Best lawn practices

Hot, Dry and Frustrating

Hot, Dry and Frustrating

By Bob Dailey

It’s hot and your lawn might be looking a little peaked. The first response is to turn on the irrigation system and soak that turf with water.

Remember though, good soil can only hold so much water (about three quarts per cubic yard). Once the soil is saturated, any excess runs off into the street, then the storm drain, out into Lake Woodlands, Spring Creek, the San Jacinto River and finally to the Gulf of Mexico.

If the soil under the grass is compacted and devoid of organic material, then any water is just going to run off into the street and go the way of all excess water in The Woodlands – that is, the Gulf. You’ve just spent a whole lot of dollars adding fresh water to Galveston Bay.

Of course, there is always the option not to water at all. The lawn in front of the Water Resources building (2455 Lake Robbins Drive) has not been irrigated with anything but rainwater for the last two years, and it’s lush and thriving. The reason is the soil underneath the grass is rich in organic matter, added there once or twice a year, which allows the soil to soak up excess water and store it within the top 12 inches. That helps the grass to develop deep root systems.

Here’s another way to help your lawn look great and save you money at the same time. To visualize this, find an area with dry, hard, compacted soil. Pour a glass of water onto it. What happens? The water rolls off the soil and away from the dry spot. Now, very slowly pour the water in droplets onto the soil? See what happens? The water begins to soak into the soil. The water is soaking into the soil by capillary action. If you’re running your sprinkler system for 10 minutes each zone, drop it down to five minutes each zone, run the entire cycle, and then run it again for another five minutes. You’ll be surprised at how well this works.

Finally, remember that the Defined Irrigation Schedule, begun in June 2013, is still in effect. Lawns irrigated by sprinkler systems can be watered no more than two nights per week – never during the day without a variance. Addresses ending in even numbers can only water on Wednesday and Saturday nights, and odd numbers can only water on Tuesday and Friday nights, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning. There are no plans to halt the Defined Irrigation Schedule. Hand-held hoses or hose-end sprinklers and drip irrigation are allowed anytime.

There’s Plenty of Water Everywhere – Just not Here and There

There’s Plenty of Water Everywhere – Just not Here and There

By Bob Dailey

There’s plenty of water in the world…just not where we want and need it. The massive Oglala Aquifer, the largest in North America, furnishes water to our nation’s breadbasket, irrigating millions of acres of corn, wheat and other foods. That aquifer is currently 50% depleted – and this has happened in the last 50 years. What will happen in the next 50?

Our own aquifers have seen major drawdowns as well – so much so that there has been land subsidence in the southern part of Montgomery County. Harris County to our south has fared less well. Some places in Harris County have subsided 15-plus feet…a direct result of aquifer drawdown. In fact, Harris and Galveston Counties have been concerned enough to form the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District, to monitor any further subsidence in the area.

The subsidence here is not serious …yet. But there are areas near The Woodlands which have fallen a foot or more in the last two or three decades. Not the 15-feet drops we see in Houston, but worthy of concern, nevertheless.

Harris County solved their problem by setting up a treatment plant on Lake Houston. A master plan is already in progress to pump treated lake water to most residents in Harris – no mean feat.

In Montgomery County, far-sighted officials have already built out a water treatment plant at Lake Conroe, and lake water is available to all municipalities. This water is helping the aquifers to recover their supply of water, and to help halt subsidence in the county.

The availability of lake water takes care of needs now, but elected officials are not only responsible for current populations, but future populations. While there are additional options for new water sources – desalination, it will be costly and only available for those areas and individuals who can afford it. And new reservoirs are also a possibility (except for the constant “NIMBY” which means,” yes of course I want new reservoirs, but Not In My Back Yard. “

The best solution is conservation. And residents here are accomplishing that. We have become an example for the rest of the state to follow.

Mulch your grass clippings – don’t bag them

Mulch your grass clippings – don’t bag them

By Bob Dailey

Green lawns are attractive. Keeping them attractive is not much of a problem if you follow a few simple rules.

A&M Research

The Don’t Bag It program was developed by the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension back in the late 1980s and proved conclusively that collecting clippings was a waste of time and landfill space. There are, however, more reasons to mulch instead of bagging grass clippings.

