Best lawn practices

Top 10 Mistakes Gardeners Make

Top 10 Mistakes Gardeners Make

by Bob Dailey

There is a saying that one cannot be a good gardener if she (or he) has not killed at least a thousand plants. That said, there must be a large number of great gardeners in Montgomery County.

Gardening mistakes can be time consuming and ultimately costly. Correcting some of these mistakes may sound counterintuitive, but understanding and avoiding very common errors helps create healthier and more attractive lawns and gardens.

Common Mistakes

  1. Overwatering encourages shallow root systems, stresses plants, wastes water and increases their susceptible to disease and pests. Watering every day is one of the largest mistakes. Most plants (including lawns) go dormant during the fall and winter.  
  2. Too much fertilizer can cause real problems in the landscape. Too much fertilizer may kill beneficial microbes in the soil, actually encourage disease and requires extra water. Additionally, fertilizer runoff is one of the largest polluters of our streams, waterways and esturaries.
  3. Kill all those bugs. The goal is to get the unwanted pests under control and the good ones encouraged. Using too much pesticide also kills beneficial soil organisms and the insects that
  4. Misdiagnosing a problem. Know thine enemy. Search the internet for answers or use the local master gardener hotline (936-539-7824) to identify the problem and possible solutions. There are probably a number of master gardeners in your area who would be happy to help you as well. Two good books are The Vegetable Book, a Texan’s guide to gardening, by Dr. Sam Cotner and Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac.
  5. Non-native or non-adapted plants. Azaleas – yes. Palms – no. Contact The Woodlands Township’s Environmental Services office for color brochures of native and adapted plants.
  6. Right plant but wrong place. Think and plan before planting.
  7. Not preparing soil before planting. Healthy soil = nutrients and beneficial microorganisms = healthy plants.
  8. No mulch. Mulch helps the soil retain moisture, keeps soil at a more constant temperature and discourages weeds.
  9. Planting at the wrong time. Plant trees in the winter when they are dormant. Don’t resod in the winter.
  10. Short-term thinking. How big is that little sapling going to get in five or 10 years? How much space will the one-gallon esperanza need in a couple of seasons?
Watering lawns in fall and winter

Watering lawns in fall and winter

By Bob Dailey

When grass begins to turn yellow or brown in fall and winter, it’s not a sign that it’s dying. Turning color is a sign that the grass is going dormant.

Yes, the roots are still alive. In good soil, those roots will be digging their way deep into the soil to get water and nutrients. But good soil is another story.

In late spring and summer months, local grasses need no more than an inch of water a week. Not so in the fall and winter.

The average rainfall in the cooler months in Montgomery County, Texas ranges from 5.4 inches in October to about 3.18 inches in February, more than enough to supply the minimum amount of water that local grasses need during the dormant season.  

The statistics are pretty clear: October receives an average of 5.46 inches per month; November, 4.76; December, 4.09; January, 4.22; February, 3.18, and March, 3.03. That is more than enough water to satisfy the needs of lawns. Even most landscape plants can thrive on that much water, unless they are native to tropical rainforests (which would be most out of place in The Woodlands).

Take October for example, with an average rainfall of 5.4 inches. That’s approximately 1.35 inches per week. That’s much more than St. Augustine requires, especially in the fall. On a 4,000 square foot lawn, that much rainfall equates to 3,370 gallons of water. In a month, that becomes over 13,000 gallons of rain.  On a small lawn, that comes to almost $40 in savings on your water bill for one month.

Refraining from sprinkler irrigation in the cooler months can also help lower sewer bills. Many Municipal Utility Districts (and all in The Woodlands) calculate sewer charges based on the average water used by a customer in December, January and February. That average sets the monthly sewer charge. By not irrigating during those months, a resident can save more money.

Of course, it may not rain each and every week. Some residents see that possibility as a problem. Assuming soil has high amounts of organic nutrients, much of the rain that falls can be captured in the ground where its use can be extended. That also results in much less runoff, as well.

The basics of Water-Wise landscaping

The basics of Water-Wise landscaping

By Bob Dailey

Water-wise gardening simply means using good common sense. It reduces irrigation needs, lowers water bills, lowers maintenance and provides a much higher quality and worry-free landscape.

Here are some general guidelines for establishing one:

  1. Planning and design- Take some time to look at your yard. You may even want to make a drawing of it. What would you like to change? Less lawn and more ornamental beds? More native plants?
  2. Analyze and amend soil - Without good fertile soil, you cannot have an attractive, water-wise landscape. Texas A&M Soil Science Laboratory in College Station will test your soil for a small fee. Contact the local Texas Agrilife Extension Service in Conroe (936-539-7824) to find out how to do this. Then follow the instructions on the subsequent report and amend your soil accordingly.
  3. Efficient irrigation - Use the cycle and soak method to irrigate your landscape. If you have ornamental beds, install drip irrigation in them. It saves an amazing amount of water, creates little or no evaporation, and the water goes directly to the roots of the plants.
  4. Appropriate plant selection - Use native and adapted plants which do well in our area whenever you can. The Woodlands Township’s Environmental Services Department has produced a large number of brochures on plants. Take advantage of this valuable service.
  5. Mulch - Mulch keeps plant roots cool, prevents soil from crusting, minimizes evaporation and reduces weed growth. Apply two to four inches deep on ornamentals and trees
  6. Practical lawn areas - Many homeowners are realizing that they don’t need large expanses of turfgrass and are decreasing the sizes of their grassy lawns. Some have switched over to grasses with lower water needs (such as zoysia).
  7. Proper maintenance - Have your irrigation system checked by The Woodlands Water Irrigation System Evaluation team, a free service offered by Woodlands Water. Register for a free inspection here.

The Woodlands Water Agency

The Woodlands Water Agency

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The Woodlands TX 77380


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