TONY MELTON: Fall is time to prepare yard, garden for spring

September 23, 2018

Tony Melton

The local fairs are over — only the S.C. State Fair remains (Oct. 10-21) — one hurricane has passed, and life slows for no one. I had better hold on tight this week since it will be full of contrasts/changes.

Today is the first full day of fall, my favorite time of year. Supposedly the temperatures should change from excessively hot to cool, but we all know that shorts are many times appropriate at Christmas in South Carolina. I hope there are enough leaves left for fall color. However, tomorrow is getting to be my least favorite time of year, my birthday, I turn 61, or just plain old as dirt.

Then, by the end of the week I will be getting excited about the Fall Flower Festival the next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (Oct. 5-7) at the Pee Dee State Farmers Market. Also, fall signals a big change in the world around us, including our lawns and gardens and we must get busy and prepare.

First, apply a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn (Oct. 1). My phone rings off the hook in the spring with people asking me how to control the ugly weeds in their lawn. I always tell them you missed the best time to control these weeds, last fall. This year why don’t you get ahead of the weeds and apply a pre-emergent herbicide now to control lawn weeds and you won’t have to call me in the spring.

These weeds that most people refer to as spring weeds are actually winter weeds. Like my wife, these weeds don’t like our summer heat but they don’t have the luxury my wife has to turn the thermostat to cold (what I call hog-killing temperatures). These weeds germinate and start to grow in the fall when it cools down, usually in late September or October in our area, and grow all winter long. Therefore, now (Oct. 1) is the best time to control these weeds with a pre-emergent herbicide before they start to emerge and grow.

However, make sure the pre-emergent you choose doesn’t contain a fertilizer. Fall fertilization with a fertilizer containing nitrogen causes greening of the grass, increases winter kill, and is what I call the “death of centipede grass.”

Many companies make many types of pre-emergent herbicides with all types of active ingredients and brand names, but quite honestly in Florence there is a limited availability of products. Obtaining the one best for your lawn situation can be difficult. However, the more you know about your lawn, including the type of grass, soil, and weeds present, the more it will make the selection easier. Also, reading and following all label directions will help you make the best herbicide selection and ensure optimum use and results.

You may think getting out your five-dollar reading glasses and comprehending a pesticide label is punishment but if you do a poor job of controlling the weeds, leave checkerboard like streaks in your lawn, or worst of all damage your lawn and have nothing but brown grass next summer, your spouse and neighbors will never let you hear the end of it. Products such as Atrazine, Balan, Barricade, Dimension, Pennant, Triflurlin, Surflan, Team, and XL may be found locally.

Next, plant trees and shrubs. Planting in the fall will allow trees and shrubs to produce an adequate root system so they can withstand the excessive heat of next summer. Our relatively warm winter temperatures allow roots to grow all winter long. This is one of the reasons the Pee Dee Fall Plant & Flower Festival is October 5-7 at the Pee Dee State Farmers Market. Open Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., to give you a chance to pick that perfect plant for that perfect place in your yard. The Florence County Master Gardeners will have a booth in the center of the building to give you advice on choosing, planting, and growing that perfect plant.

Finally, to learn more about gardening watch our Emmy Award-winning T.V. program, “Making-It-Grow (MIG),” which can be seen at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays on SCETV.

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer. Email Melton at amelton@clemson.edu.

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