Category Archives: Turf Grass

April in the Garden

Spring has sprung despite the unpredictable April weather. It is a busy time as we all rush around to put those finishing touches on our gardens, flowerbeds and lawns.  Here are a few things that you should pay attention to this month.20160328_153545

  • If you have not already done so, April is a great month to top dress your lawn, garden, and flower beds.Feed trees, shrubs and hedges.  Roses are greedy plants and will greatly benefit from feeding as they come into growth.  We offer a full  line of balanced fertilizers or you can get a delivery of our Cow Compost or Turkey Compost to add to your flower beds.

 

  • With the summer heat lurking, it is also a great time to mulch your garden and flower beds. You can save yourself some labor and time by using Geo Grower’s Magic Mulch to conserve moisture in your flowerbeds. Magic mulch is a mix of composed cow manure and shredded hardwood mulch to help you get the most out of your flowerbeds during our hot summers

 

  • .If you are using the mild April weather to install a new lawn, Geo Growers offers Thunder Dirt to create a stable and fertile base for all your grass planting.

 

  • Lift and divide perennial plants now to improve their vigor and create new plants for your garden.

 

  • It is not too late to plant trees. Geo Growers can provide you with a supply of Geo Tree Mix to give your trees the best chance of surviving the hot summer months.

 

  • Check that your container plants are not drying out – warm weather will quickly affect soil moisture levels.

 

  • Check that your container plants are not drying out – warm weather will quickly affect soil moisture levels.

 

What to Plant in April:

SEEDS:
EARLY APRIL:
Vegetables:  Lima beans, snap beans, beets, chard, okra, black-eyed peas, radishes,
New Zealand spinach, summer squash

LATE APRIL:
Vegetables:
Cantaloupe, sweet corn, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, watermelon

Herbs:
Anise, basil, bay, catnip, chives, comfrey, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, scented geranium, germander, horehound, lamb’s ear, lavender, lemon grass, lemon verbena, Mexican mint marigold, oregano, rosemary, sage,santolina, summer savory, winter savory, sorrel, southernwood, tansy, tarragon, thyme,
wormwood

Annuals:
Cleome, Coleus, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Gourds, Hyacinth Bean Vine, Impatiens, Moonflower Vine, Periwinkle, Sunflower, Tithonia, Zinnias.


 

PLANTS
Vegetables:
Eggplant, pepper, summer squash, sweet potato slips, tomatillo,Tomatoes

LATE APRIL:
Vegetables:
Cantaloupe, sweet corn, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, watermelon

Herbs:
Anise, basil, bay, catnip, chives, comfrey, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, scented geranium, germander, horehound, lamb’s ear, lavender, lemon grass, lemon verbena, Mexican mint marigold, oregano, rosemary, sage,santolina, summer savory, winter savory, sorrel, southernwood, tansy, tarragon, thyme,
wormwood

Perennials:
Black-eyed Susan, Coneflower, Daisies,  Lantana, Plumbago, Salvia, Yarrow,

Turf Grass Selection Pt. 8

By George Altgelt

In our last column there was a mistake in the last paragraph. The comparison I was making was between someone who was hypoglycemic (abnormally low blood sugar) and a plant with low sugar content in its plant sap. A person in this condition can hardly move, a plant in this condition can barely grow, becomes sickly and weak and will succumb to insect and fungal attacks.

Last column’s text read “If your plant sap sugar content is not where it should be” should have read “is where it should be,” meaning it will be growing vigorously and handling everything the environment can throw at it. Too much phosphorous prevents trace minerals from getting into the plant, that in turn causes the sugar content in the plant sap to drop and with it the vigor and vitality of whatever plants are living in that soil. In every sense of the word plants are a reflection of the soil they are in. Additionally animals are a reflection of the plants they are eating and we, at the cellular level, are a reflection of the plant and animal products we are eating.a-soil-microbes

This is why, at Geo Growers, we strive to make every soil blend the most balanced package of nutrients it can be. Once the fertility issues are addressed and balanced the stage is set for a most remarkable piece of magic. That is when the plants and their roots interact with the structure and fertility of the soil through the microbial life of the soil. Everything from the bacteria and fungi that colonize the roots to the microbes that digest and render available the organic matter, to the exotic microbes that fix nitrogen without the presence of legumes, work together as a cohesive whole. At a specific point where they are all in cahoots with one another a functioning soil ecology is born! I know I should have said “where they are all in partnership with one another,” but the word cahoots is so much more fun. Cahoots means “shady dealings” and as we all know living soil does best with some shade. But also there is the hysterically funny notion that soil microbes would be down in the dirt plotting and scheming to pull off something utterly ludicrous, like overthrowing a tree or a shrub. Actually they are doing their very best to accomplish just the opposite. We humans can help them, if we know what we’re doing, and speed the process up immensely. Then a thriving soil ecology can do what it has always done, like make more plants, make more soil which holds more water allowing it to soak into the ground and fill the aquifers rather than running off and flooding creeks and rivers and making muddy large bodies of water. The point of all this is to create a balance. We can know what we are doing. There are lab tests for soil and tissue analysis for plants. There is also experienced professional advice and common sense.

If you’ve got a question or need help call us at Geo Growers. Meanwhile we hope to see you here. Happy Hort’n.

Turf Grass Selection Pt. 7

by George Altgelt

Certain Disaster just ahead? Soil nutrients becoming toxic? For whom? “Jeeze Louise” George you make it sound like were on a runaway train about to cross the Pecos river and the bridge is out.

OK, OK, so maybe were not all about to die but the living soil that’s about to take it on the chin. So let’s talk about how this can happen. What was once a near perfect phosphorous load in the soil is rapidly becoming too much phosphorous with repeated applications of NPK fertilizer. The phosphorous “stays put” while the nitrogen soaks away or floats away as a gas. The lawn needs just nitrogen but keeps getting more phosphorous and potassium with each new application of fertilizer. This is roughly analogous to a person being fed only carbohydrates when they desperately need protein. That person is drowning in all kinds of nutrients with no way to rebuild their body into a coherent structure for a lack of protein. Proteins, incidentally, cannot be made without nitrogen. It’s the same for people, plants, and animals. This is why nitrogen is so very important in the nutrient package carried in the soil for the sake of your plants, crops, turf grass, garden, etc. This is why water held in the soil is critical and its temperature not be too warm. But what about toxic build up and disaster just ahead? Here’s how it happens.

More and more phosphorous winds up in the soil because it “stays put” really well. At a certain point the presence of phosphorous ties up micronutrients; things like, copper, manganese, molybdenum, boron, and so fourth. Trace minerals are of great importance. For example, once molybdenum falls below one part per 600 million citrus trees will not set fruit, all those flowers and no oranges. All that work and no production. However, the main drawback to trace minerals being locked up and and not taken up (not assimilated) is this: Dramatic drop in the sugar content of plant sap. To give you a quick comparison it wouls be as if you suddenly became hypoglycemic. Your blood glucose is reading 20 when it should be reading 105! You have no energy, you can barely move. The same is true for all plants, when their plant sap sugar content drops they lose their vigor. They can hardly grow or handle changes in their environment, much less extremes. This puts them under great risk to insect and fungal attacks. If your plat sap sugar content is not where it should be you will be building your house, when it drops down you find that all you can do is stay inside lying on the couch hoping the house doesn’t burn down.

All this comes from an out of balance nutrient package in the soil. These and other disasters to be averted will be the subject or our next column.

Meanwhile, Happy horticulturi’n

Turf Grass Selection Pt. 6

By George Altgelt

So, how tall should turf grass be? That’s what we were looking at the last time. With turf grass our range of choices are limited to the settings on the lawn mower. Even so, what you choose will have an enormous impact on the vitality and productivity of your lawn. Taller grasses mean cooler soil, greater water retention and better soil ecology. This was the idea put forth in my last column, along with indications this will save you money. So what’s the mechanism here?

Let’s start with the typical mistake (or ploy) on the part of the lawn care company (guy with a lawnmower) of lowering the lawn mower in the summer months because the grass is not growing very fast. Possibly it hasn’t grown at all since the last time it was cut. “I’ve got to make it look like I did something, I’ve got to justify my bill” is the usual motive behind this high crime. More light is then absorbed by the soil, which turns to heat. Hot soil holds much less water. Now, water is the medium for absorbing nitrogen that is released from the decomposition of proteins from all those grass clippings that hopefully know one is bagging up. Of course there is much more to those clippings (phosphorous, potassium, macro and micro nutrients, and cabohydrate energy for microbial life etc.), but nitrogen (as a gas or as nitrates and nitrites) must be in the presence of adequate water to be dissolves and held long enough to be absorbed by the plant roots.

The key word here is “held.” Some soils may have barely adequate to fair water holding capacity, but take away the shade by mowing the grass too short and it can’t hold nitrogen long enough to recycle it. Nitrogen just floats off as a gas. Then your nutrient package goes out of balance because the other major plant foods are minerals. Those minerals can range from adequate to abundant but the grass won’t grow because it needs nitrogen. The lawnmower guy figures it is time to fertilize, he gets you to spring for it and comes back with some high number fertilizer like 24-10-10. The 24 represents high nitrogen whereas 10-10 represents high phosphorous and potassium levels. In this fertilizer the nitrogen is a water soluble salt, it sinks downward through the soil and winds up in the creek or aquifer. The other nutrients don’t leech downward so easily and they build up to toxic levels. This further imbalances the nutrient load in the soil. What certain disaster lie ahead? You won’t want to miss next weeks column.

Meanwhile, Happy Landscaping

Oak Wilt Prevention

What is Oak Wilt?

Oak Wilt is a fungus Ceratocystis Fafacearum, that infects the vascular system of all species of Oak Trees, especially Live Oaks, or properly known as Quercus Fuciformus.  The infection is lethal if left unchecked. It is much easier to take steps to prevent the infection than to try and save the tree after diagnosis.

Visible symptoms of Lie Oak Wilt:

pic_oak2

  • Reddish brown discoloration of central leaf veins (veinal necrosis)
  • Die off of major limbs on the tree
  • Rapid defoliation
  • Marginal scorch
  • TIp burn

For mor information: http://texasoakwilt.org/oakwilt/oak-wilt-identification/

How serious is Oak Wilt?oak_wilt2

Oak Wilt is very serious. It is spreading in Central Texas at an accelerating rate. More information can be found at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service web site: www.fs.fed.us

 

Is there something one can do to prevent Oak Wilt from developing?

Full Throttle Thunder is a granular treatment that may help prevent the infection of Oak Wilt.  Thunderhead Soil Inc., specifically designed this treatment tIMG_2844o restore the mineral balance as well as enhance the immune system within the plant tissues of Oak trees and all plants.

How does Full Throttle Thunder Work?

Thunderhead’s Full Throttle Thunder supplies trace minerals that are missing from most fertilizer formulations.  Th nutrients in Full Throttle Thunder are supplied to the root system with a unique humic acid delivery system.

Humic acid and humates are often in short supply in soil systems. The humate molecular structures allow for mineral accumulation and distribution.  This facilitates uptake of nutrients by the roots of all plants.  Humates and humic acid help foster robust microbial populations.  Microbial populations are individuals and groups of microscopic life forms that live in the soil and have a symbiotic or interactive relationship with the roots of plants.

These living microbes are referred to as soil biota and are parts of the soil food web.  They aid the transport of water, minerals, and complex molecules into the roots of the host plants they serve.

Austin area testing of this product began in 2002.  The use an study of this treatment is ongoing.  This product may also help reverse the symptoms of Oak Wilt. Positive response from Full Throttle Thunder users continues t accumulate.

Can Full Throttle Thunder Be used on the lawn?

Yes,  Full Throttle Thunder benefits your lawns, shrubs, flowerbeds, and plants for the same reason it benefits the Oaks.  It restores trace mineral balance and rebuilds the soil food web. It enhances the natural soil biota with humic and fulvic acids.  These groups of microbes must be diverse and distributed throughout the soil system to best serve the plant environment.  Full Throttle Thunder replenishes these microbial populations.

Where can I find Full Throttle Thunder?

