By Bob Dailey
Every year about this time, residents began calling to report their grass is dying. Their beautiful, green, lush St. Augustine has turned a pale brownish-yellow. They worry that it’s not getting enough water, so they water profusely. They think that some disease or insects may be attacking their lawn, so they pile on pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers.
St Augustine is a warm-season grass. This turfgrass is supposed to look brown and dead in the winter. When the soil temperature drops below 55 degrees, the grass goes dormant.
Homeowners shouldn’t panic, nor should they use the myriad of panaceas offered on the market.
Watering during the winter
Winter watering is not a recommended practice. Fungal infections are particularly damaging to turf grass in southeast Texas. And what causes fungal diseases? Well, fungi love humidity and wetness. Watering lawns during the winter is the primary cause of fungal infections. Infections begin when the grass is dormant, so damage is not visible then. Come spring and early summer, though, and fungi presence is evident from the great yellowing patches of turf. By then, the damage has already occurred. Instead of spending bucks on fungicides, stop watering. We get enough rain in the winter to provide what little water that dormant St. Augustine might require.
Planning for Spring
Now is the time to get ready for springtime. A soil test might be a good idea. Texas A&M offers a great soil test for about $15. Use your computer search engine to browse for Texas A&M Soil, Water, and Forage Testing lab. The site provides explicit instructions on how to take a soil sample, how to fill out an application, and how to send the whole package to the lab. St. Augustine turf does best in soil with a pH of around 6.5. The test will provide empirical data that will help maintain a healthy and green lawn in spring, summer, and fall.
Residents can obtain text bags from the Montgomery County Office of Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service, 9024 Airport Road, Conroe.