A portion of the dormant lawn was covered with turf paint at Trident Technical College's horticulture program. Tony Bertauski/Provided

Christmas felt a little different this year. We don’t have little kids in the house anymore. We didn’t count down the days this year or stack the presents. It also felt like spring on Christmas morning.

Many lawns haven’t gone completely dormant. Lowcountry lawns consist of warm-season grass. They tolerate hot summers and turn tan following the first hard frost. In the spring, new growth starts at the rhizomes and stolons.

Right now, the state of your turf depends on many variables, including microclimate and turf species. Centipedegrass and bermudagrass are, in many cases, mostly dormant. Some St. Augustine grass lawns may be somewhat green. Many zoysia lawns, however, may still appear active. This is because zoysia is the most cold tolerant warm-season turfgrass. It’s considered a transition zone grass, tolerating cold climates as far as the Midwest.

Cool-season turfgrasses such as tall fescue grow in the Upstate and maintain color during the winter. Ryegrass is frequently used in the Lowcountry to overseed dormant lawns. Our winters are ideal growing conditions for cool-season turf. However, they won’t survive the summer heat.


The zoysia golf green at Trident Technical College's horticulture program is painted on the right side. The left side still maintains some color. Tony Bertauski/Provided

Often times, the only green growth in our winter lawns are weeds. These can be sprayed or mowed or ignored. You choose. However, a uniform dormant tan lawn can still be appealing. For most folks, there’s no denying the appeal of a lush green lawn throughout the winter. It just lifts the spirits on overcast days.

Overseeding isn’t difficult. Ryegrass seed is applied in October when nighttime temperatures drop into the 50s. Add water and you have a ryegrass lawn until April. Make sure you apply it uniformly, ideally with a drop spreader at half rate in perpendicular directions. This would be about three pounds per thousand square feet in both directions.

Overseeding means you have to mow it and occasionally irrigate, and, for ideal results, fertilize. Overseeding is also hard on your warm-season turfgrass, in particular centipedegrass and St. Augustine. Bermudagrass and zoysia lawns are much more tolerant because they exhibit vigorous underground growth via rhizomes. Continuous winter overseedings can weaken your summer lawns. It’s not necessarily ill advised to do. Just be aware you may have to pay closer attention to encouraging your lawn to emerge from winter dormancy.

There is another option to maintaining the appearance of green color in winter. It’s much less expensive, doesn’t require mowing, irrigation or fertilizer. It’s a technique that some golf courses employ to keep color on the greens and tees while reducing their maintenance costs.

It’s painting your grass.


Trident Technical College horticulture graduate Joey Thomas paints the field for the Kansas City Chiefs. Provided

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A graduate of the TTC horticulture program, Joey Thomas, currently works for the Kansas City Chiefs. He spends most of his time painting logos, end zones and the field to get perfect visuals for television. While he’s become well versed in high-end spray technology, all you need is a backpack sprayer and turf paint for your yard. Your results won’t look like Arrowhead Stadium, but it can create satisfactory results.

Turf paint is different than dye. Dye is often mixed with herbicides to track applications. It fades after a couple of days. Paint will retain color for months. It can be locally purchased at landscaping vendors specializing in turf products.

Follow the rate on the label, mix with water and spray. Uniform application is essential. A quality sprayer with a flat fan nozzle is ideal to avoid the subtle stripes that result from poor technique.

The lawn should be debris-free before application, otherwise you’ll get tan spots when leaves and sticks are blown from a nicely painted lawn. Avoid staining sidewalks and driveways by using cardboard to shield the spray. Be sure to thoroughly rinse equipment when finished to avoid clogged nozzles and screens.

Turf paint products vary in color. Experiment on small portions of the lawn. Reapplication may be required to maintain an acceptable appearance until the winter skies fade and our summer lawns return.

Tony Bertauski is a horticulture instructor at Trident Technical College. To give feedback, e-mail him at