Lots of times we get this question: "Now that the Fall is here, is there something I need to be doing to my grass?"
There are some things you can do to get your lawn settled before Old Man Winter shows up. Making the right moves this fall can ensure your lawn will start winter off to a healthy start. Sometimes it is best to do nothing!
Fall is a good time to take a look at your lawn and make a few changes, if you need to. Take advantage of the lower temperatures & get out in your yard.
Warm Season Turf | Quick Tips for Fall
- Get a soil test
- De-thatch, if it is needed
- Continue to mow
- Do not fertilize
- Think carefully before overseeding
Thatch image 1. This is a 419 bermuda lawn that has a "thatch patch."
Thatch image 2. This is the above patch of thatch where the thatch has been physically removed.
Quick Tips for Fall Explained
By determining what is going on with your soil in the Fall with a soil test, you can apply any needed amendments now. This will give them time to incorporate and be effective (ie, correct nutrient deficiencies & pH issues) by springtime.
Has your lawn accumulated thatch over the year(s)? (see Thatch image 1, at left.) [Thatch is what happens when you have compacted soil in combination with plant matter atop the soil surface. Thatch is not caused by mulching your grass clippings, by the way... generally the culprit is excess fertilizing.] Increasing organic matter in your soil could aleviate the thatch problem in the long run. [Thatch is a problem because all the build-up will deny your lawn & roots air, water, & nutrients its needs to thrive.] If your yard has thatch build-up to the point that water cannot get through the thatch to the grass underneath, get a stiff rake and physically remove the thatch now. (see Thatch image 2, at left.)
Keep mowing your lawn. Even though active growth slows during the Fall, your grass is still growing. Do not try to "give it a good cutting" and hope that will be the last mowing of the Fall. You run the risk of scalping your lawn if you lower your mower blade too much too soon.
Do not fertilize warm-season turfgrass in the Fall. Period.
People who are used to having a green lawn through the winter are usually those who are used to cool-season grass. If you have Centipede, St. Augustine, 419 Bermuda, or Zoysia, however, you have warm-season turf, and your sod will turn brown after the first frost. You CAN overseed your lawn... but that doesn't mean that you SHOULD. The only type of sod we recommend for overseeding is 419 bermuda.
I need Centipede!
It is February 2016... For about a month, SB Turf, Inc. has (SADLY) been "out of" centipede sod. Cue the questions:
- How does a sod farm in South Carolina run out of centipede?
- Is your centipede just not ready yet?
- All that rain we had at the end of 2015 just messed up all your centipede, didn't it?
While we are ready to answer all your questions and expletives about why we are out of centipede sod right now, it really all boils down to one common law: the law of SUPPLY and DEMAND.
While the upswing in the housing market has been a great thing for our area, it has really put many of us sod suppliers under the gun. Other sod farms may have other things going on with their supply (or lack thereof) of centipede, if you can't find any centipede sod anywhere. We can't speak for everyone... But, we can easily say, however, that we simply didn't have enough planted to keep up with the demand.
If we can rewind back to the years of 2007 - 2008, the housing market itself, and all related businesses was not the prettiest of places to be business-wise. To put it more bluntly, we couldn't even GIVE SOD AWAY during the years of the "bubble-burst".... We were hoping and praying, though, that the economic downturn would not last forever. So we did what any business that did not go out of business did: we refocused. We moved some things around. We downsized our sod operations and focused on other things.
Unfortunately, that meant when things picked up again in the Pee Dee / Grand Strand / Mount Pleasant / Charleston / Wilmington areas of SC, we were a little under-prepared.
One thing you can be sure of is this: our sod quality will be RIGHT for our customers when we harvest. Lots of farms (so we hear) are harvesting poor quailty turf and trying to pass it off as being "ready" for sale. Not us. SB Turf, Inc. will let you know from the moment you call, "We don't have any ready." Trust us, we want to sell as badly as you want to purchase. What we don't want, though, is to sell you sod that simply isn't mature enough to survive the harvest.
Check back with us in the Fall of 2016. Thanks.
I listened to a webcast in late 2015 that featured two prominent turfgrass industry educators / experts. Nevermind that one of the men is a graduate of my alma mater and the other one taught the owner here at SB Turf, Inc.... Dr. Patrick McCullough (currently a professor at University of Georgia) and Dr. Bert McCarty (currently a professor at Clemson University) are hands-down two of the most respected and knowledgeable men in our area when it comes to everything turf / turfgrass / sod in the southeast.
I want to take a blog post here and re-cap (as best I can) some of their valuable insights regarding the growing season at the end of 2015, looking forward to 2016. Here are some takeaways I got out of listening to the webcast:
Mild Summer / Fall 2015: The end of summer & last months of 2015 were considered to be "mild" and has affected turf along the eastern seaboard in this way: warm season grasses in our area may be a little weaker because of these milder temperatures. That means that our lawns probably won't be as vigorous when Spring 2016 arrives. (November 2015 was one of the wettest and warmest on record, with rainfall that was inches above normal and temperatures around 5 degrees above average.) The milder temperatures don't allow the grass to "harden off" as much as they need to before winter arrives.
Early Winter Weed Germination: The wet and mild temps mean that winter annual weeds germinated earlier this year than normal. So, we've got MORE weeds coming EARLIER. This means that the window of treatment of the winter annual weeds was shortened, since treatment is more effective BEFORE they emerge. McCarty said that even though the weeds were still small, he was beginning to see winter weeds earlier than usual. Homeowners and landscapers who applied pre-emergent herbicides may have done so too late, missing the optimum time for the chemicals to have done much good killing the weeds.
Pro Tip: Pre-emergent herbicides should be used to treat lawns (roughly) TWO WEEKS BEFORE winter weeds germinate.
"Right now is the time to get after them, before the weeds have a chance to get big or mature," says McCarty. "Because when plants start to develop their reproductive structures, they become a lot less susceptible to herbicides." So, in a nutshell, McCarty said that even if you didn't get the pre-emergent put down during the most opportune time, putting it down before the weeds mature will still have some desired affects on them. McCullough recommends using the active ingredient "atrazine," especially in centipede lawns. He also said that getting the herbicides put out before the hard winter temperatures move in will still allow the weeds time absorb the herbicide. Between December - February, McCarty said that herbicides with the acive ingredient "simazine" should be effective for winter weeds that did pop up (aka: postemergent).
More Brown Patch: The milder temps and excess water will make for the perfect environment for brown patch to grow. Even though you won't see the effects until the Spring, NOW would be the time to treat for brown patch because the disease could be taking hold now. (Think: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.) Other tips given to help decrease the chances of brown patch were to keep your mowing height tall and to keep fall leaves blown off your lawn.
Potassium is Important: The experts also stated during their webcast that a "good shot" of potassium during the Fall is the best defense turfgrass has against winter weather. Why? It encourages deeper rooting, especially in shady areas. (Disclaimer: We recommend getting a soil test to see if your lawn needs the extra potassium.)
Hopefully you will find this post a good recap of relevant topics from some turfgrass professionals. Do what I did, and take some of the information and commit it to memory.
Anyone been to the lawn care / outdoor section of Lowe's or Home Depot in late August / early September? We notice it starting just about the time the kids go back to school: the lawn winterizing products make their way onto shelves of the home and garden stores. If the products are on the shelves, it must mean it is time to winterize, right? Stop! Put your hands up! You're about to commit one of the worst crimes against your lawn. Read on to assure you don't turn into your lawn's worst enemy.
1. Know your lawn: what type of sod do you have growing out there anyway?
Most of the people in our SB Turf "normal" delivery area (ie, the Pee Dee, and Coastal areas of South Carolina) have warm-season turfgrass, like Centipede, St. Augustine, Zoysia, or a hybrid Bermuda, like 419-Tifton. If you are totally unsure of what kind of sod / grass you have in your yard, it is a good idea to find out from a professional. Your HOA might know, too. You could even ask your home builder.
Why does it matter what type of sod I have?
Such a good question. Besides avoiding sounding clueless when you're talking to your family or neighbors, the reason it is important to at least know if you have a warm season variety of sod or a cool season variety is simple. The warm season sod types are prepping for dormancy. They are under-going a "hardening off" process that Mother Nature includes as part of their growing cycle so that they can survive the winter in a healthy, dormant state. If you have a cool-season turfgrass, like fescue, you really may need to winterize it, depending on what a soil test reveals.
