Our forest needs our help. 3 ways you can lend a hand.

Thanks to the environmentally minded planners, natural areas are seemingly ubiquitous in The Woodlands with nearly 8,000 of The Woodlands’ 28,000 acres preserved as open space. Take pride – this fact sets us apart from most common communities in North America. However, our forest areas represent just a portion of the native forest expanse (what existed here pre-development). This presents a challenge as our forests do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to cleaning the air and water, capturing and storing carbon, and providing wildlife habitat.

Cue our residential landscapes to the rescue! They offer tremendous potential for supplementing those critical forest services, provided we’re mindful in how we tend them. Some basic considerations regarding what we put into our landscape and what we allow to flow off it carry a lot of weight.

Read on to find out how easy it is to turn your landscape into a resource for the environment and all of us who depend on it.

Encourage soil health

In healthy soil fungi, bacteria, and invertebrates work constantly at breaking down nutrients, making them available for uptake by trees, grasses, and shrubs. There are many critical functions of healthy soil and this is one of the biggest.

When we apply chemicals to our landscape we sever these microscopic relationships, stemming the production of soil nutrients. Organic lawn care methods, as opposed to chemical methods, support these relationships, promoting healthier soil which is the foundation of all healthy ecosystems.

Composted organic material – leaves, grass clippings, etc. – is chock-full of beneficial soil microbes. When you leave cut grass and leaves on your lawn or apply a layer of compost to it, you’re automatically introducing soil microbes which get right to work producing nutrients and building healthy soil! Composting is an easy yet powerful way to ramp up your landscape’s ecosystem value AND it’s a lot cheaper than chemical applications.

Give your lawn what it really wants

Warm season native grasses such as St. Augustine, which comprises most lawns in The Woodlands, depends on fungal soil networks to supply their nutrients. Compost, not chemicals, helps build those networks. The more roots interact with their fungal friends, the stronger they get, which then allows more energy to funnel to the leaves resulting in, you guessed it, that lush, green look we all love.

A healthy lawn needs, and wants, far less water. If you “set and forget” your sprinkler system you’re apt to overwater and harm the microbes. Use a moisture meter to avoid overwatering (they’re available at any home and garden store for a few bucks). Or make things even easier for yourself and subscribe to the weekly water recommendation email from Woodlands Water Agency – let the experts tell you when and when not to water. Installing a rain sensor on your irrigation system is another easy way to avoid overwatering by automatically shutting off your system during a rain event. Did you know you can install a rain sensor yourself in about 15 minutes?

Healthy lawns to the rescue! They add oxygen to our air, capture carbon in the soil and nourish plants and trees. You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood, to boot.

The most important thing of all

Multiply your impact – spread the word! When you make smarter choices in your landscape you become a model for environmental sustainability. Share your knowledge with others and encourage them to do the same.

If you’d like to learn more and take your impact to the next level, attend the online Smarter Choices Seminar on October 2, 2021 from 9 a.m. to noon. We’ll look at simple, practical steps for developing your landscape’s ecosystem value plus you’ll get an update on the new “smart” water meters Woodlands Water Agency installed across the community this past year. Learn how to track your water use and reduce waste right from your phone – remarkable!

This is a free presentation, sponsored by Woodlands Water Agency, The Woodlands GREEN, Chevron Phillips, HEB, and Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware.

Registration is required to receive the link to the Zoom presentation. Register using the button below.


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Learn a thing, share a thing!

Looking for an easy way to save lots of water? Properly manage your sprinkler system. It’s a great way to keep your lawn healthy, too. Then share your knowledge with neighbors to multiply your impact.  

Without good information, it’s easy to overwater your lawn. Raise your hand if weeds and pests are staking a little too much claim these days. Does your water bill seem a bit high and you’re not sure why? Have you spent too many mornings hoping the neighbors don’t notice you watered the sidewalk all night? Its ok, you’re not alone.  

