Your 2018 MUD Property Taxes are due by January 31, 2019. Please ensure they are postmarked on or before January 31, 2019. Payments postmarked February 1, 2019 or later will incur penalties and interest. Thank you.
By Bob Dailey, Woodlands Water
We all take the water we drink, bathe in, or prepare food with, for granted. We assume that the water will always be clean and safe to drink. There is, however, a hidden risk that many people don’t give enough attention to – backflow preventers.
Occasionally, situations take place that can impair the quality of drinking water. One common occurrence is the breaking of a private water supply line or a public water main. When something like this happens, water that is polluted or that may contain harmful contaminants can backflow into the potable system, threatening the quality of our drinking water.
Backflow is generally caused by changes in water pressure. For instance, if a water main breaks or a fire hydrant is activated for fire suppression, pressure goes down and this can cause water to flow opposite of the direction it was meant to travel. That means if your irrigation system is connected to your house piping - soil, fecal bacteria and other contaminants that have entered the irrigation heads and piping can “backflow” into your home drinking water, and perhaps into the public water system.
Here’s a true event reported by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: While mixing a batch of pesticide, a worker pushed a garden hose into the tank until it touched the bottom. Nearby, city utility workers opened a flush valve, releasing a large flow of water from a water main. Where the worker was mixing the pesticide, the water pressure dropped, and the flow in the hose reversed. Water and pesticides flowed from the pesticide tank back through the hose and into the water lines of the residence.
Fortunately, the worker mixing the pesticide realized the danger and alerted the utility workers, who closed the flush valve before the contamination reached the city’s distribution line. Still, good water and time were wasted.
The solution to this risk is to have a backflow preventer installed. TCEQ requires homeowners with external hose bib connections, irrigation systems and most commercial buildings to have one. Regular tests and inspections insure that your household plumbing and the public supply is protected.
Residents should install backflow devices on hoses bibs. Especially those used for drip irrigation or hose head sprinklers. The same opposite flow can occur if there is a drop in pressure. These hose backflow preventers are simple, inexpensive devices that provide the same protection.
By Bob Dailey
July is one of the best months to find out where grass is doing well and where it isn’t. Areas with deep shade might do better with some type of shade-tolerant ground cover than with turf grass. Conversely, hot spots in the yard where grass seems to die can be a great place for a shrub that loves heat and lots of sunlight.
Mowing can be problematic as well during times of high heat. Set mowers to their highest level. Mulch, don’t bag. The top third of grass blades is rich in nitrogen. Mulching the grass drops the blades back onto the lawn where they compost back into the soil. Contrary to what some believe, mulching does not cause thatch. Overwatering and overfertilizing causes thatch.
It’s important to check sprinkler systems now. Not all yellow patches are caused by fungal infections like take-all patch or large patch, nor are they all caused by chinch bugs or sod-web worms. Some spotting is caused by poor positioning of sprinkler heads.
Control fire ants by using the Texas two-step method recommended by Texas A&M. A treatment with the organic pesticide Spinosad, followed a few days later by drenching the mound with orange oil is particularly effective on fire ants. A third step, sprinkling diatomaceous earth on the mound, will take care of stragglers.
Occasionally, during hot summer months, St. Augustine grass may suffer from iron chlorosis, which means that the plant is not getting enough iron. This is probably because the soil is too alkaline. Alternating yellow and green streaks running lengthwise along the grass blade is a clear indication of this. Apply an iron chelate to the lawn. Iron does stain concrete, so do not spread it across sidewalks or driveways.
In The Woodlands and in many areas of the state, water utilities employ The W.I.S.E. Guys (Woodlands Irrigation Systems Evaluations) to check their sprinkler systems. It is a free service.
Keep mower blades sharp so they make clean – not ragged- cuts. Ragged cuts damage the individual grass blades and weaken the structure of the lawn.
It’s possible to seed or sod a lawn this month, but remember, the summer heat will create much more watering.
By Bob Dailey
Most of us in The Woodlands have St. Augustine turf grass. It is, by far, the most shade tolerant of all the warm-season grasses. However, many residents notice their St. Augustine thinning under trees. Here’s the probable reason. When the area was sodded, the tree canopy above it was less dense. Therefore, even though it was planted in shade, it received more filtered sunlight. As the tree canopy grew denser, the grass received less filtered light.
The solution: Lightly prune the tree to allow more light to penetrate through the foliage. Keeping foot traffic to a minimum and setting the mower to its highest level will also help. If all these fail, try replacing the sod with a shade-loving groundcover such as Mondo grass, liriope, Asian jasmine, English ivy or ferns.
In southeast Texas, rains in May generally provide enough water for turf grass. St. Augustine needs only ½ -1 inch per week to stay healthy. Don’t overwater. Overwatering can cause fungal infections. Check your irrigation controller and your sprinkler heads to make sure they are operating properly. Make sure you set it accurately to comply with the two-day-per-week Odd/Even Defined Irrigation Schedule.
New sod and patching bare spots
There is still time to put in new sod or fill in some bare spots. Woodlands Water offers variances from the Defined Irrigation Schedule to ensure new turf is adequately irrigated. However, be very careful that the area doesn’t become a swamp. Too much water is just as bad as too little. It’s also not too late to add compost or peat moss to yellowing patches of grass.
Establishing deep, dense lawns
Taller grass blades accomplish several things. First, they keep the ground cooler than the ambient temperature. They help hold in moisture…which means you need to water less. Weed seeds need sunlight to germinate. Taller grass blades shade the ground and discourage weed growth. Thus, don’t be afraid to set your mower height to the highest setting. Avoid scalping. Crew cutting St. Augustine or any other grass will shorten its life span and make them more vulnerable to insect damage and disease.
If you haven’t yet fertilized, you can do so now. Do not use “weed and feed” products. Instead, use a slow-release fertilizer with a 3-1-2, 4-1-2 or 6-2-4 ratio. These three numbers represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer. Instead of bagging grass clippings, use a mulching lawn mower. The grass clippings are high in nutrients and will help fertilize your lawn.
By Bob Dailey
It’s been a long, wet, relatively cold winter in The Woodlands, with three snowfalls. Now, our yards are greening up, flowers are blooming, insects are buzzing and we are all attacked by the same debilitating disorder – spring fever.
As we walk out shoeless on our lawns, blades of St. Augustine tickling our toes, we might want to consider some chores which can extend the life of our lawn and add to its emerald presence.
- St. Augustine grass prefers a pH between 5.0 and 7.0. This acidic range allows grass roots to extract phosphorus from the soil. Having your soil tested is a great way to know the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. You can pick up a soil test bag and form at the County Extension Service in
Conroe or at the Woodlands Water office in The Woodlands. If your soil is too acidic, you can add lime. If the soil is too alkaline, you can add soil sulfur to make it sweeter.
- Compost and aerating. Any time of the year is okay, but mid-April is the optimum time. Spread about ½ inch of compost across your entire lawn. If you’d like, you can water it down with a hose, but that’s not necessary. Aerating allows the compost to enter deeper into the soil.
- Resodding. Late April and early May are the best times to resod warm season grass.
- Fertilize your lawn in late April. Try to use a slow release organic fertilizer.
- Begin mowing as soon as your grass needs it. However, remember that any plant needs its green leaves to photosynthesize sunlight. Cutting it too short will weaken turf grass plants. Instead, set your mower to the highest height or make sure you cut only a third of the blade.
- Warm season grasses (St. Augustine, Zoysia and Bermuda) need an inch or less of water per week to have a healthy root system. More than that is damaging to the plant. Since the Defined Irrigation Schedule is in effect for all MUDs within the Woodlands Water service area, you could set your controller to put ½ inch on your lawn for each of the two days you can water.
- Add a rain sensor to your irrigation controller. If it rains, the rain sensor will communicate with your controller and adjust the amount of irrigation. (Woodlands Water offers 50% rebates up to $150 for purchase and installation costs).
- Install a smart controller. Smart controllers take in information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and area et stations and readjust your system to match the weather.
- Use the cycle and soak method. If it takes 20 minutes to put ½ inch of water on your lawn, much of that water will be wasted. Instead, run each zone twice for 10 minutes, or even three times for about 7 minutes. The first run will wet the surface of the soil. The second run (and third if you choose) will allow the water to soak into the ground through capillary action.
- Enjoy your beautiful spring lawn.
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 sickly 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.
The fact is that St. Augustine grass is supposed to look brown and dead in the winter. However, St Augustine is a warm season grass. 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
This is not a recommended practice. Fungal infections are particularly damaging to turf grass. And what causes fungal infections? We don’t see too many fungal infections in the desert. It’s humidity and wetness that fungi like. Watering lawns during the winter is the major cause of fungal infections. The damage is done when the grass is dormant, so the infections are not visible then. Come spring and early summer though, and the presence of fungi is evident from the great yellowing patches of turf. By then, the damage has already been done. Instead of spending bucks on fungicides, just stop watering. We get enough rain in the winter to provide what little water 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 Testing. There are explicit instructions on how to take a soil sample, how to fill out an application and how to send the whole package to the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Soil, Water and Forage Testing Lab. St. Augustine turf does best in soil with a pH of around 6.5. The test will provide good, empirical data which will help in maintaining a healthy and green lawn in spring, summer and fall.