Sick grass

I am trying to diagnose a possible SAD infection of my new Palmetto St. Augustine grass. Even though Palmetto is advertised as a superior St. Augustine, it appears to easily catch diseases.

These are images of “sick” parts of my grass. I am not sure if I have SAD or downy mildew or something else. While some pieces of grass show SAD-like symptoms, most show strong symptoms of downy mildew or fungus.

You can barely make it out, but this blade has parallel stripes running down its length.

Another blade with stripes and burn marks.

Stripes and burn marks readily apparent.

The lighter-colored areas are where the grass is discolored. The grass on the left half is the “new” grass from Sept. 2006. The grass on the right is old grass. The grass in the foreground is some native (?) bermuda that grew over a spot where I filled in some dirt.

More representative grass sections.

Here’s a piece showing SAD-like symptoms and burn marks.

Another view with other striped grass blades shown more prominently.

We have hummingbirds!

Yesterday, as we were leaving to go feed the local ducks some nasty stale bread, we spotted a hummingbird in our landscape. It was feeding on a cardinal flower, a plant that attracts these birds. I got these shots with my camera at its full 10x zoom while sitting in the car. As soon as I opened the door to get out and get a closer shot, the bird left.

Yet another oft-repeated urban legend is that you don’t see many hummingbirds in cities because of pollution or what not. In fact, a cursory Google search shows hummingbirds are highly adaptable animals.

Sure, spot pollution problems can disrupt a hummingbird population, but they can thrive in urban environments.

St. Augustine Decline and Palmetto

It looks like all the grass I planted in Sept. 2004 may be infected with St. Augustine Decline (SAD). What bad luck!

SAD is an untreatable virus that causes the grass to weaken and die away within a couple of years. SAD shows up as a mottled yellow appearance on an otherwise normal grass blade.

Last summer, I noticed some of my new grass had the mottled appearance. I didn’t think much of it because the grass seemed fine otherwise. This year, the temperatures are now warm enough for the grass to start coming back. Early last week, I noticed this same mottled appearance. After looking around, I noticed areas all throughout this new grass that has the mottled appearance.

Here are some pictures of this mottled grass:

I called my grass supplier to ask about this, and they were surprised. I spoke to the office manager and then the company owner, and both were certain that the variety I purchased, Palmetto St. Augustine, was as resistant to SAD as Raleigh. Palmetto is presented as being a step up from Raleigh on their site (link). In fact, the owner said he had a planting of Palmetto himself (not sure if it was in his own lawn?), so he was especially concerned. At first, he wondered if it could have been something else like gray leaf spot. However, I can find no other St. Augustine problem that matches the appearance in the photos. Compare for yourself: Google image search of SAD and an especially good, high resolution photo of SAD-infected grass.

The company owner promised that he or or his office manager would come out in the next few days and take a look at the grass. I put orange flags in the lawn to delineate a few significant spots of the affected grass. Each of the bright orange places is a flag:

This is just one section of the back yard. This problem shows up all over the new planting.

As far as I am aware, the only sure-fire treatment is to remove the grass and a few inches of soil and replace it all with new soil and grass. This is a major undertaking. I don’t look forward to this even if I don’t end up having to do it. It is possible to plant a SAD-resistant variety like Raleigh and hope it overtakes the existing grass as it dies out. However, by keeping the infected grass, I risk infecting the rest of my yard, which is almost 100% St. Augustine and which could be the SAD-susceptible common variety. (It’s quite possible that it is the original stand of grass from the 1950s. Raleigh came out in 1980.)

So far, none of my original stand of grass–the whole front yard and a little of the back yard–are showing any symptoms of SAD. This could be in part because I mow the front yard first, then mow the back yard. The mower sits for several days in a hot garage before it gets used again. If I was to transmit the virus anywhere, I think it would probably be to the small original stand in the back yard.

The fact that I have no SAD anywhere else eliminates my existing lawn as a culprit. Furthermore, neither I nor the previous owner use a lawn service, so there is no chance that this lawn picked up the disease from another lawn.

I really hope this is ends up being a false concern or a misidentified, treatable problem. I don’t want to go through a yard replacement.

Relandscaping, Part 5

Here are details of the plants we used.

Encore Azalea
Prolific bloomers, tolerant of full sun, dwarf habit. We got two shades of red for the front and white along the side.

These are planted between the azaleas. They almost look like bluebonnets when in bloom.

Oak Leaf Hydrangea

Fall colors (I thought I had a better picture somewhere, but I could not find it):

DynamiteCrape Myrtle
This has a vibrant red color and is a prolific bloomer.

These have tons of yellow blooms in the fall.

Fall flowers:

Burning Bush Euonymus
Vibrant red fall color.

Fall colors:

Doggitus Stupidus
It was a moment of indiscretion.

The next few plants are in front of the walkway.

Anthony Waterer Spiraea
Maybe it’s named “waterer” because, like the other plants, it likes to gobble up water? It will have lots of little pinkish flowers when in bloom.

This tiny succulent turns a nice red in the fall.

Knockout Rose
This is a crazy rose bush. It just won’t stop blooming regardless of how poorly you treat it. The flowers have no fragrance, but this is definitely a good low water plant.

Purple Coneflower
This one is in the early stages of a bloom.

Butterfly Bush
Attracts butterflies. Seriously! Lots of nice, vibrant, small flowers.

Cardinal Flower

Gold Flame Spiraea
Not quite sure what this does yet.

Black Eyed Susan

Holly and Nandina
This is our pre-existing row of nandinas and hollies.

The hollies had a horrible shape when I moved in. I hacked the back to stumps two winters ago. They have grown back nicely.

Fall colors:

Viburnum and Hosta
We have both David and burkwood viburnums in the back yard. Between them is a patriot hosta.

This plant doesn’t look all that great. Maybe it will grow back better in the spring?

Nikko Blue Hydrangea
This plant never looked happy. In fact, it looked downright crappy as winter set in.

Boxwood Hacking

My latest project, performed yesterday. We have some overgrown boxwoods on the side of the garage. Normally I wouldn’t complain about these, but they give a great hiding place for someone who wishes to attack people returning home.

They look full in the picture, but don’t let that deceive you. They were actually quite spindly.



We’re now just going to replace them entirely with a shade loving plant.

Relandscaping, Part 4

Both of my loyal readers have been begging for an update on our landscape project.

Last time I wrote on this, we had just finished preparing the beds. That was a lot of work.

Now I talk about the very end, where we finally install the plants!

This is the truck dropping off the plants.

As with the landscaping materials (mulch, compost, etc.), we were able to get wholesale prices at a major Dallas-area wholesaler thanks to a good contact. Speaking of landscaping materials, you can see that a lot of compost and most of the pine bark mulch was still left.

Here are all the plants sitting in front of the garage:

The whole collection was nicely fragrant.

The first step is to place the plants where they will eventually go.

Alec helped us with this chore:

Next step is to dig a hole for each plant:

In this case, you can see an area where we failed to till in the compost deeply enough. The sand left by the prior prior owners (i.e., 2 owners back) is still there.

It’s hard to tell in this picture, but you need to make sure the top of the root ball is a hair above the surrounding soil level. This ensures the root system gets enough oxygen.

Several hours later, all the plants in the front yard are planted.

Finishing up the side of the house:

See that crepe myrtle in the middle? Man, that was a heavy sucker! We ordered a 15 gallon one, but they gave us a 30 gallon instead. I had to get a neighbor help me set it in place. We just couldn’t do it.

In an earlier post, I said I had to replace a railroad tie that had rotted out. In the pictures at top showing where all the plants had been dropped off, you can see a railroad tie. Here is where I dug out the bad tie and put a foundation of bricks below:

The same spot later on, with the tie in place:

At this point, I still need to amend the soil behind that tie. (I didn’t amend the soil earlier because it would have fallen.)

The back yard was more of the same.