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St Augustine Grass Growers Guide: The 3 Essentials of a Beautiful St Augustine Lawn
by Rick Orr
I am on 3000 lawns per year – up close and personal – spraying – walking - studying. That amounts to about 15 million square feet of St Augustine grass pass under my feet in a year’s time. And after 10 years, I have learned a lot about St Augustine grass - all of it can be summed up in 3 essentials.
Essential #1 – Water, Water, Water – and don’t worry about overwatering your lawn, most likely you will underwater before you overwater. I am fond of saying “If you overwater, we can fix that – we cut the water back. If you underwater we can fix that – we replace the lawn!”
The number one determining factor for the success or failure of your lawn is water. Water is the fuel that runs the grass – no water – no grass. And the best source of water, when it doesn’t rain, is irrigation. Every dollar spent on the irrigation system – fixing, adjusting and maintaining will return $100 in healthy grass. So if you want a green lush lawn – water as much and as often as law permits – and then some (see “How to set Up Your Irrigation System").
Essential #2 – Mow as high as the mower will go – It is not an option – if you want a putting green for a lawn, you need to grow something other than St Augustine grass. I am fond of saying “St Augustine grass is not for Croquet – it is not a sports turf – it is a decorative turf”
The anatomy of St Augustine grass requires a tall canopy of leaves to protect the stems. St Augustine has above ground stems called stolons. These stolons form a 2” thick mat on the soil surface with leaves growing up towards the sun and roots growing down into the soil. When the leaves are allowed to be 3” or more in length, they form a dense cooling protective canopy above the stems. If you remove the leaves, the tender stems and roots are exposed to the brutal Florida sun and the lawn will decline and become infested with weeds.
Essential #3 – Fertilize and control pests on a regular schedule. You can do it yourself but the learning curve is steep and most lawn spraying companies will treat your lawn for less than DIY. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional the pattern remains the same: Fertilize and Control Pests - Rinse and Repeat every 60 days.
St Augustine grass is not self-sustaining. St Augustine grass requires repetitive regular service to thrive. The forces that destroy your lawn work 24/7 but you need only fight back once every other month with a little fertilizer and pest control. The rains, the droughts, the seasons, the growing and dying are in perpetual motion – all are working to return your lawn to the natural – sand burs and bare sand. Regular feeding and pest control sustain your lawn and keep it thriving.
ILoveTurf.com - February 3rd, 2012
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