Here in Zone 8 of SC, our warmseason varieties of sod are beginning to yawn, drink milk and cookies, and go to bed. The big winter snooze-fest. As Bob Ross might say, our soft little grassy areas are getting quiet for the coming winter. How do you get ready to go to sleep? Do you do jumping jacks just before you lie down to sleep? Drink an 8-hour energy? I bet not.
Well, guess what? The sod grass in your lawn doesn't especially enjoy getting pumped up just before bedtime either. When you apply fertilizer in the fall, you could have just as well given your grass a shot of caffeine. In general, don't apply nitrogen-containing fertilizer after around August 15th in the Upstate of SC or after around September 1st in the Coastal areas of SC. Let's think of nitrogen (the first number on the fertilizer bag: 10-10-10) as a growth encourager. If you encourage growth while the grass would otherwise (and naturally) be preparing to STOP GROWING, your human-ness is really screwing up your sleepy lawn.
We are all convinced of the benefits of using landscape mulch. There are numerous reasons to choose to mulch flower beds and landscaped areas of homes and property. The question of the day (well, maybe the question of the year) is should I use bagged mulch or bulk mulch? Which type of mulch is best to use? "I see bagged mulch around in stores and at gas stations, and I see bulk mulch at these mom & pop locations on the side of the road. How do I know if bulk mulch is better than bagged? Or vice-versa?" The benefits of using bulk mulch instead of bagged mulch vary depending on who you ask, but we can put the hard facts on 5 reasons why bulk mulch is better than bagged mulch.
1. The first reason that bulk mulch is better than bagged mulch is the price. You do the math. Or better yet, we'll help you do the math. At Lowe's, a 2 cubic foot bag of Scott's bark mulch is around $4.97, not including sales tax. You need approximately 13 1/2 bags (at 2 cubic feet per bag) of mulch to equal one yard of bulk mulch. Landscape supply stores typically sell bulk mulch for around $30 - $35 per yard. If you bought 14 bags (I doubt Lowe's would be willing to sell you 1/2 a bag of mulch) of the bagged product, that would cost you $69.58. That is almost double the cost of bulk mulch!! Now, I don't know about you, but that is a very compelling reason (alone) to use bulk mulch instead of bagged mulch.
2. The second reason why bulk mulch is better than bagged mulch is because
When the first signs of fall are felt in coastal South Carolina and coastal North Carolina, some homeowners rush to the garden section of the home improvement stores and start shopping. One thing we want to make OUR WONDERFUL homeowner and landscaper customers aware of for the fall of the year is this: DO NOT WINTERIZE YOUR WARMSEASON TURFGRASS LAWN. Let me say it again. Do not winterize your warmseason turfgrass lawn. Fertilizers that are on the shelves in the home improvement stores right now that are labeled as "winterizer" fertilizers are for coolseason turfgrass. Do you overseed your yard with rye? Then, you could possibly need to use a winterizer for the rye. Most likely, though, even if you overseed your lawn, you do not need to winterize your yard. "Why do places put these fertilizers out in our area right now if we aren't supposed to use them?" you ask. The only answer I can think of is: to make money.
On a typical bag of fertilizer, there are 3 numbers listed on the bag. The numbers stand for N-P-K. N is NITROGEN content of the fertilizer. P is for PHOSPHORUS. K is for POTASSIUM (sometimes known as potash). If you are thinking of putting any type of soil amendment on your lawn after about the end of August to around September 1st (think: when kids are going back to school), make sure it has a "0" in the N spot on the fertilizer bag. Let me say it again. Do not apply a fertilizer to your lawn after around September 1st that contains Nitrogen. Once the kids are starting to go back to school, no nitrogen. Do not put nitrogen on your warmseason turfgrass lawn in the fall. I don't know how many other ways I can phrase it to get the point across.
No matter how tempting it might be for you to pick up a bag and spread it out because you think you need to "feed" your lawn to get it through the winter.... don't do it! Your warmseason lawn could be injured by applying a nitrogen-containing fertilizer in the fall. In short, nitrogen applied during the fall could promote new growth to the green part of your grass. This tender new growth will not be "hardened" off, and when a frost comes, it will get damaged. Furthermore, nitrogen applied in the fall could actually feed any cool season WEEDS that might emerge. Now, we surely don't want that to happen!
If you are just bursting at the seams to put SOMETHING out on your lawn for the fall, choose a no-nitrogen, light application of potassium (potash) for your warmseason lawn. If your lawn has been regularly fertilized throughout the summer with a "normal" 16-4-8 fertilizer, though, there is a chance that a fall application of potassium just frankly won't do much good. Save your money. Don't fertilize right now. There are some good management practices that, if put in place at the right time, could promote better cold tolerance of your warmseason lawn through the winter. But that's another blog post.