Water is a critical consideration when talking about lawns in Texas. Climate changes can drastically effect the quality of all turfgrasses, but some more so than others.
Reduced rainfall may mean irrigation is required, further reducing limited water supplies. Even when rainfall seems to be abundant, homeowners should be aware that the plentiful conditions may be short lived.
When considering new turfgrass selection, select grasses according to their intended uses, planting location, and maintenance requirements. In most landscaped areas, turf grasses have the highest water demand and the highest maintenance requirements of all plants.
The key to watering Texas lawns is to apply the water infrequently, yet thoroughly. This creates a deep, well-rooted lawn that efficiently uses water stored in the soil.
Fertilization during drought conditions
Do not apply excess nitrogen and create excess top growth in the turfgrass plants during the spring months. Creating excess top growth will affect the plants ability to develop a deep, extensive root system necessary for survival later during the summer months.
If water use is restricted, DO NOT FERTILIZE.
Take a soil sample and have it tested. Potassium is a key nutrient in stress tolerance for turfgrass plants, including drought tolerance. If soil potassium levels are low, then apply a fertilizer in the spring that has both nitrogen and potassium in the fertilizer.
Slightly raising the mowing height will help reduce some stress on the turfgrass plants and reduce the amount of water loss due to evaporation. However, raising the mowing height doesn?t mean the turfgrass plants will use less water as some people believe. In fact, the increased height means the turfgrass will actually use more water due to the increased exposed leaf surface where water is released back into the atmosphere.
Limited Cool Season Grass Usage
Bluegrass (limited to panhandle area only)
Tall Fescue (North Texas)
Ryegrass (overseeding for fall / winter green)
Warm Season Grass Usage
Warm season grasses are sometimes damaged after severe winters. In such instances, you can either leave the dead spots if they aren't too large and just let the existing grass gradually fill the dead spots, or fill in with plugs to match the existing grass.
Buffalograss -- prefers sun and mown high
Bermudagrass -- sun and mow low
Carpetgrass (coastal areas)
Centipedegrass (southern Texas)
Fine Fescue (shaded areas in North Texas)
St. Augustine (southeast Texas-- Floratam recommended)
Zoysia (eastern Texas -- sun or shade, mow to 2")
Winter kill describes the loss of turfgrass plants during winter months. This can be caused by: low temperature kill (freeze damage), desiccation (drying out of plant material), disease activity and insect damage such as grubs.
In most years, desiccation is the number one reason for loss of turfgrass. With the extensive drought conditions that Texas sometimes experience, including winter months, loss of turfgrass from desiccation is potentially going to be a major problem. Those who did not, or were not allowed to water their turfgrass plants during the winter months could experience loss of plant material.
Grasses such as St. Augustinegrass and Centipedegrass are especially susceptible to winter kill from desiccation during winter months. While these are hardest hit by the dry conditions, it is also possible to loose turfgrasses such as bermudagrass and zoysiagrass, especially if they were not watered at all in late summer and winter months.
Common diseases that cause Winter Kill
Promoting healthy growth and avoiding conditions that cause stress to your turfgrass is the best way to prevent a severe disease outbreak. Stressed lawns are an open invitation for a lawn disease to gain a foothold. Optimal maintenance practices are the best way of avoiding stressed turfgrass.
Even if a pathogen is present in the soil, infection will not occur unless the environmental conditions are conducive to disease development. Once turf diseases have become active, they can cause heavy damage if not treated properly. Here is a list of common diseases to Texas lawns: