By Tori Linville
Summer has settled in, and so has prime landscaping season. It’s time to take stock: Is the lawn becoming more lush and green, or more brittle and brown? What can a homeowner do if it’s the latter? With the tips and tricks we’ve collected from some of Tuscaloosa’s lawn and garden experts, a greener lawn can be in your horizon.
Tom Ball, owner of West Alabama Yardworks, said he recommends staying on track with watering in order to maintain a healthy lawn. Ball said by staying on top of watering the yard, weeds will be less of a problem.
“If you get behind [with watering] it’s an uphill battle,” he said. “Fertilize when you’re supposed to depending on what grass you have.”
In addition to lawn maintenance, those looking to add new plants during the summer have a variety of choices to pick from. Ball said hawthorns, junipers and purple orchids are all among plants that are suited to handle the summer heat.
“They’re all low maintenance plants. Everyone wants low maintenance plants that don’t grow quite as fast so they can keep up with them,” he said.
Plants like vegetables, roses and camellias all take the heat well too, Neal Hargle said. Hargle, a Tuscaloosa County Extension agent, said the best thing for a yard is a soil test. The test collects samples from several different parts of a lawn and reports on how many nutrients are in the ground and about the soil’s pH levels.
“The report can tell how stressed a yard can be, and more stress tells you about the kinds of weeds and pests that could be present,” Hargle said. “People waste a lot of money on fertilizer and they can prevent that by doing a soil test.”
Soil testing kits can be found at retail lawn and garden stores such as Home Depot or Lowes, but they are also available at Walmart or online.
Hargle said it’s extremely important to know what time of day to water. It matters.
“Water the lawn in the morning, not the evening, for an hour one day a week,” he said. “If you water in the morning, the ground soaks up just as much water, and the sun evaporates water. But in the evening, excess moisture just sits on the grass during the night, and fungi can grow.”
When it comes to buying plants for gardening or just for landscaping, Hargle said knowing what different phrases mean helps with the selection process. He said research is key and can help people learn the importance of phrases such as “full sun” and “partial sun” when buying plants. “Full sun” indicates a plant should get eight hours of sunlight, while “partial sun” indicates only six hours.
Fertilizers such as weed n feeds aren’t a good product for the South, Hargle said, because there is not enough temperature gradient change to accommodate for the weed n feeds.
If weed n feeds are a good product for your lawn, due to the type of grass or other factors, Ball said the best time to use weed n feeds is actually before weeds are spotted.
“Pre-emergent herbicide can be used to keep the weeds in control,” he said. “Weed ‘n feed works well, but put it out before you see weeds. A lot of people do it after they see weeds it won’t get all of them, but it’ll get 99 percent of them if you stay on top of things.”
Tips and Tricks:
- Get a soil sample before doing any major landscaping or lawn maintenance
- Stay ahead of your watering, and water lawns and plants in the morning for one hour/week
- Pick low maintenance plants that can take the summer heat when landscaping
- Research is your best friend when looking for the perfect plant and/or lawn maintenance method
- Most importantly, understand that every lawn is different and has different needs