Fall, Winter

Cool Weather Designs

It’s that time of year for hosting visits with family and friends. The temperatures are becoming milder, and your yard and patio are no longer saunas. Fall in Houston means nourishing rainfall and plenty of breezy sunshine. It’s the perfect time to amend your soils with organic compost, and to plant some cool season annuals and perennials.

Some of our favorite Houston fall color plants are: Lobelia, Pansies, Violas, Cyclamen, Amazon Dianthus, Sweet William, Snapdragons, Calendula, Alyssum, Kale, Dusty Miller and Swiss Chard. The fiery orange blooms and cool purple petals are wonderful complements to any fall décor. And though we rarely get snow in Houston, a few plantings of white Dianthus, Alyssum, or the snowflake-patterned Dusty Miller can give that cool weather touch.


Prevent Brown Patch In Your Lawn

We love to see fall colors in our trees and in our gardens, but not so much in the grass! Cooler weather, unfortunately, promotes other growth as well: cool-season bugs and fungi. Brown patches in turfgrass are often caused by the Rhizoctonia species fungus and fall sod webworms. The best way to prevent brown patch in your lawn is to avoid over-fertilizing with high nitrogen fertilizer during the fall and winter. The fungus moves from plant to plant in standing water, so if your lawn had puddles in the summer, those areas are prime candidates for the brown patch in the fall.

Re-grading your lawn can address these issues, and improve drainage. Lawn aeration also helps by removing extra thatch, bringing better air circulation and water penetration. Preventative application of fungicide may be necessary for areas where the fungus has occurred in the past.

Contact us at Sterling Design & Landscape Resources to talk with one of our experienced landscape designers. We would love to help you with your fall gardening needs.


Attack the Creepy-Crawlies

It’s that spooky time of the year again when the creepy-crawly caterpillars come out to turn your lawns into a horror movie. Sod Webworms and Cutworms – they’re not really worms but moth larvae or caterpillars. But like classic horror movie monsters, these caterpillars are usually not seen during the day. They feed at night.


Sod Webworms cause the most damage when they are newly hatched from their eggs when they feed on the foliage of turfgrass. Damage is often seen as a small area of leaves that are yellow to brown. In closely-mowed turf, symptoms will appear more quickly and prominently.


Cutworms get their name from their habit of “cutting” off a seedling at ground level by chewing through the stem. Some species are subterranean and eat roots. One of the most common garden pests is the variegated cutworm, which can defoliate entire gardens and fields in a matter of days.

So how do we combat these nocturnal marauders?


Sod Webworms, Cutworms, and even the day-walking Army Worms (above) are easily controlled by most liquid insecticides approved for turfgrass: bifenthrin, malathion or any of the synthetic pyrethroids or carbamates out there.

If you’re looking for a 100% organic solution: bacillus thuringiensis, otherwise known as Liquid Bt, is a natural bacterium that only targets caterpillars. It’s a great addition to the liquid insecticide regimen. Any Sod Webworm, Cutworm or Army Worm that bites into a Bt-treated blade of grass should react like Dracula drinking holy water.

It takes more than one treatment to eradicate these harmful caterpillars from your lawn. This is because the insecticides target only the larvae as they crawl along the grass. It’s harder to get the eggs since they are stationary, and it’s difficult to get the moths (that lay the eggs which become the caterpillars) as they fly about. By going back over the treated areas again, the insecticide has a chance to get the newly-hatched eggs and further deters moths from landing in the area to start the cycle anew.

We recommend treating the affected area 3-4 times in a 21-day period to make sure the Worms don’t rise from their graves.

If you’ve walked through your yard and had tiny moths scatter up around your feet, that’s a likely signal that these caterpillars are on their way. But if you treat your lawn using the control methods listed above, you’ll get control of them before they can turn your lawn into Blight of the Living Dead.

Contact us at Sterling Design & Landscape Resources to talk with one of our experienced landscape designers. We would love to help you with your fall gardening needs.