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Start now for year-round lawn care for St. Augustine turf

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With the weather turning milder, many homeowners are looking at their lawns and gearing up to prepare them for spring. The majority of lawns in The Woodlands consist of St. Augustine grass – a warm season turf that goes dormant in the fall and winter. During that time, the grass starts to turn a little yellow and the intuitive thing to do is add more water. However, irrigation during the fall and winter has the potential to do more harm than good.

In colder months, St. Augustine requires little or no watering. Soil-borne diseases, such as take-all patch, brown patch and others generally take hold in overwatered lawns during the winter, although the damage is not usually seen until late spring or summer. Additionally, dollar weed and sedges thrive in wet soil during winter, only to create an unsightly mess when they emerge in the spring.

Here are some guidelines to assure a strong healthy lawn come springtime:

Irrigation: Beginning in October through March, add no or very little water to your lawn. St. Augustine is dormant is dormant during the fall and winter. So, begin watering every two weeks in April. From May to September, water twice a week.

Mowing: Set your mower heights to the highest setting. If you must, mow only twice a month during the winter months. In April, mow twice and then mow every five to seven days through September. Some residents only mow twice a month during the summer months to encourage grass to produce more food for a stronger root system.

Aerate: Before you add compost, aerate your lawn.

Compost: Add ½ to ¾ inch of compost to your lawn every April and October. This will increase the organic material in your soil, promote beneficial microorganisms and help grass grow deeper roots.

Fertilize: Fertilize in spring with a well-balanced fertilizer. In the south, you should be fertilizing your lawn every four months or every season.

Sodding: The best times to sod are March through June. The worst times are August through September, which are historically the hottest and driest months in this area. Optimal growing time for St. Augustine is spring through early summer.

Dethatching: Well-maintained St. Augustine grass does not need dethatching. While this grass is particularly resistant to thatch, high micro- and macrobiotic presences in good soil will solve minor thatch problems that may arise. If you feel you must dethatch, do so only from the middle of April through the middle of June. St. Augustine grass grows horizontally and has a lot of horizontal above ground stems, which form a kind of mat. These are necessary to the plant’s health and many people confuse this with thatch. Dethatching damages horizontal stems, stresses the plans and weakens the root systems.

Follow these tips, and you will have the most beautiful lawn on the block.