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Ants & Jimmy Stewart

Who has been stung by an ant and thought “ants are good, they are an essential part of our environment and we could not live without them” says no one ever!  But it’s true!



I won’t bore you with a lot of numbers but there are over 22,000 different species of ants in the world and they have evolved over the last 99 million years from the wasp family.

  • They are smart and are good problem solvers, working well together within their colonies, each doing their job and are adaptable to change.  Us humans could take some lessons from these tiny guys!
  • Ants are pests themselves but they eat the eggs of even pestier bugs – like flies, fleas, bedbugs and cockroaches – and help rid areas of pests that do serious damage to gardens and crops.  They’ll eat ticks, termites and even scorpions.
  • By feeding on dead animals and other insects along with dying vegetation they help keep our world clean.  
  • Ants are natures soil tillers, their underground tunnels help with air and water circulation of the soil which benefits all plant life.  Earthworms steal the credit, but ants do the real work.
  • Plant seeds are carried by ants back to their nests where some will take root, thus helping plants spread and grow over a wider area.

I realize that ants do good work, but I don’t want them bothering me while they do it.  I do not use a complete insect killing granule on my lawn since it kills many beneficial bugs – including the most important of all – the bee.  I choose to kill individual fire ant mounds with Quick Kill which works within minutes killing the entire colony and queen.  Lesser ants like sugar ants are dealt with in a similar fashion.   

Ants are like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” – the world is a better place with them in it.

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A Little Bit About Grass Seed Planting

I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the best type of grass seed to plant. My answer is two part –

1) the ground temp is still a bit cool to germinate all of the seed, so I’d suggest waiting a couple of weeks;

2) are you planting in sun or shade?

Common Bermuda is the most economical grass to plant and the most forgiving. It germinates in 5-10 days and grows in most soil conditions and is drought resistant. It will spread and cover your yard quickly. It does best in sun and does not do well in shade.

Centipede Grass germinates slower than Bermuda – up to 30 days. It also prefers sun but will tolerate shade. It is an aggressive grower when healthy and will choke out weeds and other grasses. Being heat tolerant and low-maintenance it is a favorite in East Texas.

Zoysia Grass is a dense turf and once established creates a thick lawn that also chokes out weeds. However, getting it established from seed can take a long time. Germination is 21 days, but its growth rate is so slow most people choose to plant with plugs or sod. It prefers sun but tolerates more shade than Bermuda.

Methods for planting warm season grass seed can be spreading seed directly with a seed spreader or through hydromulching. This is a method of mixing a slurry of water, mulch, seed and fertilizer and spraying it on your soil through a hydroseeding machine.

There is no warm season grass seed that performs well in the shade in our area. The best grass for shade is St. Augustine but can only be planted from plugs or sod.

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Spring To-Do List

What to do now:

  • Plant shrubs, container roses, perennials and trees now.
  • Spread pre-emergent on your lawn and in your flower beds if you have not done so yet this spring.
  • You can lay sod in your yard.  It will not be green, but the roots will grow into your soil and the grass should begin to green up by the middle of April depending upon temperature.
  • You can fertilize your rose bushes once you begin to see new growth emerging.
  • Fertilize established shrubs in late March or early April, use an all purpose granular fertilizer (13-13-13) and make sure to water it in thoroughly.
  • Watch for aphids on plants this time of year.  They are small and come in a variety of colors and can be found on the new growth of your plant.  Treat with insecticide and prevent re-infestation with a systemic insecticide.
  • Finish up pruning any summer blooming shrubs by the end of March. 
  • Established perennials should be cleaned up (remove dead stems, leaves, etc.) and fertilized this month or in early April.  Use an all-purpose granular fertilizer (13-13-13) and water it in thoroughly. 
  • Fertilize seasonal color (annuals) with a water-soluble fertilizer to promote growth and flowering.
  • You can continue to prune deciduous trees during March.

What not to do yet:

  • Wait until mowing grass (not weeds) 2 times before fertilizing your lawn.
  • Wait until after your azaleas bloom to fertilize the plant.
  • The soil is not warm enough to plant warm season grass seed like Centipede, Bermuda or Zoysia.  Soil temperature must be over 65 degrees for the seed to germinate.  Wait until our night-time temps are at least 65 degrees consistently (mid April).
  • Do not prune pine trees in March – they tend to bleed more during this time of the year.
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Should I Weed & Feed?

From the research I’ve done on this subject the answer is unanimously NO, it is not recommended for our area in North East Texas.   

What is Weed and Feed?  It is a granular combination of fertilizer and weedkiller in 1 bag.  In theory it sounds too good to be true and according to the experts it is just that. 

The granules aren’t as effective as spray weedkillers since most herbicides work through leaf absorption.  Granules fail to adhere to the weeds as well as a weedkiller applied as a spray. In turn the granules of fertilizer that stick to the grass blades can cause stress to your grass.

Application through rotary spreaders scatters the granules into flowerbeds and under trees which can cause damage to desirable plants.  Directions on the bag caution against using under trees and shrubs but tree roots can grow 1 to 1 ½ times the tree’s height out from the tree making it difficult if not impossible to prevent contact of the weedkilling herbicide to the roots of trees and shrubs. 

Neil Sperry says, “No” to the use of Weed and Feed.  In our area the best time to apply a weed killer is not the best time to apply fertilizer to our grass, so applying them both at the same time through the use of a Weed and Feed is not ideal.

He suggests the following for weed control and fertilizing your lawn in spring:

  • Apply a pre-emergent weed killer to stop germination of weed seeds in late February to March and then again in June.  
  • Use a broadleafed herbicide to kill clover, dandelions and other non-grassy weeds, 2-4,D in spray form. 
  • Fertilize your lawn in North Texas around April 1- April 15th.  Wait until your grass is actively growing. 

There are people who have applied Weed and Feed for years with good results and will disagree with this article.  Please don’t send me emails…  There are 2 sides to every coin and that adage fits as to whether you decide to apply or not to apply Weed and Feed.  

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It’s Time To Put Out Pre-Emergent!

Is it always weed season in Texas?  Seems to be the case.  Actually, we have 2 main weed types – cool season weeds and warm season weeds.  What’s growing now are the cool season weeds and as they begin to disappear the warm season weeds will take their place – so yes, it is always weed season in Texas!

The best place to start is to understand what you’re up against.  Weeds throw off thousand of seeds per plant, think about that – thousands per plant, multiplied by how many plants?  Not all of them live and sprout into a weed, otherwise the world would literally be overrun by weeds. 

One method of weed control is by using a pre-emergent in your lawn and flower beds.  This chemical option stops weed seeds from germinating and becoming a weed.  Spread the pre-emergent granules onto your lawn and in your flower beds before the seeds begin to germinate.  The granules are broken down by water so watering the area after applying allows the herbicide to be drawn down to the seed level. 

When do I apply a pre-emergent?  In early spring (mid-February/March) to prevent warm season weeds and in the fall (Oct) to prevent cool season weeds.  It is so much easier spreading these granules than pulling weeds!

Neil Sperry suggests using a pre-emergent with Dimension as the active ingredient.   Bring us your lawn and bed dimensions (pardon the pun) and we’ll calculate how much you need. 

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Trimming Ornamental Grasses

I have a weakness for Ornamental Grass.  They look good as a single plant swaying in the breeze and are stunning in mass plantings. 

They do require annual trimming to look their best.  I usually leave mine untrimmed until the first of February since I like the straw color and winter interest they create.  There are many different tools that can be used and it depends upon what you are most comfortable with and the type of grass you are trimming.

The goal is to cut the grass down to the correct height.  A grass that grows to 3’ or under should be cut back to a height of 3 inches and taller grasses should be cut to 6 inches.  If you cut too low, you risk cutting into the crown of the plant which can result in loss of clumps throughout the plant.

Dress for the jobwear a long-sleeved shirt and gloves so the grass blades don’t irritate your skin.

Tools for the job

  • Hand pruners
  • Hedge shears
  • Bow saw
  • Powered hedge trimmers
  • Bungee cord or twine
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Chain Saw
  • Weed eater with a brush blade

You won’t need all of these – remember, I said there were several methods, and each has its preferred tools.  You can choose the one(s) you are most comfortable working with and gives you the best results.

Helpful Hint Gather the grass like a big ponytail and wrap the bungee cord around the clump.  The grass will stay bundled as you trim and not scatter everywhere. This also makes cleanup so much easier since you can dispose of the cut clump as one large piece instead of hundreds of blades.

Start Trimming Use the cutting tool(s) of your choice to cut through the grass. The large, established grasses may require more than pruning shears – this is where the power tools such as the weed eater with a blade or powered hedge trimmers or even a chain saw for Pampas grass is necessary. It is helpful to have a friend hold up the clump so it doesn’t fall on you as you cut.

Neatening Up After the main clump has been cut and disposed of then finish up by making the cut uniform.  You many want to spread a fresh layer of mulch to cover up the many fine pieces of the grass blades that are scattered about. 

Now your grass is ready for spring.

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It’s Fall! Time to put out Pre-Emergent!

Is it too late to apply a pre-emergent to my lawn and flower beds since it’s Fall?

No, this is the perfect time to broadcast pre-emergent granules on your lawn and flower beds to help prevent cool season weeds from germinating and growing this winter. Your lawn will be so much healthier when it isn’t competing for nutrients and water with ugly weeds.

Neil Sperry suggests using a pre-emergent with Dimension as the active ingredient. There are several products that include Dimension and we’ve found one that works in both lawns and flower beds which has a higher concentration than many on the market – thus saving you money. Bring us your lawn and bed dimensions (pardon the pun) and we’ll calculate how much you need.

A Pre-Emergent lawn care product eliminates weeds at the earliest stage of growth — before you even see them. Several key factors are important to consider if you want to use this type of weed killer effectively.

Here in East Texas, because our weather is all over the place, it is recommended to put it down every 3 to 4 months.

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Grass Got the Summertime Blues?

You’ve been watering your grass all summer long and it may look bleached out.

Make it look like spring again with Ironite!  This granular iron product is simple to apply to your lawn and will make your lawn or plants turn green – not overnight but almost.ironite-fertilizer-mineral-supplement-canada-reviews-broadcast-spreader-settings

You might ask, why not just use some fertilizer?  DON’T!!!  Applying fertilizer to your lawn at this time of the year can burn your grass and can easily stripe your yard.

The Importance of Iron

Plants need iron and cannot properly create chlorophyll without it. This results in poor growth because chlorophyll plays an important role in photosynthesis.  Chlorophyll also gives plants their green color, and the primary symptom of iron deficiency are leaves that are yellow between their veins.

ironite-lawn-fertilizer-hi-yield-iron-plus-grassHow to Apply

A 10 pound bag covers 5000 sq feet and is easily applied with a spreader.

HINT:

Combine a granular ant killer with the Ironite into your spreader and get a 2 for 1 punch.

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