If you have been reading my offerings for a while, I hope this one feels familiar. If this is new information to you, I can only hope you are a new reader. If not, I need to find a better way to write.
I will not bury the lead on this: It is not time to put fertilizer on your lawn. I know we are flirting with 80-degree-Fahrenheit air temperatures, but that is not the controlling factor on when your lawn starts growing.
The soil still is too cold. The soil has to hit and hold 65 degrees for at least two weeks before the roots wake up and start taking up minerals.
If you are listening to the guy on TV who tells you “Feed your lawn — feed it!” and start putting out fertilizer now — well, you deserve what you get. We have not even hit 65 degrees yet, let alone held it long enough for the turf-enzyme systems to spool up.
If you don’t believe me, go look for yourself. Go ahead, check out the soil temps at the Coastal Botanical Gardens at the Bamboo Farm just over the Ogeechee on Highway 17 just north of us. Go to www.griffin.uga.edu/aemn/ and click on the red dot next to the “h” in Savannah on the state map. Click on “Graph Daily Data” in the first of three columns of weather tools; when the next screen comes up, scroll down to soil temperatures.
I am writing this on March 20, so we may have cracked 65 degrees at 4 inches by the time you read this, but it will not have been two weeks above 65 by then. It’s still too cold! Putting fertilizer out now will only feed the enemies — fungus, insects and weeds — and make them stronger and more vigorous.
No, it is too early to lay sod. The soil is not warm enough for sod to root in. Just as established lawns need 65 degrees to wake up and work, roots in sod will not grow out into cold soil. Yes, yes, I know the sod producer is happy to sell you the sod now. He probably would happily sell you sod in January with frost on it, too.
Also, sod is more perishable than ripe bananas in a plastic bag. Sod should be laid within 24 hours of the time it is cut from the sod farm. Not 24 hours after it is delivered to your home, not 24 hours after it was delivered to the local nursery or big box store — 24 hours after it was cut from the ground on the sod farm.
Finally, if you have not spent at least as much money preparing the ground for your sod as you spent buying the sod, you are wasting your time and money.
If you were ignorant or arrogant enough to ignore soil temperatures and/or site prep and your lawn or sod dies, don’t go looking for the grower or installer to pay for your mistake. There is no warranty on sod once it leaves the sod farm.
If you have weeds coming up now in your lawn, sorry, but you missed your chance to stop them when you decided not to apply a pre-emerge herbicide by Valentine’s Day. No, there is nothing you can spray or spread now for weed control. Your lawn is just about to wake up. Your lawn is sensitive to chemistry during green-up that it would tolerate easily in June. It is best to wait, but if you decide to apply herbicides now, you deserve what you get.
I’m not making up any of the above. I don’t make the rules on this, Mother Nature does. We just study nature and try to understand how she works. Having tried it both ways, I am telling you it is easier to make progress swimming with the tide than against it.
On the side of what you can and should be doing now:
• Yes, prune azaleas for next year as soon as they drop this year’s blooms, but please do not hedge them.
• Yes, you can start pruning out freeze-injured tissue from your woody ornamentals.
• Yes, you can do a water audit on your irrigation system.
• Yes, you can rake up tree leaves and compost them or use them to refresh the mulch beds under your trees.
• Yes, a good raking of your lawn to remove all the matted tree leaves is in order.
There is no reason to rush the season. There are enough smart things to do in the yard to keep you busy until sundown — or the gnats get to you.