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Professional Advice on Soil Management and Fertilizing: An Interview with Luke Hawthorne of Emerald Lawns

By Luke Hawthorne

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

My wife and I started Emerald Lawns back in 2006. We are A+ rated with the BBB and have won the Angie's List Superior Service Award every year since 2007. We offer lawn fertilization with weed, insect and disease control. We also do topdressing, aeration and tree and shrub care.

What are some of the keys to proper soil management?

Every type of soil has different requirements in order to have a successful lawn. For the most part here in the Austin area you'll find heavy clay and/or caliche. This type of soil is extremely alkali so it is important that you use the proper fertilizers and soil amendments to acidify or neutralize the soil ph. Having a good neutral pH will help you reduce the amount of fertilizer used and cut down on pesticides.

We use organic products as much as possible but we will use whatever is necessary to get the job done. There just aren't any good organic options for weed control but if we can keep the lawn thick and healthy that is the best form of weed control you can get.

Can you briefly describe the importance of choosing the right soil and fertilizer mixture?

You don't usually get to 'choose your soil.' Your fertilizer mixture depends upon what soil you have. We are the only ones in Central Texas to use Holganix, a compost mixture that you utilize with the fertilizer to make it more potent. For more information on Holganix, visit their web site at http://www.holganix.com.

How does a homeowner know their soil is healthy?

Typically if the grass looks healthy and you have a minimum of turf-damaging insect or disease problems, then your soil is probably pretty healthy. If you find you're constantly battling Brown Patch or other lawn pests, chances are you have a deficiency in your soil that is weakening your turf to make it more susceptible to turf parasites.

Are certain types of lawns more environmentally friendly than others?

We have mostly 3 different types of grass here in the Austin area and each of them have pros and cons.

St. Augustine - Offers good weed protection due to its natural thickness. Requires a bit more water than other turf types and definitely has a higher susceptibility to disease and insect problems.

Bermuda grass - Requires a little less water and has good recovery from drought and other damages. Weeds are the major problem with Bermuda. It also gets insect and disease problems like St. Augustine but with prompt attention it recovers much quicker.

Zoysia - Even though most varieties of Zoysia advertise less water it has been my experience that it requires about the same as St. Augustine. Like St. Augustine, weeds are not much of a problem due to turf density. Zoysia is a very slow growing grass. This is good for those homeowners that like to mow only once every couple of weeks but not so good for recovery if any type of problem occurs. Usually re-sodding is required to replace damaged areas.

What tips do you have for successfully managing soil at home?

The best thing a homeowner can do is to aerate at least once a year and topdress once yearly with a high quality compost. Educate yourself on your turf type and mowing heights and if all else fails call Emerald Lawns at 512-990-2199.

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About The Author

Luke Hawthorne, together with his wife, created Emerald Lawns in 2006.

Phone: 512-990-2199

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