photo: Zanthan Gardens a mowed lawn
2003-08-15. I mowed my lawn.

August 15th, 2003
Lawn Care South Austin Style

After a few days of scattered thunderstorms and a 20 degree drop in temperature (from 110 to 90), the St. Augustine greened up again. So I decided it was time to cut it. I forego cutting during the hottest days of summer. I believe that cutting the lawn, stresses it. And when it’s 100 degrees and hasn’t rained in a month, the lawn is stressed out enough. The longer grass shades its own roots, so it doesn’t need as much water as shorter grass.

Also, (while I’m rationalizing), I feel that not cutting the grass in the heat of summer is my civic duty. A lot of summer days are “ozone action days” and you’re not supposed to use gas-powered lawnmowers on “ozone action days” because it just makes the pollution problem worse.

You’ve probably read that waiting too long between cuttings also stresses out grass (because you end up cutting off more than 1/3 of the leaf) and causes thatch to build up. But I don’t have that problem and here’s why. I don’t use chemical lawn fertilizer on my lawn. So it grows at a natural rate rather than like a high school jock pumped up on steroids. And that natural rate slows down a lot when it gets too hot and dry…like the six weeks from the beginning of July to the middle of August.

I do fertilize the grass with Dillo Dirt in the spring (March/April) and early fall September. I also make a mulch of Dillo Dirt wherever the grass has thinned. But most of the fertilizer comes from the grass itself. I have a mulching mower. In the fall I mow all the leaves into the lawn. And in the winter, one of the best tricks I’ve discovered for improving the lawn is to rake and mow. If there is any thatch buildup, this gets rid of it and mulches the soil at the same time. Grass loves mulch. Haven’t you noticed how it makes straight for those lovely mulched flower beds?

In a green shade.

August 12th, 2003

Sometimes it just takes a visit to someone else’s garden to recharge one’s gardening batteries. Of course, a bit rain and cooler temperatures help, too.
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When you’re hot, you’re hot.

August 8th, 2003
The Heat Is On

Well, it’s that time of year again: day after day of triple-digit highs. Yesterday it reached 108 degrees at Camp Mabry. That broke the 50-year record for the day. Yesterday was the hottest day this year–until today, that is.

Today, at 2:12PM, the temperature reached 110 degrees at Camp Mabry. That’s a record high for August, and it tied with for second-hottest day ever recorded in Austin, 110 degrees on September 4, 2000. Austin’s all time high was 112 on September 5, 2000.

A freakish thunderstorm brought 2 minutes of rain to my garden, but at least the rain is supposed to break the streak of triple-digit highs.

So what do I do in the garden this time of year? I hole up inside, making plans for the fall garden, updating this garden website, and reading garden books and catalogs for consolation and inspiration–same as northern gardeners do when their snowed in for the winter.

I do a bit of hand-watering each day between 7AM and 9AM, weeding and straightening up as I go. I have to aerate the mulch as I go or it forms a hard crust that doesn’t let the water soak in under it. But the yard definitely has a weedy, seedy, neglected look which defies you to find a garden in it.