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St Augustine Grass Owner’s Manual
by Rick Orr
Every home in Pinellas has a lawn – granted not every lawn is a great lawn but every home is surrounded by an open space called a lawn. The best lawns in Pinellas County are St Augustine lawns.
But few homeowners know much about the care and maintenance of St Augustine grass. And what little they do know is often “that’s what we did up north…” type of knowledge. What you did up north, ain’t going to work down here – different climate, different soils, different grass. What we need is a simple St Augustine grass owner’s manual.
St Augustine grass is a good grass for shade and open sun – it grows everywhere. Sunny areas require regular watering to thrive and if allowed to dry out will quickly go from stressed to dead. Shady areas require less water – St Augustine benefits from afternoon shade. Often weak areas under trees are blamed on shade when in fact it is roots massing near the surface that cut off necessary nutrients and water.
St Augustine is not a sports turf. It is easily destroyed by traffic from dogs, people and landing areas when people exit their cars. These areas should have alternate ground covers such as mulch or stepping stones
St Augustine grass MUST be mowed at 3” or higher. St Augustine was created with leaves that grow very erect forming a thick protective canopy above tender roots and stems. Mowing St Augustine grass below 3” will result in the decline and eventual failure of your lawn.
Every lawn is different but a good rule of thumb is to water every other day. Rotors should run for 45 minutes and spray heads for 15 minutes. Adjust for local conditions and laws. The use of Hydretain can greatly improve the look of lawns watered less than 3 times per week.
St Augustine requires medium levels of fertility to thrive – no need to over fertilize. Monthly light fertilization is best. Fertilizing every 60 days is the minimum fertilization schedule. Fertilizers with 50% slow release Nitrogen, no Phosphorus and at least some Potassium are best. Micronutrients especially Iron is beneficial. Summer feedings should be high in Iron and winter fertilizers should be high in Potassium.
Note: For a greener lawn, increase soil moisture by regular watering with an irrigation system.
Weed counts are highest in Spring and Fall. The best weed control is a healthy thriving St Augustine lawn that is mowed at least 3” and receives adequate fertility and water. Application of herbicides by untrained homeowners is NOT recommended. Herbicides can damage and kill St Augustine. It is best to hire a professional for weed control.
Chinch bugs and grubs can kill a lawn and sod webworms and mole crickets can weaken a lawn. Most insecticides are effective against many common insects including chinch bugs, grubs, web worms, mole crickets and other nuisance insects like ants and fleas. Regular applications of insecticides to your lawn from April to October will reduce turf damaging insects and nuisance insects (fleas, ants, cockroaches) in and around your home.
ILoveTurf.com - March 5th, 2011
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