Fertilizer: Organic vs. Conventional
As I mentioned in my last post, fertilizer is an important component of maintaining a healthy lawn. In nature grasses are naturally mowed, aerated, and fertilized by herbivores as they graze, and by the local soil biology. Our goal is to mimic this natural process as best we can. As homeowners our first question when it comes to fertilizer is organic versus conventional. There are benefits and downsides to both options.
Organic fertilizer allows the soil biology to develop which increases the fertility and health of the lawn over time. The downside is that it takes time to build up this fertility, especially if the lawn has been treated with chemical fertilizers up to this point. Another downside is that there are not common organic herbicides to kill weeds. The soil under your lawn is important to the health of your grass. Earthworms work the soil providing pathways for air and water, and leaving compost as they eat through dead organic material. microorganisms and fungi work with the grass to break down nutrients into forms the grass can metabolize and use to grow strong and healthy. A healthy organic lawn is more resilient to drought and floods, requires less maintenance and fertilizer, and with proper management should continue to get better over time.
Conventional fertilizer has the benefit of working fast, and having superior short term results. There is a reason that chemical fertilizers are the norm. They offer faster greening, faster growth, and can be mixed with herbicides to control weeds. The downsides are that you are negatively impacting the soil biology, meaning that you will not be gaining fertility from your soil and will have to continue to fertilize regularly to keep the grass healthy. A well maintained conventional lawn is greener, more weed free, and fast growing.
Spring Is In The Air!
It's getting to the end of March and that means that the Houston heat will soon be upon us. But for now we have had a stretch of truly beautiful weather. Now is a great time to take on any of your outdoor projects like putting in a raised bed vegetable garden, or adding annual flowers to your flowerbeds.
When it comes to grass spring is an important time of year as well. What you do in the spring really sets up your grass for the rest of the year. Here are some steps to a great lawn this year:
Step 1: Fertilize
The minimum recommended fertilizer use on all of our Houston turf grasses is twice per year, once in the spring and once in the fall. The most important thing to the health of your grass is the biological life in the soil. Because of this we recommend a quality organic fertilizer that will feed your grass while also encouraging the microorganisms and worms in the soil.
Step 2: Water
The grass wants to start growing vigorously as the days begin to lengthen and the temperatures warm up. But like all living things it needs food and water to grow. Houston has the benefit of fairly consistent rainfall, but that dosent mean that we don't still get stretches of dry weather. Your grass needs at least an inch of water per week to keep it growing healthy. This means now is the time to make sure your sprinkler system is working correctly if you have one, and if not it means being aware when it hasn't rained in a weeks time and you need to go out and water it by hand to keep it growing.
Step 3: Mow
It seems counter intuitive that continually cutting something would help it grow better. But that is exactly how grass works. Grass must be mowed often, no more than 7 days between cuts when the grass is green. This encourages the grass to spread out, fill in bare patches and choke out weeds. Make sure to mow at least once a week and we recommend at least 3.5" tall for St. Augustine.
Bonus Points: Aerate and Compost Top Dress
For those who want really healthy grass then it is also a good time to aerate and spread a top dressing of quality compost. This helps the roots get nutrients and water more easily, plus adds much needed organic matter into the soil to help build the soil biology needed for great grass.