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St. Augustine Turfgrass Facts for Central Florida

Jul 21, 2015 | Turfgrass Products

St. Augustine grass forms a very dense lawn that feels great under bare feet. It is a warm-season turfgrass, native to the coastal plains of the Gulf of Mexico – making it great for Central Florida because it is best in sub-tropical coastal regions with mild winters and plenty of rainfall.
This type of grass will survive with little maintenance, but with a little extra care, it makes a thick, lush lawn. While it is more shade tolerant than other warm-season grasses, it grows best in full sun. It likes fertile, moist, well-drained soils and it will not grow in waterlogged or compacted soils. St. Augustine grass is a vigorous grower when temperatures are between 80 ° and 90 ° F but it requires frequent irrigation when grown on sandy soils and during dry spells. Avoid planting in areas that receive heavy foot traffic – St. Augustine is not a good choice for sports fields.

St. Augustine Characteristics:

  • Warm-season, perennial turfgrass
  • Native of the Gulf of Mexico coastal plains
  • Adapted to sub-tropical climates
  • Blue-green, course-textured (thick) leaves
  • Fast and thick-growing
  • Likes moist, fertile, well-drained soil
  • Good salt tolerance
  • Not drought tolerant
  • Tolerates shade better than other warm-season grasses

St. Augustine Grass Establishment and Care

Planting: St. Augustine lawns are usually planted by sodding or plugging. New lawns should be started from May through August – allowing the grass to develop a strong root system before winter.

  • Bitter Blue – has a finer, denser leaf texture and darker blue-green color than Common St. Augustine.
  • Flortam – chinch bug resistant.
  • Seville – dwarf cultivar that is a much finer textured grass than Floratam. blue-green in color with excellent color retention, tolerates salt, shade, and drought well. These varieties should be mowed short (1 ½ to 2 ½ inches).
  • Palmetto – demonstrates superior shade, cold, frost, heat, and drought tolerance.
Mowing: Mow between 2 to 3 ½ inches – depending on cultivar. As with all warm season grasses, it will need to be mowed every 7 to 10 days in the spring and as frequent as every 5 days while it is growing fast in the summer.
Stick to the 1/3 Rule – mowing frequently enough so you don’t remove more than ⅓ of the leaf blade. Mow at shorter heights in the summer and raise the height of cut going in the fall to encourage the grass to build up energy reserves in preparation for winter. Keep your lawn mower blades sharp for a clean manicured cut.

 Coastal areas usually receive enough rain to support St. Augustine without supplemental irrigation. However, it does not tolerate drought and will need to be watered during dry periods.

 Start fertilizing about 3 weeks after the grass has started to green up in the spring. Three applications of slow release nitrogen – April, June and August – at a rate of 1lb per 1000 ft2 will keep your lawn healthy and green.
Have your soil tested at least once every 3 years. The results will tell you if you need to add lime or other soil amendments. Iron deficiency can be a problem with St. Augustine. It sometimes develops chlorotic symptoms in alkaline or iron deficient soils and may require a fertilizer containing iron.

St. Augustine Pests and Problems

Most pest and disease problems with St. Augustine grasses can be avoided by using good management practices.

 A heavy thatch producer. It needs to be dethatched if the thatch layer is over ½ inch. The best time to dethatch is in May – when the grass is actively growing.

 Chinch bugs are the major insect pest, although the Floratamvariety is resistant to chinch bugs.

 Brown patch/Large patch, grey leaf spot, root rot and St. Augustine Decline Virus (SADV) are the most common disease problems.

 If you need to use chemical weed control, ensure the product is labeled for St. Augustine grass and always read and follow the label to avoid damaging your lawn.