Dead grass and bare spots plus weeds

UrbanMythx(9)May 1, 2012

Hello I'm a newbie and I just bought a house and I have no idea how to take care of lawns. I have St. Augustine grass and my lawn has empty spots and dead grass. I also have lots of weeds. I'll post a picture. I see duck and goose poop in the bare spots. I have an irrigation system that is set to water for 10 minutes per zone using the city's conservation schedule of Thursday and Saturday before 10am and after 4pm. I have not mowed this lawn yet I don't even own a mower yet but I don't want dead grass and weeds. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lawn1

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

That area is near dead from drought stress last season. It needs ONE INCH of water ONCE A WEEK. Very few sprinklers can dish out a full inch of water in 10 minutes. Mine takes 8 HOURS to get a full inch. You should be able to fit an inch into your city conservation schedule unless you are limited to 10 minutes per week. You'll have to measure the output of your sprinklers. Use a tuna can or cat food can and time how long it takes to get an inch.

It also needs fertilizer. I can help you with an organic approach but not with chemicals. I've forgotten everything I once knew about chemical ferts.

Here is the 1-2-3 of lawn care...

Basics of Lawn Care

After reading numerous books and magazines on lawn care, caring for lawns at seven houses in my life, and reading numerous forums where real people write in to discuss their successes and failures, I have decided to side with the real people and dispense with the book and magazine authors. I don't know what star their planet rotates around but it's not mine. With that in mind, here is the collected wisdom of the Internet savvy homeowners and lawn care professionals summarized in a few words. If you follow the advice here you will have conquered at least 50% of all lawn problems. Once you have these three elements mastered, then you can worry about weeds (if you have any), dog spots, and striping your lawn. But if you are not doing these three things, they will be the first three things suggested for you to correct.

Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means at least an hour in every zone, all at once. Infrequently means monthly during the cool months and no more than weekly during the hottest part of summer. Do not spread this out and water for 10 minutes every day. If your grass looks dry before the month/week is up, water longer next time. If that does not work, then you might have to water more than once per week during the summer's hottest period. Deep watering grows deep, drought resistant roots. Infrequent watering allows the top layer of soil to dry completely which kills off many shallow rooted weeds.

You will have to learn to judge when to water your own lawn. If you live in Las Vegas your watering will be different than if you live in Vermont. Adjust your watering to your type of grass, humidity, wind, and soil type. It is worth noting that this technique is used successfully by professionals in Phoenix, so...just sayin.' The other factors make a difference. If you normally water 1 inch per week and you get 1/2 inch of rain, then adjust and water only 1/2 inch that week.

Every week mulch mow at the highest setting on your mower. Most grasses are the most dense when mowed tall. However, bermuda, centipede, and bent grasses will become the most dense when they are mowed at the lowest setting on your mower. In fact there are special mowers that can mow these grasses down to 1/16 inch. Dense grass shades out weeds, keeps the soil cooler, and uses less water than thin grass. Tall grass can feed the deep roots you developed in #1 above. Tall grass does not grow faster than short grass nor does it look shaggy sooner. Once all your grass is at the same height, tall grass just looks plush.

Fertilize regularly. I fertilize 5 times per year using organic fertilizer. Which fertilizer you use is much less important than numbers 1 and 2 above. Follow the directions on the bag and do not overdo it. Too little is better than too much. At this point you do not have to worry about weed and feed products - remember at this point you are just trying to grow grass, not perfect it. Besides once you are doing these three things correctly, your weed problems should go away without herbicide.

Really really tall St Augustine needs much less water than when mowed. Here is a picture of my 35-pound dog sitting in my "lawn". It looks more like a pasture but there are no weeds. I live on the edge of the desert and tomorrow I'm going to water this spot where she's sitting for the first time this year.

That grass is about 20 inches high. Of course to have grass like that you can't be hampered by homeowners associations or pesky neighbors (or spouses). At this house I don't have to worry about that.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 8:38PM
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10 minutes per zone might do more harm than good. Put out a pie pan and find out how long it takes to get 1".

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 12:53AM
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Thanks for the replies! I measured my irrigation system output at about 1/2 inch for 10 minutes. What should I do?

That's beautiful grass dchall_san_antonio!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 2:45PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Okay. Water for 20 minutes once a week in the hot heat of summer. Now you might be able to go 14 days. Watch it carefully around 10 days, though. When you water frequently your short little roots cannot go quite as long as after you have been on the deep and infrequent regimen for awhile.

Thanks for the compliment. No one else has called it beautiful. Amusing is what most people think. I think it has an appeal, though. The experiment is to see how long you can go without any water or fertilizer and still have it survive. So far the grass under the shade of the oaks is going very strong. Out in the sun it is much shorter and needs water. We have talked here for years about the benefits of tall grass - meaning mowed at the mower's highest setting. I have taken that further to suggest not mowing fescue at all in the heat of summer. So I am putting my money where my mouth is. Mine is not fescue but I'm hoping to encourage someone else to try this. It takes my "no hassle" approach to lawn care all the way to the limit. No watering, no mowing, no fertilizer. So far no weeds and no pests. The season is still young.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 9:11PM
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I found out that the bare spots were caused by rabbit droppings and stress from not being watered. The grass that is alive was in the shaded areas of the lawn. The weeds are now being treated and hopefully will be gone in a few weeks. I plan on putting in plugs in the bare spots. In the front yard I'm probably gonna sod the bare spots. I am determined to have a nice lawn.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 11:15PM
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