By Ginger Easton Smith, County Extension Agent
Release date: May 25, 2021
I prayed for rain but forgot to request that it be received in one-inch weekly allotments! The good news is that the heavy rain we had last week means we can save water this week. The deep soaking is wonderful for plants of all sizes (grass to trees) to expand their root systems – the roots will grow deep because the soil is wet to a deep level and expand out sideways.
Your challenge is to not water your lawn until the leaf blades begin to curl just a wee bit and you can see a color change in them-they will turn a slightly bluish hue. Give the roots a chance to go down deep. It will not hurt the plants at all, in fact it will be an advantage to them.
Take note of how many days after the last rain it takes the grass and other plants to wilt just slightly and then plan to water at intervals of one day less than that. Conserving water is important and will become more so. You will also save on your water and sewer bills.
Plants in pots or that were recently put in the ground are the exception and need more frequent watering.
The rain was fantastic for trees! They are smiling now. Trees that are well established will not need to be watered for a several weeks. Their roots are growing deep and wide, just like we want them to, and like they want to do.
Deeper roots mean better water infiltration, improved uptake of water and nutrients, better drought-tolerance and greater tolerance to other stresses encountered for all plants.
Do you know what will not like infrequent watering? Mosquitoes! Their eggs can hatch, and larvae develop, in just a tiny bit of water. Letting the soil surface, built up grass thatch, and mulch dry out some will decrease the little beasts’ options for reproduction. Be sure, as usual after a rain, to walk around your property and dump out anything that is holding even a capful of water to reduce (or at least not grow) the mosquito population.
Thunder and lightning storms actually produce nitrogen-enriched rain, it is at low levels but is still a bonus. Be glad (and proud) if you did not fertilize before the big rain since much of the fertilizer would have been washed away in surface runoff or leached down below the root zone. Either way, the plants cannot use it and it ends up in our estuaries and bays where it is a pollutant.
Fertilize lightly now if your plants need it, using a slow-release product. If the soil is dry on the surface, water very lightly following the application just to moisten the fertilizer. If the soil is wet, no additional watering is needed.
Compost is a good source of nutrients, as well as organic matter, increasing both the water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil and the good microorganisms. It is great for all plants so apply about a half inch layer of it to as large an area of your yard as you can. It will quickly work its way down into the soil.
When it is dry enough to mow, keep in mind that in general, the higher the cut, the deeper the roots – they mirror each other. The recommended mowing heights for turfgrass are: Common Bermuda 1.5 – 3”, Hybrid Bermuda 1 – 2.5” (reel mower recommended), St. Augustine 2.5 – 4”, Seashore Paspalum 1 – 2”, and Centipede 1.5 – 2”. Recommended heights for other grasses are readily available online or in printed publications.
Leave the grass clippings on the lawn, they contain 2-4% nitrogen which will make the grass green. Grass clipping must, by local ordinance, be kept out of gutters to prevent them from getting into storm drains and then into the bays and estuaries, which can cause major problems. Clippings on the sidewalk or street should be raked or blown back into the yard.
With the rain and the heat, our gardens and landscapes should be bursting into bloom.
Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, genetic information, age, or national origin. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating.