Houston slips into fall almost unnoticed, until we realize the hot, humid days of summer are over. We rummage around for those puffy down jackets, even though we usually never need them in the fall.
Our warm-season grasses can be green into late fall but will go dormant once the temperatures stay below 60 degrees. The last sighting of snow in Houston was in 2010 and it was only a trace, but we can’t scoff at the possibility of “real” winter weather. George Bush Intercontinental Airport records an annual average of 9.6 days of freezing temperatures and periods that stay in the low 30s to mid-40s for a few weeks at a time. If we don’t want to be surprised by a brown lawn in the spring, we need to help the lawn have a good winter.
Since snow is rare, we need to water the lawn all winter — 1-2 inches of water a week. Water slowly so that the moisture soaks into the soil and you don’t waste water with runoff. Also, watering in the morning allows your grass to dry before nighttime, lessening the chance of disease creeping in.
2. Remove leaves
Leaves covering the lawn keeps the much-needed sunlight from your grass. For a healthy lawn, gather the leaves and put them into your compost bin. You can also chop them up with a mulching mower so that they fertilize your grass naturally. Either way, you are saving money on plastic bags, but even more important, you are helping to save the environment by taking the manufacture and transportation of plastic bags out of the equation and by not adding to the problems caused by landfills.
Aerating is one of the best ways to revitalize your lawn after it was trampled on all summer. A high volume of traffic compacts the soil, which, in turn, puts up a barrier between the grassroots and the water, oxygen, and nutrients that it needs to get through the winter. You can aerate with a pitchfork, a garden fork with tines or a gas-powered, walk-behind aerator to open up the soil, allow it to breathe and allow the grassroots to access the resources that they need.
The fall, while the air is cool but the soil still warm, is the best time to overseed: sow additional grass seed over parts of the lawn where the grass is thin or where there are bare patches. Overseeding thickens the turf so that it can withstand the onslaught of diseases and weeds that attack during the fall and winter. Overseed after aerating and you’ll be shoring up your lawn’s foundation before winter comes.
The healthier your lawn, the less trouble you’ll have with disease. Brown patch often appears in the fall. You’ll recognize it by the patches of damaged turf that can be inches in width to several feet. The grass blades turn yellow at the edges of the patches and brown within the patches. For an eco-friendly solution, treat the patches with a baking soda spray. To prevent brown patches from developing, refrain from overwatering, make sure drainage is adequate, and be sparing with the application of nitrogen.
Lawn care needs a full-circle plan. If you take care of your lawn each season, it will green up in the spring healthy and lush without your having to break your back or your budget.
Have questions about lawn care? Visit our Houston lawn care page for more information!
Feature image source: Zillow