Turf Troubles

Monday, May 03, 2021 | The Greenery, Inc.

We all love having a thick, lush lawn, but it’s not always so easy to achieve – especially in the coastal region. In an article from the CH2 magazine, Jim van Dijk from the Greenery provides some great information about the unique needs of our Lowcountry landscapes. Here is the article from the magazine:

Turf Troubles? Here’s What Makes Your Lowcountry Yard Unique

by Jim van Dijk, The Greenery

There are countless reasons to love living in the Lowcountry. There’s salt in the air, a temperate climate, and more opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature. Most of the reasons we love to live here though can pose a challenge when nurturing a landscape. Whether you’ve just moved to the area, or maybe you’ve always called the Lowcountry home, it may be time to get acquainted with your unique Lowcountry landscape.

Without getting too technical, our native soil tends to be high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen, which are two tricky elements when it comes to growing turf. Our proximity to the beach means there are more calcium elements in the soil, like oyster shells and sand. This means our yards are missing that rich and organic soil matter you see in other places around the country. When homeowners start to enhance their landscape, they must be aware of how unique our native soil is before starting. “Most people tend to use the ‘kitchen sink’ method when they try to build out their yard,” said Carol Guedalia, Retail Horticulturist at The Greenery, Inc. “That means they are throwing a little bit of everything into their landscape without really understanding which elements will help it grow.”

Carol Guedalia, Retail Horticulturist at The Greenery

Salinity is another big issue in our area. “Salinity makes the turf weak and sets it into a decline,” shared Darren Davis, Residential Operations Manager at The Greenery. “This salt intrusion can be particularly prevalent after a hurricane.” Trees are another factor that makes our area unique. The Lowcountry is predominantly filled with massive live oak trees that have significant root systems. This can cause root intrusion in your landscape, plus backyards with lots of shade areas. Then there’s the heat; we all know how hot and humid this area can get in the summertime. Finally, we can’t leave out the Lowcountry’s prolific deer population. You’ve probably seen them forage and feast on your landscape before. “Deer, like people, are willing to try whatever,” said Guedalia. “You have to protect your landscape and plant appropriately to avoid them eating through your yard.” 

So how does a homeowner combat these elements: low-nutrient and sandy soil, salinity, large oak trees, heat, humidity, and deer? “You always want to consult a professional first, before investing in your landscape,” shared Davis. “Your yard can go wrong in a hurry because there are so many dynamics. Storms bring bugs, hurricanes bring salt. You want to rely on a professional that can continue to evaluate the health of your yard because it’s ever-changing.” One of the first steps you can take is to have your soil tested. Planting the wrong turf can damage your yard in the long run, especially if you accidentally introduce a potential bug or fungal infestation to the landscape. Not to mention, sodding / seeding your landscape is a big investment! You want to be sure you are laying the right type of grass based on the soil in your yard.

Another crucial and proactive measure to take is installing an irrigation system. “Irrigation systems are critical here,” shared Tim Drake, Horticulturalist / Residential Business Developer at The Greenery. “It is just too hot in the summer and coupled with erratic rainfall, you could lose your investment of a lawn or extensive plantings.” There are many new techniques out there to irrigate your lawn, like drip irrigation for plantings, spray for turf, and even systems that can be controlled with an app on your smartphone. “With shallow rooted-plants like your turf, you will need an irrigation system to have a nice and plush yard,” said Davis. “Turf especially needs irrigation throughout the year, but there’s a right way to go about it. You don’t want to over-water the turf, because you want the grass to find its water and not become self-sufficient on your watering schedule.”

You will also want to consult a professional about selecting the right plants for your landscape. “Landscape is all about contrast,” said Davis. “You don’t want all green plants, but you do want enough to create a background to show off other plants. Just as little pop of color can go a long way.” Luckily, many native plants in the Lowcountry require little maintenance, like Yaupon American Hollies. You can also incorporate deer-resistant plants to keep those furry friends at bay. And don’t forget to evaluate the existing trees in your backyard. Most live oaks in this area are large and provide a ton of shade – which is great for your family on hot summer days, but not so great for your plants. “When designing your landscape, there are ways to incorporate shade-tolerant and shallow-rooted plants that will not be as affected by large trees with deep roots,” shared Davis.

Once you’ve consulted a professional and selected the right plants for your landscape, then there are several other considerations to enhance your outdoor spaces. “There are so many options when it comes to outdoor lighting,” said Davis. “Up-lighting at the base of a palm tree can show off the fronds, while down-lighting in an oak tree can light up a large area. It also adds an element of softness and security to the yard.”

There are fragrant plantings like Confederate Jasmine and Tea Olive plants that will enhance the sensory experience of your landscape. These fragrant plantings bloom seasonally and provide incredible smells that are quintessential to a Lowcountry yard. “Consider adding birdbaths and fountains to your landscape,” said Guedalia. “This will attract and feed wildlife, like birds and other pollinators. Plus, fountains can create a peaceful and tranquil sound.” 

Fragrant Confederate Jasmine

With all the challenges a Lowcountry landscape can bring to a homeowner, there are just as many reasons to enjoy it. As we approach warmer weather, we can enjoy our outdoor spaces for longer than most. Just remember to consult a professional before you invest in your landscape!

Enjoyed our time at The Greenery, so many beautiful plants and antiques!

Gloria P.

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