Garden Thyme

The Growers Outlet prides itself in being the go-to place for locally grown plants and great service for the past 16 years in the Lake Conroe area. What started as a little bedding plant growing operation with three employees back in 2001, with the help of our neighbors we have transformed into a full-service garden center with a team of as many as 11 or 12 people during the busiest times of the year. Eight years ago we added a 6000 sq. ft. display garden area where we can show off our favorite plants.

This month our column will address the most noticeable thing outside the home, your lawn. In Texas, like in most places, we have a love affair with nice lawns. Regular watering and fertilization must be maintained for your grass to look and be healthy. Periodic applications of fungicides and insecticides might also be required in extreme cases. A beautiful lawn does not come without an investment of your time and money.

WATER

It has been determined by the experts that as much as 40%-60% of all the water used in Texas during the summertime is for outdoor water use. Of that percentage, the majority is for irrigation. During low rainfall rates, the replenishment rate of our aquifers is much lower which taxes this limited resource. Most people think that if they have an irrigation system then they must use it. They also think that the irrigation system has a brain and that it knows the proper amount of water to put on your lawn. The irrigation system does exactly what it was programmed to do.

For the past several years we have had extremely wet spring weather and normal summer weather conditions. It is anybody’s guess as to what this summer will bring us after another wet winter and spring.

After dry hot summers our lawn and plants depend on dormant season moisture to help rebuild damaged roots. This last winter and this spring, have once again given us more normal to above normal amounts of rainfall. This is a two-edged sword. Some plants will use the winter to rebuild damaged roots while others may have suffered root damage from too much water and lack of oxygen.

Soon it will be time to start supplemental watering of your lawn and plants. I hope you have not started watering yet! Keep an eye out for signs of stress. Too much water, too soon, will cause shallow unhealthy roots and weaken your grass and landscape plants.

If you want to do it right, here is a link to the Texas A&M website explaining in detail the proper procedure for lawn watering in Texas: http://texaswater.tamu.edu/conference/feb05/havlak.pdf

FERTILIZATION AND PESTICIDE USE

Fertilization of our lawns is a Springtime ritual that most men look forward to, just like the start of baseball season. The pride of having the greenest weed free lawn on the block ranks right up there with catching a record fish or putting a trophy mount on the wall. The consensus in the past was to dump plenty of chemicals on our lawn to make it green and kill whatever attacks it. This exercise causes undo stress on our lawns, trees and shrubs.

Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest, including weeds and diseases. In our area, we see all of these. Too often, we nuke them with the strongest pesticides possible. Many of us have used fertilizers with weed killers included in them, also called weed n feed fertilizers. These products work great for killing most weeds in the lawns but at a cost to the health of our trees and shrubs and our water supplies. There are other alternatives that are much safer.

The biggest problem we see starting in the late spring or summer is diseases in our grass. Most common diseases are caused by improper watering, drainage and or too much fertilization and can be corrected without dumping more chemicals.

Bugs are a big problem and the rule of thumb for control has been to attack with the most lethal chemicals possible. Most chemicals used for insect control are relatively safe when used properly, however misuse can cause resistance by the bugs and pollution to the environment. MORE IS NOT BETTER! Pesticides have been tested for their optimal effectiveness, so PLEASE FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY.

A Garden To Do List for the month of May in our area will include the following:

*Put down a pre-emergent weed killer to prevent weeds like crabgrass from sprouting in the summer.

*Now is the time to think about setting out hot season annual bedding plants like vinca, caladiums, moss rose, coleus, pentas, and purslane.

*If you haven’t put any mulch down, now would be a great time. It will help you reduce watering and control weeds.

*Continue to feed your roses.

*Be on the lookout for powdery mildew on your crape myrtles and roses. This is easy to remedy.

*If you haven’t put down your lawn fertilizer in April, now would be a great time to get it done. Use a fertilizer like Nitro Phos Super Turf slow release fertilizer. If you want to use an organic then consider using the Microlife 6-2-4 or the Nitro Phos Sweet green.

*During periods of cloudy damp weather be sure and spray your shrubs, especially roses, to prevent fungal diseases like black spot.

*This is a great month to spray for Virginia Buttonweed.

*Use a systemic insecticide on your crape myrtles to prevent aphids and help get rid of Asian Bark Scale.

For great gardening products and information, come by the Growers Outlet and visit with any member of our team to get the help you need or go to our website at WWW.growersoutletinwillis.com. We have the products and knowledge to help you have the prettiest yard on the block.