BUT... If you apply a nitrogen-containing winterizing fertilizer to your Centipede, St. Augustine, Zoysia, or Bermuda in early - late Fall in our area of SC, you are most certainly doing more harm than good. Our warm-season turfgrass friends get injured from the effects of fertilizers that contain nitrogen when they are going into dormancy.
2. Know your fertilizer: what are you spending those hard-earned dollars on?
Just because the neighbors are using it doesn't mean you should. Aunt Sue up in Michigan is winterizing her lawn, but that doesn't mean you should. Those pretty packages of interesting little granules might be better left right there on the shelf, instead of on your yard.
There are usually 3 numbers on fertilizer bags that are separated by dashes. Something like 10-10-10. The first number indicates the amount of Nitrogen in that particular fertilizer bag. Some may have this printed on the outside of the bag: TURF BUILDER | GUARD AGAINST WINTER | WITH WEED CONTROL | FOR WINTERIZING YOUR LAWN .... No matter how pretty the outside of that bag looks, know what you are buying. The Clemson Extension
(an independent co-op that does not make a profit off of you) advises that if a soil test shows that your soil is low in potassium, you may want to amend this issue by applying a muriate of potash or potassium sulfate. Wait! Don't go running out to the home and garden stores yet! The Clemson Extension ALSO SAYS that if your lawn has had a regular regimen of spring - summer fertilization using something like a 16-4-8, it is "unlikely that a fall application [of potassium] would be helpful."
3. Know that less is more: are you constantly putting "stuff" on your lawn to "improve" it?
Be confident in your knowledge that many times when it comes to the grass in your lawn, less is more. If the slinky lawn care "professional" you have hired keeps trying to twist your arm into putting "stuff" on your lawn to get it ready for winter, tell him to take a hike. Have confidence in yourself. Trust your instincts. Why would someone tell you to put something on your lawn that would hurt it? The only answer that makes sense to me is: The Almighty Dollar. I don't think lawn care people in our industry intentionally try to mislead folks.... sometimes many of them really have never learned that grass in our part of the US does not need to be winterized in the fall. It is winterizing itself. Just leave it alone and let it do its dormancy thing all by itself. Without help from you. Really.
4. Know your alternatives: are there other things you can do to help your lawn help itself through the winter?
There are some best management practices that you can incorporate in your lawn care program that will improve its overall health, thus helping it get through the winter better.
- One such cultural practice that can help your lawn is to remove the leaves from it. Trees that lose leaves signal that fall is here. They also can be trashy. There are some scientific reasons (aka proof) why getting those leaves off your lawn is a good idea -- things like the turf's ability to make food for itself is increased when you get leaves that block sunlight off, things like the leaves could change the pH of your soil, etc.... but one not-so-scientific reason to get leaves off the lawn is that the fallen leaves are just like trash sitting there on top of your grass. Are leaves Mother Nature's southern trashy tumbleweed, blowing across your yard? This writer thinks so.
- Something else you can do to help your grass is to figure out if you can help it get more light. Grass that is in the shade (of the house, of a tree, whatever) stays colder longer and therefore, has decreased photosynthesis taking place to feed itself through the winter. Remember, during the winter, your sod / lawn is NOT DEAD -- it is still very much alive.
- If you have a controlled irrigation system, longer waterings through the spring and summer will help to promote deeper root growth. Deeper roots mean that the soil will be able to better-insulate the roots when the freezing temperatures get here. Short, infrequent waterings may seem like a way to save water, but irrigating your lawn this way does not help it as much as watering at longer time intervals.
- Increase the mowing height you (or your lawn maintenance company) cut your lawn to as the Fall season comes upon us. Yes, that means the leaf blades on your lawn will be longer. Scalping the lawn in the Fall so you won't have to mow it anymore is a terrible mistake that a lot of people make. The benefits to increasing the mowing height are three-fold: 1) it will leave more leaf tissue on the plant to produce more food 2) it will promote deeper rooting 3) it can protect the sod from weed seeds that could possibly be germinating in the late fall.
In a nutshell, if you have sod in the low country / coastal areas of South Carolina, you probably have some variety of warm-season turfgrass in your yard. Warm-season turfgrass usually does NOT need chemical winterizing in the form of a fall fertilizer application.
Last year, the local electric utility sent out a letter. The first sentence was this: "We need your help." Hmmmmmm... It is not very often that a utility company reaches out to its customers for help. I think we would all agree that some cheery plants in a mulched landscape bed give us great satisfaction. BUT.... if asked if we would rather have power to our home or a nice landscape, I am sure most people would choose the convenience and comfort of electricity over the beauty and bounty of landscape material.
The question remains: how can we as homeowners and landscapers help our utility coop?
Well, the short answer is this: by heeding the co-op's policies. The letter I received last year was as a member of the co-op; the letter wasn't addressed to this business, but I thought it was interesting for our industry.
How many times do landscapers hear, "Help me make that dreadful electric panel box pretty; put some plants around it!" from their customers? As I was reading the letter from the utility company, I wondered how many times a homeowner made this request, spent hard-earned money on landscaping around a pedestal box (or whatever), only to have to rip it up once the utility company did the maintenance on the right of way.
My whole point of this post is this: know your property. If you are just purchasing a home in Myrtle Beach or the Pee Dee area of SC (or anywhere!), know your property. If you are renting a home and considering sprucing the landscaping up, know your property. Utilities communicate their policies in a number of different ways. Next time you get a little flyer in with your bill, READ IT instead of throwing it out with the envelope.
The linemen that work for the utility company probably really like that beautiful variegated liriope you had planted in that cute little mulched bed around the electrical equipment, but they will remove it
if it encroaches on their boundaries. Their boundaries are usually known as their "right-of-way" or "ROW."What can you as a homeowner do?
What can you as a landscaper do?
- Check your property
- Read your utility company's policy for clearance boundaries
- If you can't find it on the webpage or publication, call them
- Usually a "right-of-way coordinator" if the job description of the person you want to speak to
- Transplant anything you love that falls inside the defined boundary of the landscaping equipment
- Trim plants that grow into the boundary
- Don't let an uneducated homeowner talk you into landscaping in / around / under / over / across a utility right of way
- Help educate the homeowner you are working for
- Make yourself familiar with the policies of the utility companies in our area of SC (and NC if you travel that far)
- Offer an added service of a right-of-way landscaping assessment
- CYA (Cover Your Ass). If a persistent homeowner wants you to landscape in / around /under / over / across a ROW, get it in writing, with the homeowner's signature, that you are not responsible when the utility company destroys the landscaping
Here is an actual quote from the letter that spawned this whole post: "Obstructions include shrubs, trees, fences and anything else that falls within 10 feet of the front of the equipment or 4 feet on the other three sides of the equipment. If there isn't anything you want saved and relocated, no action is necessary on your part. Any obstructions that remain in place when the crews arrive to do work at your location will be taken care of by [name of utility company] in the easiest and most efficient manner deemed possible by the crew leaders. Items inside the established boundary will be completely removed. Plants growing into the established boundary will simply be trimmed back."
You decide. Do you want the crew leader of the utility company trimming back your landscaping or do you want to do it?
Not to be outdone by the fashion world, in recent years, landscaping has started to develop yearly trends. We enjoy keeping up with these latest trends so we can advise our customer base of the best ideas that are not only popular but also lasting ways to add some proverbial glitter to your landscape.
2014 was a better year for most of us in the landscaping industry here in South Carolina. Many of the trade publications, local real estate agents, and industry supplier professionals all agree: 2014 was pretty good & it looks like 2015 is going to be even better. 2014 has set the stage for 2015 to be an exciting year for landscapers and homeowners.
Some trends for 2015 to consider or incorporate in your yard / home:
- "Real" is better than "faux"
- Outdoor living spaces
- Edible gardens
- Colors / year-round color make your yard "pop"
- Reclaimed materials are a must
- Sod / maintained lawns and landscaping helps homes sell
Real is better than faux
Most women would agree that they would rather a real 1/4 carat diamond than a fake 2 carat cubic zirconia. Extrapolate that, now, to the use of real sod or grass in place of artificial turf or grass, especially in the sporting world. Use the analogy to picture synthetic rubber mulch or organic wood mulch in a landscape bed or on a playground. A few years ago, it looked like the man-made materials were going to give the mother nature natural materials a real run for their money. A few things worth mentioning revealed themselves to give mother nature the upper hand in 2014.