Anyone with an automatic sprinkler system has dealt with these issues from time to time. They’re signs that your sprinkler system is due for its regular tune-up. The good news, it’s easy – as long as you have the right information. Even better news, these small fixes result in big water savings. That’s good for the environment, your lawn, and your pocketbook. Double the positive impact by sharing your new-found knowledge with a neighbor.  

Controlling irrigation relies on these simple steps:

  • Check sprinkler heads for misalignment; don’t water the driveway 
  • Set your controller on manual so it doesn’t automatically run, rain or shine 
  • Check and re-set your controller after power outages; don’t water the wrong amount

Step 1: Before you start adjusting things, first determine how much water your lawn needs. St. Augustine lawns require no more than 1” a week (including rain), spring through fall. Woodlands Water Agency makes it easy to gauge your water needs with their weekly Irrigation Recommendation emails. The recommendations are based on real-time scientific data – precipitation and evapotranspiration rates – correlated with the amount of water St. Augustin lawns require. Check the weekly email and adjust your sprinkler system accordingly. It’s that simple. Sign up for your weekly recommendation email here: https://www.woodlandswater.org/ (enter your address under “RECEIVE UPDATES”). 

Step 2: Audit your sprinkler system regularly. Sprinkler systems loosen up and misalign over time. A regular adjustment ensures you’re putting out the right amount of water and putting it where it needs to be – not in the street. It’s easier and quicker than it sounds. The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department can help! 

Attend a how-to class right from your kitchen table. The Spring Sprinkler Check-up and Audit Class on Saturday, March 13, 2021 from 10 to 11 a.m., demonstrates step-by-step how to assess your sprinkler system and make any needed adjustments. Sprinkler audits take less than 30 minutes once you have the basics down – this class lays them out for you.  

Step 3: Share your knowledge. Put your insights to work by helping a neighbor perform their own audits. You’ll double your water conserving impact. And it will likely grow from there as they share it down the line.  


The Spring Sprinkler Check-Up and Class is FREE, but REGISTRATION is required. Do it now while you’re thinking about it. And why not get a neighbor to join you!

To learn about more Environmental Services classes, workshops, and events, sign up for our BLOG or email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Don’t Fear the Fungus

Some are scary or downright disgusting when you first encounter them. Is that dog vomit? No, it might be an aptly named slime mold, Fuligo septica. Technically not a fungus, this protist appears suddenly, much like a lawn mushroom, and disappears almost as fast. If you knew the gargantuan effort it takes to assemble this many single-celled organism you might just leave them be to finish out their lifecycle.   

While fungi come in a wondrous assortment of colors and forms, the vast majority are not only beneficial but necessary. They’re also beautiful! Consider the delicate banded Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), the lacey petticoat of bridal veil stinkhorn, or the artists’ favorite, Amanita muscaria

Situation Normal 

Mushrooms in your lawn is not a sign of something wrong! They’re simply the visible part of a much larger network of underground mycelium, breaking down dead and decaying organic matter. Look around – is there a stump nearby? 99% of fungus won’t harm a living tree; they’re there to help with decomposing dead or dying wood, along with leaves, wood chips, branches, and fallen fruit. Mushrooms are a good sign! They’re proof the soil is alive, diverse, and rich in nutrients – the foundation of a healthy lawn and landscape. 

What to Do 

Resist the urge to treat it and grab your phone instead. Easy-to-use apps such as iNaturalist or Google Lens will help you identify which mushroom is flourishing in your flower bed. iNaturalist will even help you filter by location to see what others are seeing nearby. 

Fungicides are not recommended. The mushrooms typically aren’t causing damage and the chemicals are largely ineffective since the bulk of the mushroom exists belowground – think multiple square feet. It’s that extensive network of hyphae throughout the soil that comprises the true fungus from which the fruiting bodies – mushroom caps – arise. They’re a natural part of spring and fall when moisture abounds and temperatures cool. As weather conditions become unfavorable mushrooms retreat on their own, often as quickly as they appeared. You can discourage mushrooms by watering less frequently and pruning to reduce shade. 

Treatment 

If you really want them gone – perhaps you have a toddler or dog that puts everything in their mouth, here’s how: 

  • Cut or pull or mow the fruiting bodies to limit the number of spores and therefore future mushrooms. The rest of the fungal mycelia will persist underground until conditions return for another round of fruiting – likely not for a while.  
  • When trees are removed, the roots persist and begin to decompose with the help of insects, bacteria and fungi. The only way to permanently stop the continual upcropping of mushrooms is to dig out the soil containing the decaying matter, 12 to 18 inches deep and 2 feet outside the mushroom cluster. If that seems like a lot of work, leave the mushroom power houses there. When they’ve done their job of devouring all that underground material, it – and the mushrooms above – will disappear for good. 
  • Take care to wash hands thoroughly after handling mushrooms, as even some edible types can cause irritation. 

Mushrooms are a good sign. Delight in their ephemeral presence next time they make an appearance in your yard. Most are no “truffle” at all. 

Discover More! 

iNaturalist Mushrooms of Texas 

North American Mycological Association has an extensive list of recommended books. While you are there check out their stunning photography contests. 

All about dog vomit slime mold 

Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Woodlands Landscaping Solutions Online Learning – Day 5

Creating a Healthy and Beautiful Lawn 

 Selecting the Perfect Turf 

For a healthy and beautiful lawn, start by selecting the right turf grass for your home. Whether you’re looking for low maintenance, durability (can it hold up to the weekly family flag football game?) or you just need something that will grow in a little shade, there is a turf grass for you. 


Put the Care into Lawn Care 

This video builds off of the lessons from ‘Selecting the Perfect Turf’. Get a refresher on common types of turf and then dive into proper maintenance techniques, efficient water methods, and simple and effective fertilizer and pesticide applications. 


Weed ‘Em and Reap – Weeds and Watering 

This class makes sense of two of the most challenging issues many homeowners face. If you’re having trouble controlling unwanted plants in your lawn and landscape or if you’re confused about when to water and when to wait, we’re here to help. Learn the best approach to managing weeds effectively without the overuse of chemicals and your time so you can reap the rewards of a green environment. Thistle be a great class for sure!


How to Identify Sod Webworm in Your Lawn 

Landscape entomologist, Doug Caldwell investigates a summertime insect outbreak that has appeared on a South Florida lawn.  Many homeowners have reported witnessing sod webworms wreaking havoc on their St. Augustine lawns this summer. This video can help you identify the insect, its signs and symptoms, as well as provide options for treatment and prevention. 


Beyond the turf – videos to beautify your yard 

Made for the Shade 

Many native and adapted plants thrive in shady conditions. This video offers a variety of plants from groundcovers to small trees that can add beauty and color to those areas in your yard that don’t receive full sun.  


 Plants Combos and Companions 

Companion planting is the art of growing plants in proximity to each other because of their ability to enhance or complement each other.  Learn from Dr. Becky Bowling on how to select plants that offer year-round color and texture with this beginner-friendly landscape design class. Give your yard function and purpose through plant combinations and companions. 


Additional Resources: 

That wraps up our week-long online program.  We hope you learned something new and are ready to improve your landscape.  

These videos will remain archived on The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Blog. Access for a refresher on your favorite topics any time. 

Questions or Comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov 

Woodlands Landscaping Solutions

Join us this Saturday for the 22nd annual Woodlands Landscaping Solutions. More than 30 exhibitors will provide information on native plants, local wildlife, yard care, attracting butterflies, and more! Live music, food vendors and children’s activities are all part of this family-friendly event. 

Free classes offered this year include Home Pollinator Gardening with Lauren Simpson, Lawn care with Tom LeRoy and Backyard Composting led by Montgomery County Master Gardeners. Classes are offered at 9:15, 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. Come learn simple ways to enhance your landscape this fall!

For more event information, visit our website here or email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov