Spring time has arrived! This means that you will be spending more time outside surveying your surroundings and completing your annual yard maintenance. Unfortunately, even the most beautiful lawns suffer from sod damage during the winter months. Below are some helpful tips regarding St. Augustine sod.
St. Augustine grass is a fast growing, widely-adapted, warm season grass. It grows in a wide variety of soils and pH levels. It is also the most common turf grass grown and used throughout the state of Florida. A properly maintained St. Augustine lawn will produce a dense, lush carpet of medium to dark green/blue green color. It does best growing in rich, well-drained soil, in a warm humid climate. The advantages of this turf are the green, dark green or blue green color, it adapts to a wide variety of soils. It has an overall good salt tolerance, establishes quickly, can be started from sod, sprigs or plugs and can handle shade. However, it does require a lot of water, doesn’t work well with heavy foot traffic, turns brown once it is dormant in the winter, weed control can be difficult, and the worst- chinch bugs can cause serious damage. Here are some maintenance suggestions you may follow during the spring months.
As spring arrive and your St. Augustine begins to turn green, it’s time to start mowing the grass. Start by mowing your grass often, at 2.5 to 4.0 inches, removing no more than 1/3” of the leaf blade. By mowing more often during the growing season, you will avoid build- up of grass clippings.
Before applying fertilizer to your lawn, it is a good idea to get your lawn’s soil tested every 2-3 years. Apply lime if the soil test recommends it. Apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. Approximately 3 weeks after your grass begins to green up. Do not apply more than 3 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. per year.
During the spring season St. Augustine seldom needs irrigation due to the spring rains. However, if the lawn is established, apply irrigation on an “as-needed” basis. If leaf blades turn a blue-gray color, look wilted or curled, begin to fold over or show foot prints from walking in the grass —It is time for irrigation.
Don’t over water! Apply 3/4” to 1” of water per week if needed.
During the spring and fall months you may find brown grass, in circular patches called “brown patch” fungus. Brown patch usually happens during humid, warm weather and is fueled by excessive nitrogen. Fungicides may provide control. A better “method of control” is to reduce irrigation and nitrogen, improve drainage and air movement through the soil.
The number one insect pest for St. Augustine is the southern chinch bug. If you notice yellow spots or drought like symptoms in sunny locations — check for chinch bugs.
Checking for Chinch Bugs
Take a metal coffee can and remove the top and bottom. Push the can into the area you think may have chinch bugs. Fill the can with water. If chinch bugs are present they should float. Generally, it is recommended to hire a professional to treat your St. Augustine turf for chinch bug infestation.
If your lawn is in need of some renovation, the spring time is the ideal time to re-sod the area.
And, of course, as always, if you don’t feel comfortable maintaining your sod and are not up for spending your money on guesses, hire a professional landscaping company to maintain and advise your of the best course of action.
Christy Borden, CMCA, AMS, PCAM