10 reasons not to plant a winter lawn


As St. Augustine grass goes dormant in the fall, many homeowners over seed their lawns with winter rye. While winter rye does add a lush greenness to an otherwise dull lawn, homeowners may want to rethink this habit.

  • Save water. Winter rye needs watering three times a day for the seed to germinate. Once established, ryegrass needs watering every three to four days. Dormant St. Augustine needs little or no water.
  • Save money. In much of the area, annual sewer rates are determined by the amount of water used during the winter months of December, January and February. This is typically when the least amount of water is used. The watering requirements for winter rye increases the amount of water used dung that period, thus raising sewer bills for the rest of the year. Additional costs include mowing, labor and cost of seed.
  • Prevent fungal diseases. Although damage from take-all patch and brown patch becomes evident in late spring and summer, these diseases actually attack St. Augustine in the winter. Other fungal diseases like rust and powdery mildew are common in winter rye. Winter rye seed may be infected with one or more of these fungal diseases. Irrigation during the winter actually encourages these to infect and damage the lawn.
  • Save on fertilizers. St. Augustine does not require fertilization in the winter. Winter rye usually does.
  • Prevent pests from infecting St. Augustine. Rye grass attracts army worms, wire worms and aphids, all of which can wreak havoc with St. Augustine. Many of these insects can overwinter in the topsoil and return in spring to re-infest the lawn.
  • No need to scalp lawns. Planting winter rye usually means scalping the lawn first. The problem here is that St. Augustine should NEVER be scalped. St. Augustine spreads by above-ground stolons. Scalping severely damages the plant.
  • Decrease noise pollution.  While some enjoy the droning of mowers and blowers, these noises may not be the most welcome sound while sitting in the backyard on a mild winter day.
  • Preserve the quality of water.  We don’t live in a vacuum. Foregoing the planting of winter rye means less fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides will be used. A significant portion of water pollution of our streams and waterways comes from runoff of these products.
  • Give your St. Augustine a break!  Over seeding with winter rye can be very stressful for St. Augustine.  Scalping the lawn to plant ryegrass stresses it. In spring, rye competes with St. Augustine for water and nutrients, further weakening it.
  • Save time and frustration.  Seed germination problems, diseases, irrigation, fertilizing, noise, stress to the grass and to the homeowner, are additional reasons to forego winter rye.

What’s in a name: heirlooms, hybrids and GMOs


When it comes to understanding and distinguishing the difference between heirloom plants, the lines are clear to commercial growers, but may be a bit blurry to the home gardener.

Heirloom plants

If you’re part of the baby boomer generation, your grandparents, and probably your parents grew heirloom vegetables almost exclusively. Most heirloom seeds have been handed down from generation to generation – most regions of the country. They were hand-picked by gardeners for a special trait – perhaps the specific taste of a tomato, or the hardiness of a squash plant. Some may have been developed by a university when commercial breeding of vegetables was just beginning – at least a half century ago. Some heirloom varieties are centuries old.

The most descriptive aspect of heirloom plants is that they are all open pollinated, which means they are pollinated by wind or insects and no human intervention is needed. Also, the characteristics of heirlooms tend to remain stable from one year to the next.

There seems to be general agreement among gardeners that heirloom varieties taste better than hybrids or GMOs.  However, heirlooms are known for certain inconsistencies. The harvest time may be unpredictable, and the size of the fruit can vary widely.

Some heirloom fruits and vegetables include lemon cucumbers, Mexican Sour gherkin cucumber, Pink Accordion tomato, Lebanese Bunching effplant, green nutmeg melon, Romanesco broccoli and Chiogga beet.

Hybrids

Since heirlooms were generally used for home consumption, Gardeners grew them for flavor. However, with increasing U.S. population after World War II, commercial growers began looking for consistencies in harvest time, size, amount of production, ship ability and color of vegetables and other plants.

Plant breeders create hybrids when they intentionally cross-pollinate two different varieties of a plant, hoping to create a new hybrid variety that contains the best traits of both parent varieties. Although hybrids are often confused with genetically modified organisms, there is a significant difference.

Of course, cross-pollination takes place naturally as well but when hybridizing, growers carefully control the pollination to make sure that the traits they are looking for occur with the offspring. Traits they may be looking for are resistance to disease, insect or fungal infections, and bigger or more uniform size. Creating the right hybrid takes many long years of experimentation and recording of traits.

The Juliet (Roma) tomato is an example of a hybrid tomato. So is Sun Gold, a yellow cherry tomato.

Sime of the good traits of hybrids are: dependability in size and color, uniformity in color and flavor, better disease resistance, higher yield and less care required.

Hybrid corn goes back centuries –  to the Mayans in Central America. Hybrids include carrots, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage and squash.

GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)

These are plants (or animals) whose genes have been changed using genetic engineering processes. Scientists use genetically modified organisms to produce medicines and foods.

In plants, scientists have been transferring genes for years now. Genes have been transferred within the same species, across species and even across kingdoms. GMOs are also being used in the research and production of pharmaceutical drugs, experimental medicine and, of course, in plants.

There are many GMO crops and many GMO seeds available. Some of the commercial vegetables and food we eat have been genetically modified. The idea behind GMO engineering is to produce a trait in a plant that does not occur naturally in the species.

In plants, GMO species are bred to create resistance to pests, diseases, environmental conditions. It can also help in reducing the amount of large amounts of the food product spoiling that occurs during long transportation. Genetic engineering of plants can also make them resistant to herbicides.

GMOs are not restricted to plant species. Many foodstuffs contain GMOs: baking powder, citric acid, condensed milk, glucose, glycerin, lecithin, maltodextrin, protein isolate starch, sugar, vegetable fat, and vitamins B!2 and E. If you object to consuming GOs, buy certified organic and look for the non-GMO label.

Heirloom plants are not hybrids and hybrids are not genetically modified organisms. Hybrids and heirlooms are not genetically manipulated in labs. They don’t contain foreign DNA from a species that is very different.

GMOs however, cannot exist without laboratory manipulation, Monsanto is the largest developer of plant GMOS, and are followed by several other biotech companies.

Mike Serant of Microlife discusses organic fertilizers and lawn products


Bob Dailey checks in with Mike Serant, Owner of MicroLife Fertilizer. Learn about MicroLife, why its a great product line but also the science behind it and all life.

Here’s an article from Mike’s webpage:

Only with Organics can we grow the best testing and healthiest food possible.

One major reason Americans per capita, have more diseases than any other developed country is the vast majority of our food is poor quality. We can change our destiny by buying and growing the cleanest food possible and that is with Organics.

The Law of Nutrition states; “When any organism is fed the highest nutrition possible, that organism will hit it’s optimum potential and have the least amount of problems.”

This is true be it plant, animal, or human. Since the 1970’s, most American Farmers and most American food processors care more about volume than our health.

We can change all that by “Going Organic.” And by simply following Nature Law, we get excellent harvest and delicious foods that are safe. Organics programs are easier than going chemical and we feel much better about them. There is a science called Biophilia that tracks the DNA connection between plants and humans. Quite amazing to know that we are related to plants and when we take of our plants, they take care of us. A wonderful book that helps to explain this is “Your Brain on Nature” by Dr. Eva Selhub. Dr. Selhub will be coming to Houston via OHBA in January 2019. For more information head over to ohbaonline.org.

It is important to note that all chemicals fertilizers provide poor nutrition to plants and hurt soil health. Soil health and plant health are directly tied together. We want a fertilizer that improves both. Also recognize that chemical fertilizers only provide up to 7 minerals, but plants need at least 52 to be healthy and the human body has 79 elements in it. When we feed plants only 7 elements, there is tremendous disconnect with what is required for good health.

Remember, ‘we are what our plants eat.’ When pants are grown with chemicals, malnourishment sets in and plants become susceptible to pest insects and disease. The chemical industry answer to this is to spray poisons on plants. That poison doesn’t go away and when we, as humans, eat malnourished foods that have poisons sprayed on them, we too, get sick. Another great note for Organics is that when plants get a full load of minerals their flavonoid metabolites are enchanted, and flavonoids are another way or saying flavor. That’s why well grown organic foods always taste better.

 

Danny Millikin discusses organics at The Memorial Park Conservancy


Bob Dailey sits down with Danny Millikin to talk about The Memorial Park Conservancy, Organic Gardening and much more!

Daniel is a plant health enthusiast who loves soil, soil biology, root anatomy and the way they all work together. Prior to joining the Memorial Park Conservancy staff, he served as the Lead Horticulturalist for Hermann Park Conservancy, and previously operated an organic, edible-focused landscaping company. Daniel is a ninth-generation Texan and due to his strong Texan heritage, is drawn to native Texas plants and conserving the natural setting. He has always loved Memorial Park and the nature in motion that he experiences here. He attended Stratford High School on the west side of Houston and is a Spartan to the core. Daniel enjoys spending time with his wife, their two daughters, and their rescued pets. He loves introducing beginner vegetable gardeners and native novices to new or better ways to grow their own plants. He hosts the radio show “HomeShow Garden Pros” on SportsRadio 610 every Saturday morning.

Over four million people have access to Memorial Park each year. The Park boasts 30 miles of hiking trails, winding, wooded roads, and numerous sports facilities. The Conservancy is a non-profit organization.

Read more about The Memorial Park Conservancy here

The W.I.S.E. Guys help homeowners save water and money


Bob Dailey interviews a WISE guy about the water conservation programs at WJPA.org and other municipal water districts.

More about The W.I.S.E. Guys

A free and fast way to have your irrigation system checked. If your irrigation system is a few years old, some sprinkler heads may have broken can break. Plants may have grown blocking spray patterns, your landscape may have changed, or the water pressure may be different from when your lawn or plant beds were installed.

That’s where The W.I.S.E. Guys come in. A free service offered by many municipal utility districts in Texas, the W.I.S.E. Guys are licensed irrigators vetted by the MUD, who will do a complete assessment of your irrigation system. If your area MUD doesn’t offer this service, encourage them to do so.

Read more about the W.I.S.E. Guys here

Interfaith’s Organic Vegetable Garden


Sarah Munday, with Interfaith of The Woodlands’ Veggie Village, at the Alden Bridge Community Garden.

90% OF FOOD HARVESTED DONATED TO INTERFAITH FOOD PANTRY

Veggie Village, community donation gardens, are welcoming places where people work and learn together while providing fresh organic produce to the Interfaith Food Pantry and Senior Living Complexes. The gardens are located at the Alden Bridge Sports Park and Wendtwoods Park (in the Village of Creekside) in partnership with The Woodlands Township and many community volunteers.

Read more about Veggie Village

Exploring rainwater harvesting with Master Gardener Mike Mendeck – Part 2


Part 2 with Bob Dailey at the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension service for Montgomery County in Conroe walking to Mike Mendeck . Mike is a master gardener and a rainwater harvesting specialist. Here, Mike takes us through the extensive rainwater harvesting systems at the Montgomery County Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service in Conroe, Texas.

Read more about Master Gardeners here

Rainwater Harvesting Made Simple


Master Gardener and Rainwater Harvesting Specialist Mike Mendeck explains the basics of rainwater harvesting and some of the special tricks he and other master gardeners have developed to enhance rainwater harvesting.

Find out more about the Montgomery County Texas Master Gardeners here.

Information about rainwater harvesting from the Texas Water Development Board.

No irrigation for 11 months? Impossible!


Take a look at this lawn in the photo. Located outside the WJPA building on Lake Robbins Drive, in The Woodlands, Texas this lawn has not received irrigation – except for rainwater for the last 11 months. The only water this lawn has received is from rain.

How is that possible? Good lawn practices, proper (and inexpensive) care of the soil under the turf, and only a small bit of organic fertilizer.

Here’s how it was done:

The lawn receives about an inch of compost per year. Two compost applications (each a one-half inch deep), made in October and early April, help add organic material to the soil, as well as adding essential microorganisms that assist grass roots to grow and resist disease. Once a year, again in April, a scattering of organic fertilizer is spread on the lawn.

The lawn is mowed weekly between April and the first of October. From the beginning of October, through the end of March, mowing is discontinued.

No large patch, take-all patch, sooty mold or insect problems are present.  Because of that, no herbicides, fungicides or pesticides are used or needed.

According to recent studies, soil with sufficient organic matter (about five percent of the total mass) can three quarts or more of water per cubic foot. Instead of rolling off the surface of the soil when it rains, the soil absorbs much of it. This makes the soil under the turf into a passive rainwater catchment, which grass roots can access during dryer periods.

Water stored in the soil, added to increased permeability of the soil because of the organic matter, allows grass roots to grow deeply and strong, enhancing the turf’s ability to withstand disease and pests.

This healthy lawn signifies what is possible with a small amount of work at low cost, without depending on purchased water or expensive lawn treatments.

Backflow Preventers Important for Health, Safety Reasons


We all take the water we drink, bathe in, or prepare food with, for granted. We assume that the water will always be clean and safe to drink. There is, however, a hidden risk that many people don’t give enough attention to – backflow preventers.

Occasionally, situations take place that can impair the quality of drinking water. One common occurrence is the breaking of a private water supply line or a public water main. When something like this happens, water that is polluted or that may contain harmful contaminants can backflow into the potable system, threatening the quality of our drinking water.

Backflow is generally caused by changes in water pressure. For instance, if a water main breaks or a fire hydrant is activated for fire suppression, pressure goes down and this can cause water to flow opposite of the direction it was meant to travel. That means if your irrigation system is connected to your house piping – soil, fecal bacteria and other contaminants that have entered the irrigation heads and piping can “backflow” into your home drinking water, and perhaps into the public water system.

Here’s a true event reported by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:              While mixing a batch of pesticide, a worker pushed a garden hose into the tank until it touched the bottom. Nearby, city utility workers opened a flush valve, releasing a large flow of water from a water main. Where the worker was mixing the pesticide, the water pressure dropped, and the flow in the hose reversed. Water and pesticides flowed from the pesticide tank back through the hose and into the water lines of the residence.

Fortunately, the worker mixing the pesticide realized the danger and alerted the utility workers, who closed the flush valve before the contamination reached the city’s distribution line. Still, good water and time were wasted.

The solution to this risk is to have a backflow preventer installed. TCEQ requires homeowners with irrigation systems and most commercial buildings to have one. Regular tests and inspections insure that your household plumbing and the public supply is protected.

In addition, residents should install backflow devices on hoses that are used for drip irrigation or hose head sprinklers. The same opposite flow can occur if there is a drop in pressure. These hose backflow preventers are simple, inexpensive devices that provide the same protection.

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