Retailers of  Full Throttle Thunder are located in the Central Texas region and wherever our brochures are on display or at

Geo Growers, LLC
12002 Hwy 290 West
Austin, Texas 78737
(512) 892-2722

Turf Grass Selection Pt 5

by George Altgelthowtall1

How tall should turf grass be? Well, what do you want to end up with? Something nice to walk on? The manicured look? Easy maintenance? Minimum water usage? The best place to start is with a look at the physics of light and heat. When sunlight reaches the surface of almost any given object it is absorbed and turned into heat. Heat is a form of light (infrared) that can travel through solid matter, i.e. rocks, concrete, pavement, bricks, soil, shoestrings, soap bubbles; you name it and heat can move through it. Heat moves faster through things that are dense and slower through things that are fluffy. There are, however, instances when light is absorbed that it does not become heat.

Say for instance when light strikes a green leaf or blade of grass. What happens next is a wonder, a miracle, an event so awesomely complex that no computer yet devised can track even one second’s worth of activity taking place within a single cell of the simplest plant. What we do know however, is that instead of turning into heat the light is used via the agency of chlorophyll, to make sugars, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins which are organized into larger structures called plants. In short, light is used to drive the biological machinery of plants instead of turning into heat. The rest of us life forms who cannot do this are deeply in their debt.

If you have a lawn of green grass, light striking it is used up powering the biological reactions that grow the grass. Some of the light reaches the soil and is turned into heat. Taller grasses mean more light is used up driving biological processes and less is absorbed by the soil and turned into heat. Cooler soil means soil that holds more water. Soil that holds adequate water not only provides for the needs of the plant populations growing in it and on it (not just grass), but also becomes a hospitable habitat for a very large array of soil microbes. As mentioned earlier these air breathing microbes do the work of making nutrients available to plants. Taller grasses, cooler soil, greater water retention, and better soil ecology.

Turf Grass Selection Pt 4

whichgrassby George Altgelt

The selection process for turf grass, based on “What do you want it to do?”, has now reached the question of foot traffic. Buffalo grass, while beautiful to look at from a distance looks lousy up close after a party or a Bar-B-Que. It looks obviously trampled and does not recover quickly. Zoysia fairs much better, however it does not bounce right back after an event. Bermuda will show signs of being walked on and is very reliable when it’s time to re-grow and recover. However, Bermuda is not much fun to play on (for kids and adults alike), walk on or romp on because it’s so thin. Bermuda grass has no cushioning effect. When it comes to foot traffic, recovering from parties, romping and rough-housing one grass stands out from the rest. That grass is St. Augustine.  I’m not just speaking from my own experience; this is the same answer I get from professional lawn maintenance providers. Every time I ask that question the answer that  comes back is always the same, “Yeah, if you want a grass that stands up to foot traffic, St. Augustine is it.” The people I’m asking this question of are knowledgeable and experienced professionals who have been in business a long time. These are not the kind of people who lower their  lawn mowers in hot weather just because the grass stopped growing and they want to make it look like they did something.

Now that the subject of “How tall should the grass be?” has been brought up, let me say that it is an intricate and important part of water conservation, soil health, and the subject of next month’s column. This is also taking us in the direction of why water conservation is connected to traditional water rights and why that is becoming a hot, if not explosive political issue.

Till’ next time, HAPPY LANDSCAPING

Turf Grass Selection Pt 3

wateringby George Altgelt

As promised, this month we’re going to talk about turf grass selection. The best question, as always, is: “What do you want it to do?”

We’ll start with the amount of water it will use. The real question is how much water you’re going to put on it – enough to keep it green or just enough to keep it alive? For all four turf grasses (Buffalo, Zoysia, Bermuda, St. Augustine), the answer is “none” to “a lot ” depending not on the type of grass but the soil under it. For example, there is a home in Oak Hill that has had a lawn around it for 25 years. In this area there have been some pretty tough droughts in that time period. However, in all that time, the owners have never watered it. Or fertilized it, or poisoned it, for that matter. They don’t do anything for their yard except occasional mowing. So what is this grass? It’s St. Augustine! That’s impossible, right? Everything  you’ve heard says that can’t be true.

Remember that the success or failure of plant life is a reflection of the soil ecology that sustains it. This lawn is planted on rich bottom land – in this case, pecan bottom. The shade from the trees is also a factor. You could not grow Buffalo grass and Zoysia wouldn’t do very well. So how brown does the grass get in a drought with no one watering it? Pretty brown, certainly, but its resilience is sustained by the living soil underneath it. That rich soil is what creates a drought-tolerant lawn of St. Augustine grass. And how, exactly, did they do that? Simple! They didn’t water it.

Next month we’ll continue the selection process by examining such things as the amount of foot traffic expected. That includes all kinds of feet: dogs, kids, party guests, neighbors, militant pamphlet distribution agents, and other assorted groups of curious onlookers.

‘Til then, HAPPY LANDSCAPING!

Turf Grass Selection Pt 2

p025Just as I promised there will be more discussion on turf grass selection this month. However, now is an excellent time to explore the fundamentals of soil structure and function as it pertains to turf grass production. Understanding these things will lead us directly to the satisfaction and bliss that comes from that sea of green turf grass that we grow ourselves.

Any turf grass can be considered as a crop, and, as such, requires real fertility to overcome weeds and to be able to handle environmental stresses such as too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too much foot traffic etc. Consider the fertility factor of “loft.” Loft is how fluffy a soil is. How fluffy it is, is a factor of how easy it is for a grass to grow its roots and runners through it. Loft is also a factor of how easily a soil will absorb water, as opposed to it running off into the creek along with the fine particles of your remaining topsoil. Loft is also a factor of how soil breathes. That’s right, you read it right, how soil breathes. Soil breathes? How does it do that, and why is that necessary? The microbial life in the soil, the ones that live in symbiosis with the grass roots (and many others) are air-breathing microbes. They must have a fresh supply of oxygen to digest carbon for energy and do the work of transporting water, foods, and minerals into the plant’s root system. If the available oxygen is limited, the work the microbes do is also limited. For the plants (turf grass in this case) the limited microbial activity means less water, nitrogen, trace minerals, phosphorous, calcium, and all the rest. The plants growth slows down, it loses its vigor. Weeds, pests, and pathogens can and will take advantage of this. Oxygen rich soils counter all this mayhem and make your lawn healthy and strong.

So how does this fluffy soil breathe you ask, having never seen it heave up and down, at least not while you were looking. It breathes, so to speak, with changes in barometric pressure, even minute changes. This is what pumps air into and out of the soil. Oxygen is not the only gas going in and out of the soil; there is also nitrogen, and that’s free nitrogen for your crop or turf grass. There are microbes not associated with legumes that also fix nitrogen into the soil and make it available to plants. These are called azotbactor microbes.

This one factor referred to as soil loft is probably the most unsung hero of soil fertility. Next month more on turf grass selection.

Turf Grass Selection Pt 1

bison-buffalograss_600By George Altgelt

At Geo Growers we get so many questions about turf grass it’s hard to know where to begin. The best place to start is to ask what you want to end up with; how easy is it to maintain, and, most importantly, how much water will it require?  Quite often, the most recommended grass is the most disappointing. Here I am speaking of Buffalo grass. Yes, it’s the most drought tolerant of all grasses but it will not take foot traffic, it will not grow in the shade, and the soil you plant it on top of must be relatively fertile and weed free or the weeds will take over. You must also be prepared not to mow it. That may seem like a strange drawback for a turf grass but here’s what happens: A few weeds show here and there in a stand of buffalo and the caretaker makes a decision to mow rather than pull, this is the beginning of then end. Once the grass is cut it loses its competitive advantage of shading the soil. The weeds can handle the hotter drier soil and they quickly make use of the increased light. After a few more mowings it will not look like the original vision of a prairie.
This weed problem can be avoided of course with the placement of a two-inch layer of a weed-free, fertile soil blend. This excludes Sandy Loam, which has no water holding
capacity, leaving it a mud pie under wet conditions and a brick when dry. This material is so totally dead and infertile that it becomes a waste of money to amend it. Living soils
must have organic matter in them in order to support microbial life, hold water, and recycle nutrients, especially nitrogen. Sandy Loam’s high PH rating, 9.4 in some cases,
destroys organic matter. The caretaker winds up having to fertilize often, use toxic substances to control pests and weeds, as well as water all the time.

With the correct soil none of this would be necessary. A living soil enables a lawn to go long spells between watering, never needs fertilizer, and never ever needs toxic rescue chemicals which will poison our well water and stock tanks. Next month
more on turf grass selection. Continue reading Turf Grass Selection Pt 1