Nutrients

The tops of grass blades contain high amounts of nitrogen – an important nutrient for grass. Leaving grass clippings on the ground instead of bagging them adds this nitrogen back into the soil. That process lessens the lawns need for extra fertilizer. This process won’t meet the full requirements of fertilization, but it will significantly reduce the amount of fertilizer you need.

Slice and dice

Mulching mowers slice and dice the grass into tiny pieces that fall into the lawn and decompose quickly. They also help conserve soil moisture while they’re decomposing (thus the name “mulch”). Plus, mulching helps the lawn survive drought stress by helping the soil retain water.

Thatch

Contrary to what some people say, thatch is not a problem for most lawns in The Woodlands (or elsewhere along the upper Gulf Coast. In fact, it is almost impossible for thatch to develop in St. Augustine and Bermuda grasses.

Shade

A common problem with all types of lawn grasses in The Woodlands. Increase the mowing height. That increases the surface areas of the grass blades, so they can receive more sunlight. Remember that grass, like any other plant, needs sunlight to produce food, so allowing the blades to grow taller in the shade enables them to gather in more sunlight.

Root systems

The mowing height has a direct effect on root systems. Set your mower height at the highest level to maintain at least 3 inches of grass. Deep grass roots promote a healthier lawn. Healthy turf can resist disease, insect damage and stress.

Which turfgrass is best for your lawn?

Which turfgrass is best for your lawn?

By Bob Dailey

There are 4,000,000 acres of turf grass grown in Texas and many species, each with its own characteristics and its own pros and cons. Some are cool-season grasses and they do better in north and northwest Texas. Others, like buffalo grass - although considered a warm-season grass - do not do well in southeast Texas lawns. There are, however, three which grow reasonably well here.

Bermudagrass

If you’re new to the area, and want to see what Bermudagrass looks like, go to the nearest soccer field. Soccer fields in The Woodlands have two types of surfaces: one is artificial turf. The other is Bermudagrass. The chief advantage of this turf grass is it has few disease or insect problems and it is cold-tolerant. However, the main requirement for Bermudagrass is that it needs full sun.

The disadvantage is that it does not tolerate shade, it turns brown after the first frost and can be a serious nuisance invading flowerbeds and landscape plantings.

Bermudagrass needs about one inch of water a week during the growing season (April-October). That includes rainwater.

St. Augustine grass

St. Augustine is the most commonly used turfgrass in The Woodlands. It is relatively shade-tolerant and may remain green but dormant throughout most winters here. Like Bermudagrass, it does need a lot of water (about one inch a week).

This turfgrass is susceptible to disease and insect damage, its major disadvantage.

Zoysia

Zoysia grass is becoming more and more popular among residents of The Woodlands. It’s almost as shade-tolerant as St. Augustine and has few disease or insect problems, Zoysia also requires much less water than either St. Augustine or Bermudagrass and it tends to be more wear-resistant than either of the two other grasses.

A disadvantage is that it is the earliest turf to turn brown at the first frost. It is also the last to green up in the spring.

When to sod

Although theoretically, all three grasses can be sodded anytime, the very best times to sod are late October and early April. Those months are cooler than our hotter late spring and summer and allow the grass roots more time to grow without the stress of extremes of temperature. April is also the best time to aerate your lawn and add compost to it.

Rebates abound from your water service

Rebates abound from your water service

By Bob Dailey

Customers of Woodlands Water have a lifetime $150.00 rebate (50% of $300.00) on a wide variety of water savings devices.

Here are rebate categories available to residents:

Native Plants

A new initiative, begun in 2018, is the rebate program for native plants. Woodlands Water has chosen 100 drought-tolerant plants native to Southeast Texas. Once established, these plants will save money on water bills, because they need less water than most non-natives. The list of acceptable plants, and authorized dealers are described at http://www.woodlandswater.org/rebates.

Rain Barrels

The Woodlands receives almost 50 inches of rain a year. However, once that rain falls, it flows out of The Woodlands on its way to the Gulf. Rain barrels are one way to capture some of that water for our use. Rain barrels come in all shapes and sizes and are available at big box outlets, nurseries, and online. One source for rain barrels is a non-profit organization - The Woodlands Green- which offers the barrels at significant discounts. Add the rebate and it’s a great deal. (http://www.thewoodlandsgreen.org).

