August 15th, 2003
Lawn Care South Austin Style

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

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?

by M Sinclair Stevens

4 Responses to post “Lawn Care South Austin Style”

  1. From margaret:

    I can’t believe that green grass is in Austin in mid-summer – it looks more like England. We have experienced some unusual weather this year – temperatures in th. high 80’s low 90’s are very unusual. We still haven’t had any appreciable rainfall for weeks: mos. extraordinary for the Manchester area.

  2. From M:

    The green is unusual, but we had some rain and cooler temperatures for a couple of days. We don’t always get such welcome relief so early in August. It’s sort of like having an unusually warm spell in mid-winter. Some trees are tricked into budding out and suddenly the gardener is enticed into garden and tempted to do things that should wait for spring to really come.

    Whenever we get a couple of cool days like this, I start thinking I should be out planting for fall. Then we’ll have another month of days in the 90s and all the tender, new plants die. Just last weekend I bough a coral bean bush. It promises to be very pretty. But it was large and expensive and I don’t know if it can stand being transplanted this time of year.

  3. From rantor (Austin):

    Have you considered using a non-power push-type reel mower? Even though they’re not as cheap as they used to be (we paid $30 new over a quarter centery ago), they last a long.long time. Because they make practically no noise, the lawn can be mown before it’s even really light, while it’s cool. Edging shears work instead of weed-whackers also.

    Actually, yes! I’m getting a push mower in the next few months (maybe for Christmas), when my current mower finishes breaking down. Currently it’s held together by computer ties. I don’t have any other power garden tools. No weed-whacker. No leaf blower. No chain saw, even. I did buy a gas-powered chipper after the big storm in September 1995 felled half the trees on our lot. But I haven’t used it in years. — mss

  4. From rantor:

    The place where the mower used to be sharpened annually (chain-saw operation downtown) closed, but Eco-Wise, just off South Congress, will do a satisfactory job at a reasonable price. This kind of lawn-mowing is quicker and easier, even a pleasure (though those who haven’t tried it never believe it!) and works well for getting around trees and shrubbery.