Horticulture Hotline: Reduce the thatch layer in your grass

  • Thursday, September 6, 2012

If you suffered from “winter kill” last year or the year before, there are a few things you can begin to do to prepare for winter. Any grass can get winter damage; however, around here centipede gets affected the worse by far. Since the Doctors of Grass (PHD’s) have decided that centipede grass never goes into a completely dormant state, at best you will be able to minimize your damage.
A healthy lawn will do best through a cold winter. Now is a great time to take a soil test and find out what nutrients need to be added to the soil in order to provide the plant what it needs to make it through the winter. The proper nutrients applied now can develop sugars in the plant that will act as anti-freeze on those cold nights. A healthy turf grass will be better equipped to survive the cold and other adverse conditions. The rainfall we had last winter and this summer really washed a lot of nutrients out of the ground. You can bring your soil to any of the three Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supplies for testing. Clemson Extension also offers soil testing.
Be careful not to apply winterizing fertilizer from a national company that is designed for cool season grasses (fescue, blue grass, rye grass). Many of these products are high in nitrogen and can deplete the grass of the sugars you want to keep. These products also contain phosphorous that is usually not needed in our soils (soil test will provide this information) and can end up negatively impacting our waterways. A 00-00-25 sulfate of potash product with 10% iron or a product like Possum’s Minors is sometimes all you need (a soil test will give specifics) to put your grass to sleep with a full belly.
Be sure to keep your lawn hydrated through the winter. In the winter we have less humidity and cool air blowing over our lawns. Grass loses water through runners and leaf blades. Just as we get chapped lips, the lawn needs moisture during the winter. You can lose grass to desiccation during the winter months. Water is a great insulator, and will help you battle winter injury to a point. Wow the grass is like people, the right food and water will help them survive!  
To help with winter damage be sure to correct any low, slow draining areas that hold water. With all the rain we have had that should be easy to determine. Depending on the size of the area, French drains, slit drains, adding gutters to the house, or the addition of Mule Mix will accomplish this project. Water’s insulating properties are good to a point; however, if an area gets too cold, then water can hold this cold near the crown of the plant too long and damage the grass plant.
While the grass is actively growing, reduce the thatch layer in your grass. Thatch can act like a down jacket, holding cold air around the crown of the plant, damaging the grass. Topdressing with Cotton Burr Compost now will greatly reduce your thatch by winter. SeaHume will also reduce thatch. Thatchless is a liquid bacteria product that eats up thatch. Bio Grounds Keeper is a granular product that has cellulose degrading bacteria and enzymes as well as humic acid. Aeration combine with any of the above will improve your results greatly.
BioRush by Diehard will also reduce frost damage and help the performance of all your plants. BioRush combines beneficial bacteria, beneficial fungi, humic acid, seaweed, yucca wetting agent, vitamins, amino acids, and natural sugars into a power packed stimulant. BioRush is in a very easy to use packet. BioRush can applied through a hose end sprayer or tank sprayer.

If your thatch levels are way out of control, mechanical dethatching might be your only choice. Mechanical dethatching is very stressful to our warm season grasses, so if this is the route you are going to take, do it now so the grass can recover by winter. Running the dethatcher over the lawn is easy, the raking and cleaning up the debris is the time consuming part of this job.

As the winter approaches, you will also want to lower the height of cut of your mower. Just like thatch can hold cold air in too long, so can long leaf blades. If you ground is level enough, try to get your centipede down to an inch to an inch and a half. St. Augustine should be fine at two and a half inches.

The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug is still dominating our phone lines and dead grass samples carried into the stores. Preemergent products are also being applied for winter weeds by the pro-active people that hate winter weeds. Are you planting ryegrass this fall?  The green grass is great for selling a house.

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.

Bill Lamson-Scribner can be reached during the week at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply. Possum’s has three locations 481 Long Point Rd in Mt. Pleasant (971-9601), 3325 Business Circle in North Charleston (760-2600), or 606 Dupont Rd, in Charleston (766-1511). Bring your questions to a Possum’s location, or visit us at http://www.possumsupply.com. You can also call in your questions to “ The Garden Clinic”, Saturdays from noon to 1:00, on 1250 WTMA  (The Big Talker).  


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