Monday, October 7, 2019

Green Grass in the Winter?

Horticulture Hotline 10/07/19
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

The last few months have been crazy dry. I saw a mole in my neighbor’s yard drinking a Perrier (for you IPA drinkers that is a carbonated mineral water). The soil is dust in many areas. I saw one yard that was so dry that the army worms moved in on it after the storm and retreated out of the yard instead of marching across it.

One big question to answer this time of year is do I want to grow ryegrass in my lawn, paint my lawn green, or let it go dormant? The football fields, baseball fields, and golf courses look so nice this time of year. Green grass all winter would be nice. If you are a little apprehensive, instead of doing the front yard where the whole world can see, try the back yard or a side yard. If you have active children or dogs (the other children), ryegrass can lessen the damage from traffic. Ryegrass does very good under the canopy of oak trees – just ride by White Point Gardens (AKA The Battery) during the winter.

While driving through neighborhoods, I see a lot of houses for sale. Ryegrass or green paint could separate your house from the multitude of other houses that are on the market.
For the very low cost of seed and fertilizer or paint, if you could sell your house one month earlier saving you a monthly payment, wouldn’t it be worth it? What about a year earlier?

Ryegrass gets a bad reputation because people misapply it. I often get asked, “doesn’t rye kill my centipede ( or St. Augustine)?” If you manage the rye correctly, you should have no problems. The ryegrass question is like buying a dog. If you base your decision on the few untrained pit bull stories and never purchased or adopted a dog of any type because of these stories, it would be too bad.

The 3 biggest mistakes I see with rye grass that give it a bad reputation are:
  1. Put out at too high of a rate, so it chokes permanent grass.
  2. Use cheap rye with lots of weed seeds and poor color.
  3. No fertility program. Light green grass and no additional fertilizer so dog urine spots (dark green grass) become your fertilizer program.
  4. Not managed in the spring chemically or culturally, so it competes with permanent grass.

If you decide you want to put out ryegrass, now is the time to check your trusty application chart. Have you put out preemergent herbicide this fall? If so, when and at what rate? If you have recently applied preemergent products, you may want to try the paint or wait until next year. You could put out something to deactivate the preemergent so you could rye, but that will just add to your cost.

If you are painting or not using rye, you can attack some of the nasty winter weeds that will compete with your turf grass next spring without having to worry about the rye grass. Painting will also capture heat that will help your grass “green up” sooner in the spring. Who wants to be “mowing weeds” late winter / early spring? Florida Betony and other winter weeds are visible now. Remember it is easier to kill them now when they are young and actively growing than to wait until they are flowering.

3 Possum’s Stores hot topic reports – vicious late season mosquitoes, winterizing fertilizers (stay away from winter fertilizers for fescue and blue grass), brown patch / large patch, moles (of course), and mole crickets.

Always read, understand and follow product label or hire a professional. 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 You can also call in your questions to “The Garden Clinic”, Saturdays from noon to 1:00, on 1250 WTMA  (The Big Talker). If you miss “The Garden Clinic” on Saturday, listen Sunday from 11:00 – Noon.