Drought Lawncare Tips in Austin, TX

It is very important that the lawn and landscape is irrigated properly, or you might find yourself spending thousands of dollars replacing either of them. Without proper irrigation, no lawncare product will work because they all rely on a micro-encapsulation process that controls the release of the product. Without the proper amount of water, the product will not release at the proper time or volume. Drought stressed grass can’t be treated properly with post emergent weed control products without damaging the healthy grass. I’m not going to get into the “how much” “how to” and “why’s” of proper irrigation. Instead, I have enclosed a pamphlet that I wrote, that will give you information you need to properly measure the output of your irrigation device and the setup of your irrigation system, regardless if you are irrigating by hand, with a hose, or have an underground sprinkler system.

Soil profiles and available water are different in central Texas when compared to that of any other area with warm season grasses, as we have heavy, rocky, clay soil. “Heavy clay” refers to the content of clay in the soil profile and the lack of sand and organic matter. Our soil is home to many microbes, insects, animals, plants, and plant roots. When a soil is said to be heavy, that refers to the amount of clay contained in the soil, and the relative airspace between the clay particles. Air pores must be present for the soil to provide space for nutrients, water, organic matter, microbes, etc. In clay soil air pores are small.

The way each soil is watered is completely different. Sandy soils drain quickly and hold little water for any length of time. Water is absorbed quickly, and it filters through the top layers of soil becoming useless to the grass and roots as it moves down past the root zone. Clay soil has very small pore space, so water has trouble being absorbed by the soil. There is also very little oxygen available to the roots, and once the water is in place inside the soil, it has difficulty moving because there are no empty pore spaces for it to travel into, and the pore size is small.

In the Austin area we have heavy clay soil, which is why when you apply water faster than it can be absorbed it ends up on the sidewalk and street. This is evident on a slight slope or incline. Most of the information on TV, radio or print was not meant for our soil. Most recommend 1.5 inches of water per week. I recommend that you apply as much water as your lawn/soil will absorb in a reasonable amount of time. In general, no more than ¾ of an inch can be applied before runoff occurs. In a hot drought situation without water rationing, I recommend watering three times a week. Read the enclosed pamphlet to see how much and how long to water your lawn.

What You Should Do

Mow high and once a week. The blades are the foliage, and by mowing high, you increase root mass, which help the grass get water  deeper, and the shade provided by longer blades will protect the stolons, rhizomes and thatch from drying out, which help keep the Chinch Bug populations low, and the plant a lot stronger and happier. If water rationing occurs and you are only allowed to water once every five days, water twice on your day that you are allowed. Water moves slowly through our soil, and the object here is to fill the pores in the soil completely with water to a depth equal to the root mass. Watering deeper than the roots does absolutely nothing for your turf. To get the soil saturated to a depth of three inches, you will have to apply approximately one inch of water. Most people will find that this impossible with an irrigation system because the volume of water applied is greater than the speed in which the water can soak into the soil. Manual sprinklers and gear type (oscillating) sprinkler heads don’t have this problem. If you have an automated sprinkler system with pop up heads you will have to water twice on your designated watering day, which allow the water to slowly  absorb into the ground without runoff.

What We’re Doing

With the lower levels of moisture, weeds and insects thrive, so we have added another round of pre-emergent weed control as well as surfactant to our lawn care program to be tank mixed with the already scheduled botanical pesticide. The pre-emergent will help reduce germinating weeds and the surfactant will help reduce surface tension of water so that it can be absorbed into the soil more easily. Look at the color and vigor of the turf growing on the shaded sides of your home: This area usually requires less water because it doesn’t receive direct sunlight all day. If this area looks significantly better than the sunny areas of your lawn, you most likely are under watering.

Please take a minute a read the enclosed brochure on proper irrigation. More information and other tips on lawn and garden care can be found in our water wizard page.

Best Regards,
Jerry NaiserPresident, Real Green Pest and Lawn
Texas Department of Agriculture Certified Diagnostician and Applicator # 00298078
ISA Certified Arborist # TX-3384A
Texas Master Gardner
Texas Structural Pest Control Board Certified Applicator # 44188 PLW
ISA Texas Oak Wilt Certified Arborist # TOWC 0048