- 1. An NBC Nightly News broadcast in October of 2014 highlighted concerns of University of Washington's Soccer Coach, Amy Griffin. The show stirred up attention and concern around the safety of tire "crumb rubber" that is commonly used in artificial surfaces in the US and around the world. Click here to view the broadcast.
- 2. A Forbes article in 2014 written by Mike Ozanian blasted the high cost of the artificial turf when compared to natural grass or natural sod. His article states that "taxpayers have been getting hoodwinked by bogus analysis into thinking artificial turf fields are cheaper than natural grass." Click here to view the Forbes article.
- 3. Rubber mulch may not be a safe choice for playground use. Said to have more of a "cushioning" quality than natural wood mulches used on playgrounds, rubber mulch seems to have been actively supported by the federal government. The EPA has retracted an earlier assurance that rubber mulch for playground use is safe. Click here to read an abstract from Environment and Human Health, Inc. about some potential chemicals being released from commercial rubber mulch. At the time of this blog post, this EHHI article has other informative links on its website.
If you are a decision-maker in the process of making some additions or changes to your home, business, city, or community's landscape, there are some "new" and alternative materials that are likely to get proposed. Just be sure to do your research before making a final decision. Or, you may be aware of an uninformed landscaping decision that has been made in previous years. Hey, we all make mistakes, but let's be smart and learn from them instead of ignoring them.
Outdoor Living Spaces This modest fire pit is on-trend for 2015!
Taking the inside out is a continuing trend that saw its way through the entire year of 2014. It is a trend that is going to be around for a few years. It usually combines some sort of hardscape (decorative rock) mixed with some outdoor furniture, trimmed out with some beautiful sod. These types of outdoor spaces give landscapers a new offering to bring to the table when presenting services to homeowners. If a landscaper is designing a landscape for a new home in 2015 (and into the forsee-able future), it should have some sort of outdoor space designed with the plant material. Make sure you don't go overboard, though. A fully loaded outdoor kitchen may not be the best investment for your money. Keep it simple!
Whether in a container, raised bed, or short rows, growing your own food is very much en vogue for homeowners. Most southerners are used to having a vegetable garden, but as more and more northerners move down south (especially to the Myrtle Beach area of SC), they realize that the climate and soils in our area of coastal SC offer the perfect opportunity for those with a green thumb to get growing and eating. This trend gives rise to another one: container gardening.
Pops of Color Now you know: there is a "Color of the Year."
Did you know that there is a such thing as a "color of the year"? Well, now you do. (Image at left photo cred goes to Pantone webpage) The Pantone Color of 2015 is "Marsala." This rich, earthy color is one that could be perfectly incorporated into your landscape (and home! and wardrobe!) in 2015. Pops of color can be introduced to your outdoor space using bulbs, painted fences, pavers of stepping stones, plants like the Lenten rose or flowering quince, etc., etc. If you use "marsala" or not, 2014 into 2015 is the time to add outside color.
Wood mulch is a great and beneficial way to add reclaimed material to your landscape and stay on trend. Gone are the days when everything needs to be brand shiny new. Old and vintage is in. Wood mulch is best when it has decomposed a little bit anyway. Check out old antique stores for items like reclaimed iron gates. Use an old sod pallet as a trellis for a climbing vine. Better than that, PAINT an old sod pallet in a bright color (like "marsala") (or try some of that nifty glow in the dark paint from Rustoleum
), then use the pallet as a trellis for a climber.
Whatever you do, remember the "RE's" apply to your yard as well as your garbage: REcycling, REusing, and REclaiming materials can be just as exciting and certainly as unique as purchasing new the next time you want to give your outdoor space a little facelift.
Selling? Buying? Sod & Landscaping are Factors to Consider Value added: fence, sod, outdoor patio.
