Grow a Beautiful Lawn

by Elmer Krehbiel, Master Gardener
April 9, 2004

Warm season lawn grasses that are attractive during the spring months may not retain their condition during the Texas summer. Lawn should not be all work and no play. How can some problems be prevented?

The health of the grass is based on the soil, air temperature, and preventing disease or insect damages.

The ideal soil consists of 50% solids and 50% pore spaces; that is, mineral elements 45%, organic matter 5%, water 25%, and air 25%. Soil for warm season lawn grasses should be sampled and analyzed during the winter. Clay type soils usually need more pore spaces and may need some fertility elements. The sandy type soils usually need more solids and more fertility elements.

Renovate Now!

The soil must be moist enough to push a tool down, or an aerator will not penetrate it, and a machine will pull the operator across the lawn fast. An aerator machine requires a physically strong operator. Aerating the lawn soil is also too slow for many gardeners, but it is probably the best treatment of the soil in the Brazos Valley. After soil is aerated, air, water and soil amendments enter down near the root zone. They become effective quicker and plant roots grow deeper. Compact soil causes more water and soil amendments to flow out of the lawn and into streams.

Aerator equipment that pulls cores of soil out is more efficient. Aerator equipment with spikes punch holes into the soil, but compacts the soil around the hole. The attachments for tillers make a continuous cut in the soil. Golf courses greens usually are aerated many times each year. The lawn may be aerated by some custom-lawn service. An aerator machine may be rented or purchased. Also, aerator attachments are available for some tillers, or a manual aerator tool may be purchased.

Next, one should apply organic matter, some fertilizer, and water as needed over the grass. Then, you should see an improved lawn during the future.

Grass clippings help retain moisture, fertility and lower the soil temperature. Grasses that are mowed taller will grow roots deeper. Plants with a larger root system and top growth are stronger. They are less susceptible to diseases, insects and undesirable weather conditions. Do not apply too much water and/or fertilizer that causes the grass to be weaker.

Now is the best season to renovate an older lawn.

Starting a New Lawn

Factors to consider before starting a new lawn are expected use, drainage, appearance, then the cost to establish and maintain it.

There are several types of grasses that are adapted to the Brazos Valley. They need dense growth, durability, and attractive foliage. No grass is perfect in this area. Grass species should be evaluated before selecting the one to establish.

Grasses for the Bryan/College Station Area

Traits Buffalo Bermuda St. Augustine Zoysia

Texture, leaves

fine-medium fine-medium very-coarse fine-medium
Traffic tolerance high high fair medium-high
Water requirement lowest medium highest medium-high
Fertilizer needs lowest medium-high medium medium-low
Mowing, inches 2 - 3 1/4 - 3 2 - 3 1 - 2
Mowing, times 1 / month 1-3 / week 1-2 / week 2-4 / year
Sunlight full 9 hr / day 4 hr / day 7 hr / day
Shade no poor best good
Color blue-green dark green bright green dark green
Common problems too much water of fertilizer     weeds
Common pests or diseases none Bermuda mites, grub worms chinch bugs, gray leaf, brown patch, St. Augustine Decline, grub worms grub worms

Grass Varieties

  • Buffalo grass: Common, Prairie, 609, Texoka, Commanche, Plains, Topgun
  • Bermuda grass: Common, Tifgreen 328, Tifgreen II, Tifway 419, Tifway II, Texturf 10, U3, Santa Anna, Floratex
  • St. Augustine grass: Common, Floratam, Raleigh, Seville
  • Zoysia grass: Emerald, Meyer, Japanese

Our house should be the centerpiece of the landscape and the lawn the welcome mat to it.

More on Lawn Care

t of Keep Brazos Beautiful. See his column in The Eagle.