How to care for your San Antonio lawn during the drought

Stage 2 restrictions limit sprinkler irrigation to one day a week, and only between 7 and 11 am and 7 and 11 pm At Stage 3, sprinkler irrigation is allowed every other week.

St. Augustine grass requires water every three weeks to survive. You have more flexibility if you have a Bermuda or zoysia, as they will brown if they are not watered but will not die. As soon as the rains start again or they can be irrigated with another source of water, they will recover and green up.

With the dry weather, SAWS has instituted Stage 2 drought restrictions, which allows irrigation once a week during limited hours. Hand-watering is allowed at any time.


I’ve been hearing from readers of this column and listeners of my radio show, “Milberger’s Gardening South TX” at 930 AM, that many San Antonio lawns are starting to brown in areas that are in full sun. Likely, that browning is caused by a lack of water. But if you are concerned it might be take-all root rot or chinch bugs, here’s how to test for that.

Pick a 3-foot square in your browned lawn and generously hand-water it every day for five days. Hand-watering is allowed any time under drought restrictions.

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If the test plot greens up with the added water, it usually indicates your sprinkler is not applying the water to the lawn evenly. Other causes, however, may be that the soil under the dry area is compacted, or the soil can be more shallow in that spot, or there might even be rocks under the surface.

This St.  Augustine lawn has a big problem with take-all root rot.  Hand-water a patch of lawn every day for five days.  If it greens up, it's brown from a lack of water.  If it doesn't, there is another problem.

This St. Augustine lawn has a big problem with take-all root rot. Hand-water a patch of lawn every day for five days. If it greens up, it’s brown from a lack of water. If it doesn’t, there is another problem.

Courtesy photo

If the brown area did not respond to the test watering by greening up, chinch bugs may be in that part of the lawn. They can usually be seen at the base of the brown grass in full sun.

Chinch bugs can be controlled by applying one of several lawn insecticides. The lawn insecticides also work to control grubs if they are applied early enough in the year.

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Grub damage usually shows up as moth-eaten brown areas in a well-watered part of the lawn as a separation of the grass blades that resembles a toupee. Grubs in action often appear in the same part of the lawn in consecutive years. If you had grubs in 2021, you should treat the lawn now to eliminate the damage that will appear later in the summer.

Calvin Finch is a retired Texas A&M horticulturist.

  • If your neighborhood has deer, cora vinca is the best annual flower option for color in full sun. Perennials that are usually not eaten by deer include iris, esperanza, thyrallis, poinciana, vitex and four o’clock.
  • To fill up space in the summer vegetable garden, consider planting southern peas. The peas can be harvested and used in their pods, or they can be shelled.
  • If you are planting new fruit trees in your landscape, protect the young plants’ trunk bark from the sun with a paper or plastic wrapping.
  • Stink bugs damage fruit by ingesting the sweet interior and leaving scar tissue. Malathion does a good job of protecting the fruit from stink bugs.

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