Those of us who are lucky enough to live in the Columbia SC area and East of Columbia towards the coast, are lucky enough! We have a great area here in the Pee Dee area of SC and the coastal areas of South Carolina -- even the southern coastal areas of NC are great living towns and cities. Once homeowners have decided to live in our area, there have been a few trends that we have noticed when it comes to real estate / homeownership and landscaping. The National Association of Home Builders has done some extensive studying in the way of surveying people about "What Home Buyers Really Want." If you could be looking to sell your home in the future or if you are looking to purchase a home, be aware of the role sod and landscaping plays in the value of a home.
- 1. Landscaping can increase the overall value of a home by 28%
- 2. Functional landscaping also seems to cut time a home stays on the market by around 12%
- 3. Exterior lighting, a patio, and a front porch are 3 outdoor features that seem most important to home buyers
- 4. No one wants to purchase a half-finished outdoor project when they purchase a property or home
Is your home in a great location, ready to sell at a great price point, but still not moving? You may have tried to "fluff" the interior a bit, but is the lawn knee-high with weeds? At a home showing, nothing says "don't buy me" louder than an unkempt lawn.... or worse yet.... no lawn at all! Consider finishing putting down sod all the way to the property lines. Add some pavers for a walkway from the side carport to the front door. Re-sod those bare places in the lawn where the dog went to the potty for 5 years. Create some interest by making a new flower bed by installing a 5'x5' area with mulch. Add some solar-powered lights to frame out that driveway. It could be money very well spent if it means selling your home. On the other hand, if you are a potential home buyer, use the fact of landscaping (or lack thereof) as a bargaining chip. Realtors know that landscaping adds functionality and resale value to a home. If one property you are looking at has all the right details, except for sod in the yard or except for a front porch, get the seller to knock 10 - 20 % off the home's asking price. Check out this short but thorough checklist from HomeGain
for some outdoor improvements home buyers and sellers would benefit from looking over.
We are just entering the 2nd full week of January of 2015. Rest assured, we will stay on top of the local and national trends as they pertain to yards and landscaping, and keep you filled in. In the meantime, enjoy your yard!
It is Veteran's Day 2014. 11/11/14. First off, we at SB Turf, Inc. & SB Mulch, Inc. would like to thank our veterans, past & present, for the wonderful sacrifice and service they have given for this wonderful United States of America.
In a few days, we are going to be getting another frost here in the Galivants Ferry area. Mother Nature has been dropping fresh pine needles for about 2 weeks in this area in preparation for the frost. [Pine straw is considered an organic mulch. To find the best quality needles, I suggest getting a local homeowner who has a lot of pine trees to give you his / her pine needles if you will rake the needles for them. We at SB Mulch, Inc. stopped our sale of bulk pine needles about 2 years ago because of quality and availability issues. Again, the best quality needles are going to come from locals who have fresh-fallen needles in their yards. Do you have a high-schooler who needs some after-school responsibility? Give them a rake and tell them to go to homes with lots of pine trees in the yards! They could make some money for raking the needles, plus there is a chance they could sell off the pine straw to a homeowner who wants the freshest possible pine straw.]
Anyway, mulching your plants and trees NOW before the coming frosts acts as a blanket for your living plants and trees. At this time of year, mulch:
- insulates the ground / dirt / soil
- protects roots of plants and trees that could still be "hardening" off
- prevents loss of water by evaporation from the soil
Newly installed plant material is the most vulnerable at this time of year. Have you put down any new shrubs or trees since the Spring? You may want to consider mulching.
Here are a few things to consider if you choose to mulch in the Fall:
- Use caution when mulching around a tree trunk, leave some open area around the trunk. Don't build a "mulch triangle" at the bottom of the tree trunk. Instead, aim to create a sort of "mulch bowl" around the base of the tree.
- Give your plants a good watering BEFORE you mulch. Then be sure to winterize your hoses and watering equipment so that a frost will not burst your equipment beyond repair.
- Do not give in to the urge to over-mulch. Too much of a good thing is possible when it comes to mulching around plants and trees. 4" is a gracious plenty.
- Mulching with a good layer of mulch NOW could prevent spring weeds from wreaking havoc in your landscape come the Spring of 2015.
If you have any questions about mulching, please give us a call at 843-358-2574. Are you ready for the winter season? It is coming quickly now that we are out of October!
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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.