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St. Augustine: Sometimes the Grass is Greener There

from: Lawn and Garden Magic

Yes, the grass is greener in St. Augustine and one reason is that Southern lawn grass is the St. Augustine grass. It is great for hot temperatures; it is also aggressive and dense. St. Augustine grass is tough, course and is mat forming. This grass is good at spreading quickly and can be started with either plugs or sod patches. If you look for bags of St. Augustine grass seed, you’ll have a hard time finding them.

St. Augustine grass doesn't produce a marketable seed. Recent developments have given the public a seed but it's still better to start with sod or plugs. This grass is great for salty, alkaline, or acidic ground. It tolerates ocean saltwater and thrives in the sun. If temperatures in warm weather zones are expected to drop to below 20 degrees, watering the lawn will keep the soil temperature closer to 32 degrees. Colder temperatures coupled with a dry soil will cause root damage. St. Augustine grass will grow well in full sun and will tolerate some shade.

St. Augustine grass is usually a light to medium green color and as mentioned before is course in texture. Its growth habit is fast and it creeps along, filling in the lawn as it goes.

St. Augustine grass needs to be mowed to a height of 2.5 to 3.5 inches for best results. If you have shady areas, you need to let the grass grow a little longer. In the hottest part of summer, raise the mowing height and don’t mow at all if you’re experiencing a season of drought. St. Augustine grass will knit itself into a tight turf that naturally resists weeds if you fertilize properly. It actually smothers weeds, as the grass grows so thick.

The grass has aggressive aboveground runners called stolons that can grow 3/4 inches per day laterally. In addition, iron in a fertilizer will give you the maximum green color that lawn enthusiasts desire. Fertilization is best done in Spring, Summer and Fall. Early in Spring your St. Augustine lawn needs a weed and feed pesticide that will kill broadleaf that is already up and growing and stops new weed seeds from germinating. Also in late spring you should use a fertilizer and pest control if it is needed. You should use lawn fertilizer in the summer and insect control but only as needed. In the early fall, St. Augustine grass should be winterized with a winter conditioner. If your lawn’s ph level is discovered to be too low, then lime should be added in late winter or early spring. It is important to remember when fertilizing your lawn to use a fertilizer spreader to spread lawn care products evenly over your lawn.

Maintenance will depend on the temperature of the soil, water levels, and your mowing and fertilization schedule. If temperatures are cool, the grass will grow slower and less mowing is required. St. Augustine grass needs to be regularly irrigated or watered to keep it healthy. It requires two inches of water every seven days to preserve its green color and keeping it from going dormant. If it does go dormant, it will green right up again as soon as it receives the moisture it needs. If you have more than 1/2 inch of dead stems and debris on the soils surface, you will need to thin and clear out the dead thatch for a healthy lawn. You should do this in the spring just before new growth begins. The root-growing season starts in April and goes through October.

Two pests cause damage to any lawn with St. Augustine grass. One is known as St. Augustine Decline, which is a virus and the other, is a bug called a chinch bug. These are tiny black insects with white wings. You will probably find them in hot dry spots of your lawn. If you are unsure if you have them, you can make them come to the surface by soaking the spot with a bucket of soapy water. To repair spots damaged by the virus or the chinch bugs you will need to plant sprigs of a resistant strain of St. Augustine grass such as Floratam or Floralawn. Check with your county extension to see how and when to best control both problems.


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