September lawn care tips

  • Hummingbird feeders should be kept full to prepare the hummingbirds for their annual seasonal flight to Mexico and warmer weather. They purposely feed to store up energy for the trip.
  • Aerate the lawn with a core aerator machine. These can be rented for a day for about $100.00 at a local tool rental store. The machine almost looks like a soil tiller, except it has a hollow steel roller drum at the front instead of a rotary plow. The roller is roughly 1 foot in diameter and 2 feet long, and on its surface it has many hollow steel tubes sticking out about ½ inch in diameter by 1 ¼ inch in length. The aerator is used to roll over the entire lawn digging up soil cores, or plugs of soil, and dropping these plugs on the lawn as the machine advances. The concept is to alleviate soil compaction, improve oxygen delivery to the grass roots, as well as facilitate the intake of irrigation, rainfall, fertilizers, and chemicals. The soil plugs extracted from the lawn will dissolve on their own and improve the lawns growing environment. Before performing a lawn aeration be certain to identify the location of all sprinkler hear and valve boxes. For this purpose, use colored plastic irrigation site marking flags, which are available at an irrigation supply store. These flags on an 18-inch length of stiff wire and are ideal for sticking in the ground to identify irrigation utilities.
  • Plant your first vegetable garden this fall season and enjoy the pleasures of fresh, homegrown cooking ingredients. An excellent starter for this project is Bill Adam’s book Vegetable Gardening for the South.  Bill is graduated from the Texas A&M Agricultural Extension.
  • Use a broadcast spreader to apply a turf fungicide if your lawn appears to be yellowing from brown patch. Brown patch is a fungal bacterium in the soil that lays dormant in the hot summer months and becomes active in the cooling weather. It will appear as circular rings and the rings usually have a tendency to grow and expand. This fungal bacterium breeds in the soil from a combination of over-watering and poor drainage, which cause stagnation of the soil’s balanced nutrients. A good product to purchase is Turfcide, a granular treatment available in a 50-pound bag. Apply at the recommended rate and repeat the treatment as suggested on the product label until your grass regains its normal, healthy green color. If your lawn has developed a fungal condition for the first time, this is a good reminder to check your sprinkler system’s operating time and reduce the run time.
  • Spray your home’s foundation with a 32-ounce hose-end container of Bayer Complete if fire ants are migrating into your home through the expansion joints, or “weep” holes. This may not be necessary if you have been faithful in applying insecticide granules on your lawn as recommended.
  • Correct poor drainage in your property by observing water retention patterns on your lawn during heavy rains. Take digital photos so you will remember where and how wide the water collects. Then, identify the center of each major area with a colored irrigation work site flag. These will be the common low-center areas where “location” drains need to be added. Location drains are simply underground catch basins with a grate on top meant to collect and remove rainwater from the flood-prone areas via 4-inch PVC pipe onto the city street.  A city permit must be obtained. A logical flow pattern can be sketched out for the pipe installation. From this sketch, the total linear footage for pipe can be conveniently calculated, as well as how many basins, basin outlets, sanitary tees, and elbows are needed. The catch basins are available in 6-inch, 9-inch, and 12-inch. The 6-inch is available only in round; the 9-inch and 12-inch in square. For PVC pipe grading purposes, to assure proper water flow, use adjustable basin outlets for attaching the pipe to the basins. These outlets can be attached in 4 positions: high, low, left, or right. The sanitary tees are designed to speed up the water flow away from the area. Be sure and install the tees in the proper flow direction. The elbows should all be long 90’s, which have a speed flow pattern compared to the short 90. Gutter downspouts are also a source of water flooding on your lawn. If you have gutters, the downspouts can be conveniently attached to the drainage system using round-to square gutter adapters. They come in 3-inch and 4-inch gutter sizes. Do not overburden the drainage system. If necessary, or practical, make plans to divide the system in half by installing one PVC pipe outlet on the left side of your home and one on the right. The curb at street will have to be cut with a 14-inch concrete saw and the PVC terminal cemented in at street level. Using PVC pipe with flares on one end will eliminate the need for connector sleeves between pipes. The flares should face away from the street, so the ridge of the entry pipe does not collect and build up soil. Use purple primer and PVC cement on all joints. This makes for a water-tight seal and dissuades the entry of tree root fibers foraging for water to drink. These root fibers will grow the length, collect soil, and clog up your system. Plan to add one or more clean-outs using sanitary tees with a screw-on cap terminating at the soil-top level. Make certain the cap is at a safe height for mowing purposes. These caps can be removed for inserting a hose and hosing out any collected soil. First, plug the exit at the curb, fill up the system, and then remove the plug. The heavy weight of the backed-up water will whisk your pipes clean as a whistle. Periodic addition of copper sulfate to your system will kill any root fibers that managed to enter your drainage system.

    Special notes: There are elevated, ribbed grates for the basins called atrium grates. These are for high-leaf areas and they allow for drainage below the elevated “ribs” while the leaves are floating on top. All pipe and connectors must be approved SDR35 grade to pass inspection. These materials are available at a local irrigation supply store, such as Ewing Plastics and Irrigation. SDR35 material sturdy. The inspector will step on the PVC pipe. If his weight makes the pipe compress beneath his foot, he will have you replace the entire pipes and return again on an appointed day.

  • A drainage system should be installed inside of an excavated trench 7 inches wide and 9 inches deep. The catch basins will require a 12-inch square space. A sharp, straight-edge garden spade should be used excavating the trench. Mark out the trench by tightly stretching a length of ¼ inch rope between two stakes in the ground made from ½ inch iron rebar. Then use black spray paint to mark the centerline alongside the rope. Remove the rope and first start removing the grass in lengths 7 inches wide and at least 12 inches long. To remove the grass, inscribe the area with the straight-edge spade to a depth of 3-4 inches, and then forcefully push the spade lengthwise completely under the piece of grass. Lift the grass up and place to one side on the lawn. Repeat this procedure until all the grass is removed. The best way to forcefully push the spade under the pieces of grass is to assist your right hand by placing your inside right thigh against your grip and combine with your body weight to push the spade in one clean motion. This assures that the soil underneath the grass piece will not fall apart, as opposed to striking repeatedly underneath with the spade in the traditional way. The soil excavated should be moved by wheel barrow to a convenient space where it will not be compacted into the outlying grass by the wheel barrow traffic. Plastic tarps can also be laid out on the grass for this purpose but do not leave on site more than 2-3 days or it can kill the grass underneath. A sharpshooter spade can be used to tunnel under sidewalks from both sides until a clearing is made. Once the pipe and catch basins are in place, fill the system with water with a garden hose and time the flow with a watch to the exit at the street. With a thoughtful installation, your system should work like a charm. Your home is now safe even from heavy rains from a hurricane or large storm. Finally, you will have to call the city inspector from the public works department and he will approve your installation, and you can close your trench, or he will ask you to change an attachment and will return at an appointed day. Displaced, left-over soil can be discarded at a dump site, donated to a neighbor with low-lying areas or possibly used as a base and amended with enriched store-bought materials to begin a vegetable garden.
  • Visit a local plant nursery and find out which flowers will be available to plant by the first week of October. The month of September is still too hot for any cool season flowers. It is better to wait for those to mature at the growers until mid-November and get re-stocked at the nursery. Meanwhile, some pre-fall color that will tolerate mild heat will provide color until your gardens are complemented fully with the seasonal color for winter.

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