This is the story of how our beautiful backyard painfully dwindled into patches of dirt.
Embarrassing as it may be…my wife and I both work for Emerald Lawns. But, to be fair, there were lots of variables working against us.
July 2019 – We buy a home with thick, healthy St. Augustine turf, which was beautifully maintained by previous owners. They regularly mowed, edged, and watered with the irrigation system. Emerald Lawns had been fertilizing for years.
August 2020 – We follow a wild hare, build a chicken tractor, and buy 6 pullets (young hens). This “tractor” allows us to “fertilize” the backyard with chicken, um, you know, droppings, by moving the coop every day. Out of an abundance of caution (for the chickens and the eggs we’d eat), we stopped Emerald Lawns fertilization in the backyard. We kept those services in the front yard…which is why that side still looks great!
September 2020 – We noticed what appears to be a disease in our lawn; it was confirmed to be gray leaf spot. Emerald Lawns SMEs suggested that St. Augustine can’t handle as much nitrogen which is likely what caused the gray leaf spot. Normally, Emerald Lawns would apply fungicide to help stop the disease, but we opted to decline, again, to be overly cautious since we eat our chickens’ eggs.
October 2020 – Our kids decide they never want to eat eggs again, so my husband and I get creative in the various ways to prepare and eat chicken eggs. It
didn’t matter. The kids still don’t eat eggs.
March 2021 – We weren’t sure how the lawn would recover after the disease from the fall before but were pleasantly surprised by how St. Augustine returned.
Only a few patches weren’t filled in, mostly by the porch where the most traffic was…and along the fence where Captain America (our German Shepherd mix) would faithfully protect us from squirrels, birds, and other intruders.
December 2021 – Our friends gave us a precious black lab mix puppy. We named this little guy Bucky Barnes. He loved to frolic, pounce, and dig…and he always had something in his mouth.
March 2022 – I’m on a call in the backyard, enjoying the sunshine. I hear squealing and look over to see Bucky trotting proudly over to me. I get off the call to investigate. Bucky has found a baby bunny. He listens well, drops the bunny, and slinks back inside (I’m happy to say the bunny was fine).
April 2022 – We notice that our lawn is getting increasingly patchier. Still green in many places, but the chicken fertilizer is not compensating like we anticipated. Later that month, Bucky’s digging gets to an all-time high. He digs all the way to our irrigation line. My husband splices it back together, buries it, and places pavers on top. Two days later, Bucky digs it up again.
July 2022 – Austin experiences the 2nd driest and 7th warmest summer on record. We keep watering as local restrictions allow, however, the busted irrigation line means our backyard isn’t getting enough water. I’d love to say that we hand watered or used a hose attachment, but with 4 kids, 2 dogs, 6 chickens, jobs, etc., watering the lawn was not at the top of our list. So, our lawn gets brown and crispy.
November 2022 – We get tired of the dogs tracking mud inside so my husband plants rye seed in the larger bare spots. It greens up nicely and reduces the dogs’ daily mud baths.
January 2023 – We talked with Emerald Lawns SMEs to figure out what steps to take in our backyard. Here’s what they said:
- Identify and fix the irrigation issue.
- Seed with Bermuda as it can handle more nitrogen, as well as more foot traffic from dogs, chickens, and kids.
- Since 75% of St Augustine roots are above ground, whereas 50% of Bermuda root system is above ground, Bermudagrass is more drought resistant.
- Put dog fecal matter in the holes to deter digging around the irrigation lines.
March 2023 – May the restoration begin!
- We seeded with Bermuda.
- Put topdressing over the seed.
- We’ll wait two cuttings before allowing traffic on seeded areas.
- Have scheduled Emerald’s Irrigation Team to come help us out.
Let’s see how it goes! Wish us luck…