Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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March 20, 2013

Lovely Lawns: Spring yard care includes working on grass, flowers, shrubs

JACKSONVILLE — On Feb. 2, a furry little groundhog came out of his burrow on Gobbler's Knob in Punxatawny, PA – in front of thousands of followers from all over the world – to predict the weather for the rest of winter.

According to legend, if Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring.

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and the spring season in East Texas promises to bring significant rainfall and colder weather, according to at least one forecaster.

Chad Evans with WLFI Weather blog predicts that flooding will be possible in southern California to Texas with snows in northern and central Texas to Oklahoma. 

“I think there may be one event where a cold upper low brings wet snow to Dallas, Austin with perhaps flakes to San Antonio & Little Rock. The southern U.S. just looks wet with frequent rain & storms with a lot of chilly, gray days,” Evans reports.

In light of such predictions, how does one prepare lawn and garden for spring and summer beauty?

Loving Your Lawn

Mark Scallon, owner and manager of Pineywoods Lawn Care said the ideal proper care for beautiful lawns starts in the fall, with a pre-emergent weed control.

For those who neglected this important application, don’t give up hope: with careful tending, lawns can still thrive.

“Leaves should be raked to help prevent fungus, because they serve as a moisture base for fungi to get started,” Scallon said.

“One of the biggest problems we have in Cherokee County is the Rhizoctonia species, commonly known as brown patch, a fungus noted usually by thinned patches of light brown grass that are roughly circular in shape.”

To treat brown patch, Scallon said, a fungicide must be applied that is specifically labeled for that disease. Good examples are Daconil and Terra-chlor. Both can be purchased at local nurseries.

“A homeowner tending his or her own yard would fertilize starting early to mid-March, with succeeding applications made every two months during the growing season,” Scallon said. “A lawncare expert could start the applications earlier using approved nutrients with proper weed control.”

He recommends homeowners have a soil sample taken every 3-4 years to determine the soil’s proper pH and consequent lime requirements.

“Sometimes lime is applied when it can be detrimental, particularly with Centipede lawns,” Scallon said, “so a soil test will tell whether or not to apply lime.”

To take a soil sample, obtain a bag from the Cherokee County Extension office. The bag will have directions for taking the sample, which can be sent to either the soils lab at Stephen F. Austin State University or Texas A&M.

“They will evaluate the sample and recommendations for proper fertilizer and lime, if needed,” Scallon said.

Scallon, an agronomist with a degree from SFA, said homeowners can take the sample themselves, or contact a lawn care professional, who can interpret the analysis and make the proper application.

If a frost is predicted, Scallon said the best thing to do is to water the lawn. If you can do it ahead of time, do it as soon as possible after the frost. This will help the plant recover, as the freezing effect dries out plant tissue.

A different subject concerns having mowing equipment inspected and properly maintained, according to Scallon. “A sharp blade is imperative,” he said.

“After the danger of heavy frost, lawns should be scalped to remove dead tissue. This will help the lawn green up more quickly and also help to remove thatch (dead grass from the previous year).

“Care should be taken not to scalp too early; the last average frost date for this area is March 15. Any time after that date should be okay,” he said.

Also, Scallon said, homeowners with sprinkler systems should have their system checked for broken lines, heads, etc. Repairs should be made through a reputable irrigator.”

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