Winter Landscaping Checklist

Prune trees and shrubs - Since most plants have lost their leaves, you can more easily determine the branches that should be removed. Be careful to ensure that you don't remove buds for next spring's flowers. (Those plants should be pruned in the late spring.)

Determine if you need to water your lawn - If it does not rain for extended periods, your turf and plants may still need to be watered even while dormant. Talk to a lawn care professional about an appropriate irrigation schedule for your property.

Add mulch or pinestraw - Mulch and pine straw not only improve the appearance of your landscape, they also help moderate soil temperature and moisture.

Make sure you are ready for Spring - Check your lawn and safety equipment to ensure that they are ready to be used in the spring. Put the finishing touches on your plans for spring and summer landscaping improvements.

Other Landscaping Tips

How often should I water my lawn?
During the summer, your lawn needs approximately one inch of water per week. For best results, you should water “deep” – this means that you water your lawn 2 or 3 times per week to promote a deeper root system and healthier turf. If you water more often, the roots can become shallow. We suggest watering in the morning so that the lawn has the entire day to absorb the moisture and evaporate as needed. Watering in the evening can promote fungus and disease in the turf. Don’t overwater – you can save money by allowing mother nature to do her job when it rains.

What is the difference between long leaf and short leaf pine straw?
As the name suggests, long leaf pine straw is longer (8-13 inches) than short leaf (5-8 inches). The color may vary as well with long leaf having more vivid, longer lasting coloring. Generally, the initial installation of long leaf pine straw will be more expensive than the short leaf option. However, you will save money in the long run because long leaf pine straw does not have to be replaced as often.

What is overseeding and should I do it?
Many people believe that they will have a green lawn all year if they fertilize. However, most grasses in the Lowcountry become dormant during the winter months. Overseeding is a process by which you seed "over" your existing lawn with ryegrass seed. Ryegrass is a cool season grass that will give you a green lawn. Also, overseeding helps keep out the weeds that tend to pop up during the winter months. This sets your lawn up for a great start in the spring.

Are there organic options for fertilization?
Yes, there are organic options for fertilization. You can maintain your lawn using natural, non-toxic products. Keep in mind that these options are typically a little more expensive than the traditional options. But, you can help protect the environment and still have a great looking lawn.

Weeding out problem landscapers

By Wevonneda Minis - Post and Courier

When Barry Buteau noticed lawn-care workers he suspected of operating without a license, he notified the inspection agents at Clemson University. Buteau, who owns A Clean Wish, a Summerville landscape service, said he suspects there are others.

The tight economy has many people looking for ways to make more money. Lawn care can look like the perfect answer to those who have gained experience by tending their own yards. But applying pesticides on other people's property for money has required a license since 2006.

"It's the easiest profession to get into. It does not take rocket science," Buteau said. Unlicensed landscapers often operate on weekends, riding through subdivisions and knocking on doors for customers. Sometimes they leave fliers on the services they provide at prices much lower than licensed landscapers. But they often are not licensed to apply lawn chemicals, including weed control, and do not have the required liability insurance.

"They might not know because you can apply this stuff in your own yard," Buteau said. He later found out from the inspection agents with Clemson that the two he complained about were not licensed. He has not seen them since.

Commercial landscapers who apply pesticides must pass a licensing exam, said Joseph Krausz, head of the department of pesticide regulation at Clemson University, which regulates and enforces the law. They also must obtain pesticide liability insurance for $50,000 per incident and $100,000 total annual claims before they can get a state license.

Chemicals covered by the 3 year-old state law include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, plant growth regulators and rodenticides, Krausz said. Some of the pesticides covered by the regulations can be purchased by a homeowner at a local retailer.

A license does not cover everyone in the company, Krausz said. So the person who applies the pesticide may not have a license. However, they must be well-trained and supervised by someone in the business who does have a license.

Depending on how the federal Environmental Protection Agency marks the pesticide, a licensed supervisor must be within a certain distance from the user. In all cases, the supervisor must be immediately accessible by telephone, radio or walkie-talkie in case of a spill or other type of accident.

Licensed businesses are issued a decal that must be displayed on the truck that carries or applies the pesticide. The license fee for commercial applicators in landscape businesses is $50 for the first individual and $10 each for additional ones at that business location.

"I would suspect that as people are laid off at other businesses, or working fewer hours at a manufacturing plant, we may see more people going into the business," Krausz said. More people might be getting into the business now, but there are no hard facts or figures to indicate violations are increasing, he said.

"For the first year and a half or so, we took a compliance assistance approach," he said. "I don't want to call it a problem. With any new regulation, it takes several years to get up to speed. We don't have a good feel for the number of people applying pesticides on a commercial basis. In this industry there is a tremendous turnover and it's seasonal. We are still in the process of getting everyone licensed."

Landscapers discovered operating without a license twice are reported to an investigator, four of which are in Charleston, Krausz said. Some have been fined a penalty of $250 for indifference toward the requirement. Those found misusing pesticides have been fined from $250 to $500. The regulations provide for fines of up to $1,000.