Randy, do I need to DE-THATCH my grass?
Randy, how often should I have my turf AERATED?
Randy, when do I SCALP my lawn?
I'm getting hammered with versions of these questions both on and off the air as of recently. I suppose anyone who has my book Gulf Coast Gardening with Randy Lemmon probably knows the basic answers to those three questions.
Anyway, here's the whole story!
First, let's get the record straight on "DE-THATCHING" for the Houston area. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again -- "Thatch build-up" has risen to mythical proportions, mainly because of unscrupulous sales tactics by lawn fertilization services. (By the way - If someone has told you that you have a THATCH PROBLEM; my bet is they were also trying to sell you some product or service.) Unlike parts of the Midwest and Northeast, we just don't have a serious Thatch Problem. If your mulching mower is pulverizing the grass small enough, you shouldn't have a thatch build up. Those that still bag their grass clippings (I don't understand that, and it's a huge soap box issue for me, but we'll leave that discussion for another day) absolutely should have nothing to worry about. Even then, a once-a-year AERATION also helps to prevent a thatch build up. By definition, THATCH occurs when our organic material from the mulching process is produced faster than it can decompose.
A certain amount of thatch is desirable, because it works as a cushion for high traffic areas and an insulator from extreme temperatures and reduces water evaporation. Finally, if you actually used a POWER RAKE, THATCH RAKE OR DE-THATCHER on St. Augustine and Bermuda lawns, they'll look horrible, and quite possible damage them to a point of no return. For transplants here in Houston, you simply don’t have to use such devious equipment on your lawn here.
The key to finding out if you have too much thatch is to dig out a small square of grass with dirt, roots and all. Then look at the layer of organic material between the grass blades and the soil line. If it's thicker than one-half inch, then AERATION is probably in order. And you can link back to last week’s tip sheet for all answers on Core Aeration or Aeration in general.
But while we covered Aeration last week, it still leaves the questions "Do I need to Scalp my yard?" Many people may actually be unfamiliar with what we call SCALPING. The scalping is usually the first mowing of the spring, in which we lower the mower by an inch or so below the normal setting. And this is the one time of the year I actually encourage the use of a bagging lawn mower. Because, by lowering the mower and using the bagger, you're vacuuming up all the debris and dead grass from the winter. Not only does scalping remove the dead to dormant grass, but it opens the roots and soil to fresh air and sunshine. WARNING: If you scalp too soon into the season, and we suffer a freeze, the root system of the grass is extremely vulnerable. That's why we SCALP only when we are certain there are no more freezes heading our way. Finally, if you don't have a lot of dead material in the lawn, you don't really need to SCALP, instead you probably just need to AERATE.
GardenLine Profile: Nature’s Way Resources
Home of The Famous 2-Year-Old Leaf Mold Compost
101 Sherbrook Circle
Conroe, Texas 77385
If you listen to the radio program enough, you’ve probably heard mention of a specific product known as 2-Year-Old Leaf Mold Compost. I admit, that to the gardening novices, it’s not that easy to remember, and has been butchered "verbally" on the radio program: "Randy, I’m looking for that Leaf Mulch Compost"; What’s that 20-Year Compost you talk about?"
This week’s GardenLine Profile is all about the only place that makes this proprietary blend of 2-Year-Old Leaf Mold Compost, and that’s Nature’s Way Resources.
Nature’s Way Resources is the company that John Ferguson started years ago, mainly as a means to provide his own eco-friendly landscaping company, a high quality source of compost, soils and mulches. But what John discovered after some successful test cases in and around the Houston area, he would have more success being the sole such a prolific provider in the area of said high-end compost, soils and mulches.
What you may not know about John is the life-threatening moment in his life that, looking back, is assuredly the catalyst that led to the creation of the most environmentally-friendly, high quality line of soils, composts and mulches Houston has ever seen. Over 20 years ago he experienced an allergic reaction to a common fungicide that almost cost him his life and took him six months to recover from. As a result he started intensively studying the new research that was emerging on biological methods in horticulture and agriculture. He already had a degree in soil sciences, but he had put that to work in the oil industry.
So, John left the oil industry in March of 1993 with the plan to start a landscape company that provided low-maintenance and environmentally-friendly landscapes using the newer methods. This type of landscaping requires lots of organic materials, but the local suppliers at that time, just didn’t manufacture compost of the quality he desired. This led John to find out what it would take to produce a few thousand cubic yards of compost annually for use in his landscape company. Fast forward several more years and some great land purchases, mixed with locating the best sources of yard and tree waste, and by 1998 John Ferguson’s Nature’s Way Resources was now a bona-fide source for any Environmentally-Conscious Landscaper and/or Lawn Service looking for high-end compost, soils and mulches.
Honestly, there’s not enough time in these GardenLine Profiles to give the history of NWR any justice. So, please don’t hesitate to peruse the website and read much of the history and the mission statements involved. So, let me fast-forward again, to the year 2004 when Ferguson decided to start making bagged-material available to more and more retail garden centers, since not everyone owns a truck or a trailer to haul off cubic yards of 2-Year-Old Leaf Mold Compost at will. Nor, do they need 2 cubic yards of compost at that.
Over time, an assortment of sands, decorative gravels and rocks were added to the product line to provide for the needs of our customers. Additionally, NWR now carries several lines of organic fertilizers, trace mineral packages, and other organic supplies, even my book Gulf Coast Gardening with Randy Lemmon. And if you have never read my tip sheet on Take All Patch, there’s a glowing write-up in there on how, through John’s help, we’ve discovered how good that 2-Year-Old Leaf Mold Compost is when it comes to Take All Patch Control.
In January of 2004 the business was relocated to a 42 acre tract of land near the previous location across I-45, at 101 Sherbrook Circle. If you are interested in having NWR products delivered, or if you can pick them up in bulk, here’s a link to their website explaining how it all works but if you only have a need for a few bags here and there, here is also a list of retailers that carry his bagged material.
Nature's Way Resources
101 Sherbrook Circle
Conroe, Texas 77385
Hours: M-F 8-5 Sat: 8-2
(936) 321- 6990 Houston Metro
(936) 273-1200 Conroe/Montgomery County
(936) 273-1655 Fax
Until next issue, here's to Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard exclusively, 6-10 a.m. Saturdays and 7-10 a.m. Sundays, only on NewsRadio 740 KTRH.