Smart Water Controllers

A burgeoning new water-saving technology has entered the scene – smart controllers. Smart controllers take the place of existing irrigation controllers, connecting to your wi-fi system and controllable on your mobile phone, laptop of desktop – from anywhere in the world. These systems take information from evapotranspiration centers, NOAA and other weather services and adapt your watering needs in relation to rainfall.

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation systems work especially well for ornamental plants. No water is wasted. Instead of some water being lost through evaporation, all the water gets down to the roots of the plants, where it’s needed.

Rain Sensors

Inexpensive but effective, these devices use a simple evaporation process to determine rain amount. They will turn your irrigation system on or off depending on the amount of rainfall received. Of course, the rain sensor rebate is only available if you haven’t already received a rebate for a smart controller.

Residents can take their receipts to the Water Resources building at 2455 Lake Robbins Drive, send it to Woodlands Water, 2455 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands TX 77830, ATTENTION: Rebate or email a copy of the receipt to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The rebate will appear on the next water bill cycle.

Where do those weeds come from and how do we control them?

Where do those weeds come from and how do we control them?

By Bob Dailey

Every winter and early spring along the Upper Gulf Coast, weeds begin appearing in even the best-maintained lawns. Chickweed, henbit, burweed, dandelion and other weeds, carried in by the wind, by birds, or merely lying in the soil for years until sprouting, begin their annual blight across our landscapes.

Whatever way they got there, our main concern is “how do we get rid of them?” Don’t despair. Homeowners have many choices to remove and eradicate these annoying plants.

Mow them down before they seed. Most of the weeds that appear in the lawn in late winter and very early spring can be destroyed completely by simply mowing them down before they form seeds. These weeds are annuals, like corn, tomatoes, begonias, petunias, nasturtiums and others – which means they only live for one year. They propagate their species by making seed and dropping it onto the ground in the spring. But if these plants are mown before they create seed heads, they cannot propagate. This is the least invasive method of getting rid of weeds in your garden.

Add organic material in spring and fall. Most lawns here are varieties of St. Augustine turf. St. Augustine is a very rugged, aggressive and durable warm-season grass. Healthy, strong, disease-free St. Augustine will eventually force out weeds. A quarter inch application of organic material, once in mid-October and another in mid-April will help the St. Augustine grass itself to eliminate the weeds.

Pull the weeds. Work-intensive and probably not the preferred method for homeowners and landscapers alike, this requires a lot of stooping, bending and kneeling. If one seeks a good workout, then this might be an acceptable method.

Pre-emergent herbicides. Not a choice recommendation, but it certainly does work. Herbicides containing benefin, trifluralin, isoxaben, pendimethalin and dithiopyr are effective as pre-emergents, but residents must be very careful in their use, read and follow instructions to the letter, avoid run-off (they can cause damage to both fresh and salt water marine life, as well as beneficial microbial life in the soil), and ensure that children and pets are not around when applying. Also, avoid tracking the material into the home. Wash clothes worn during application and run the washing machine empty immediately after washing those clothes.

Let the weeds grow. Although neighbors and covenants would probably object, the adage of “one man’s weed is another man’s flower” does have a certain charm. And, as Emerson said: “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.”

The Woodlands Water Agency

The Woodlands Water Agency

2455 Lake Robbins Dr
The Woodlands TX 77380
855-H2o-SAVE (855-426-7283)

Information

For billing, customer service, new service and service disconnections:
billingdepartment@woodlandswater.org

For all other inquires:
information@woodlandswater.org

Hours of Operation:
8:00am to 5:00pm Mon-Fri

For Emergency call
855-H2o-SAVE (855-426-7283)

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2 IMPORTANT NOTICES (Updated 10/16/2019, 4:01pm) - View

For billing, customer service, new service & service disconnections:
Billing Department Email

For all other inquires:
Woodlands Water Email

8:00am to 5:00pm Mon-Fri

For Emergency call
855-H2o-SAVE (855-426-7283)