like an insect. It looks like white crust on the limbs and trunk. Both of these insects secrete a sweet substance that can cause fungus issues (black soot mold) and draw other insects in.

There are chemical solutions for each of these insect issues so if you spot anything I’ve described above, contact your landscape professional and let them know.

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