Saturday, May 2, 2015

Why is my lawn so bare in April? 5 reasons

If your lawn is still having ares that are not doing so great, it s probably not water related as we have had anywhere from 14" to over 20" of rain in the first 4 months of the year, depending on what part of central Austin , TX area you live.

here are 5 reasons we commonly see

1, Wear and Tear during Winter dormancy for warm season grass. Dogs will tear up a lawn during Dec,Jan,Feb,Mar while the grass is dormant. So will kids and various other animals and critters. Best solution is to overseed with something during the winter months. Most common is to overseed with annual or perennial rye grass, but I like to plant clovers since they affix nitrogen to the soil and provide nectar for local bees and provide some visual interest.

2. Insect Damage - Grub worms being the # 1 cause. If you see "ant mounds" in your yard after a rain or night animals ( racoons or possums )  dig holes in your lawn , it is because of white grubs or mole crickets. These small mounds,  if you brush them away you will see a "small stick or pinky sized" hole in the ground. If you were to get a watering can and slowly water this hole, you may get lucky enough to see a cricket jump out ( kids thing this is magic, even big kids like me.)  Theest organic solution is beneficial nematode or milky spore disease treatment. There are quick fix treatments available at big box stores, but I don't recommend quick fixes, I recommend using nature and good strong soil microbiology for long term solutions to grubs and pests.
Grub Worm Control
To learn more   Or this wensite

3. Fungal Damage - #1 cause of our issues in this cooler weather. Brown Patch and Take All Root Rot (TAAR ) are rampant in shady areas and gets spread like wild fire when mow and blow crews scalp lawns in hte early spring after period of moist weather and high humidity. Also our high clay content soils do not let the ground dry out so this fugus tends to spread easily. I have seen lawns essentially disappear in less than 1 month in the early spring. Using high nitrogen fertilizers to early in the season will also stress the grass and exasperate the problem by accelerating the decline.

The best remedy  I have seen is the Natural Gardner process. We have successfully implemented this process on several lawns

The Natural Gardner has also a good chart on lawn problems.

This video on YouTube is a great visual explanation. Granted this is in Florida, but we in Texas have almost identical spring time weather, high humidity and high moisture.

4. Low nitrogen levels present in soil.  I like to think about grass coming out of dormancy the same way a black bear needs to put on weight or a squireel needs to store nuts for he winter. Grass needs a "winterizer" dose of nitrogen to store to make it through the winter and green up. Most people think the SPring is the most important time to fertilize, but in reality the fall application ( Late Oct, around Halloween ) is the most important. I like to apply a organic fertilizer ( 8-10 lbs of Nitrogen , first @ on the bag ) on the "Holiday schedule"  Easter, Memorial Day , 4th of July ( optional, if over 100 degrees, skip this application, Labor Day, Halloween. I think smaller doses or organic fertilizer and slower organic release of nutrients will benefit the lawn long term versus any quick high nitrogen applications.

5. Mow low and go, blow, etc. For some reason "people", this could be the lawn service crew or the homeowner, think that to get a grass started and going after winter,  it is best to SCALP the lawn and get more sun to the soil to warm it up and  bring the grass out of dormancy. Yes, more sunlight will hit he ground and raise the soils temperature and bring the remaining grass out of dormancy, but it also opens up a huge amount of real estate for weeds to take hold and out compete the grass.  The other issue is every 2 week mowing schedule takes off too much of the blade of grass ( more than 1/3 ) and forces the grass to  "go vertical" to replace its solar collection and generate more sugars.  If you take off 1/3 grass blade, the grass will run lateral and become denser. Her is the most uber dorky article I could find to explain the 1/3 mowing rule, inmore detail than I could explain.

My best suggestions for trouble areas, compost and compost tea. If there is an area that is struggling, add some compost,  top dressing and apply a compost tea. This is the most natural way to encourage the grass to grow into the area and retain moisture. Although we are technically not in a drought in Austin for the past 2 years this is a great program and a good cultural practive, so I encourage anyone able to participate in this program.

Cougar Matt out.

p.s  I leave you with this video

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