Learn More About Using St. Augustine Grass For Your Lawn
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
St. It is widely grown in Florida and other warm season states. St. Augustine grass lawn is a compact blue-green color that grows well on a variety of soil types provided they are well drained. St Augustine grass is the most widely used warm season turf grass in the southern United States.
Planting St Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass lawn is grown in coastal areas due to its salt tolerance. Also known as carpetgrass, St. Augustine creates a smooth even turf which is tolerant to extremely high temperatures and low moisture. It retains its color longer than other warm season grasses when exposed to cool temperatures and requires infrequent mowing.
The propagation of St. Augustine grass is usually vegetative through stolens, plugs, and sod.
St. Augustine grass seed has not traditionally been easy to establish but new methods have made seeding a viable option. Once a lawn is prepared, St. Augustine grass seed is planted at a rate of 1/3 to ½ pound per 1,000 square feet (93 sq. m.) in early spring or late summer. Augustine grass seed needs to be kept moist while it is establishing.
Plugs are the more common method of planting St Augustine grass. Plugs should be placed 6 to 12 inches (15-31 cm.) apart in a prepared lawn.
How To Care For St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass is a low maintenance sod that can perform well with little extra care. During the first seven to ten days after planting, it requires frequent watering several times during the day. After roots have formed, irrigation once per day at a rate of ¼ to ½ inch (6 mm. to 1 cm.) is sufficient. Gradually reduce the frequency of watering until the St. Augustine grass lawn is fully established.
Mow after two weeks to 1 to 3 inches (2.5-8 cm.) in height. Mow every week to two weeks depending on the height. Fertilize with 1 pound of nitrogen every 30 to 60 days during spring through fall.
Common St. Augustine Grass Problems
Grubs and sod worms are the most common pests and can be controlled with insecticide applications twice early in spring and mid-season.
Fungal turf diseases such as brown patch and gray leaf spot weaken the sod and destroy the appearance. Early season fungicides can often catch these diseases before they can become a serious problem.
Weeds are minor St. Augustine problems. A healthy turf crowds out weeds and pre-emergence herbicides can be used where broadleaf weeds are a consistent threat. The best defense against St. Augustine problems is good cultural control and reduced stress in the turf.
St. Augustine Varieties
There are over 11 common St. Augustine varieties and several newly released cultivars. Some of the most widely used include:
- Bitter Blue
Each selection is bred for reduced cold sensitivity, insect and disease resistance, and better color and texture.
There are also dwarf species such as Amerishade and Delmar, which need to be mowed less frequently. Augustine grasses developed for shade use are Classic and Delta Shade.
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Besides having an enhanced darker bluish-green color and better texture, Bitter Blue grass can tolerate shade better than common St. Augustine grass. It also is more tolerant of colder temperatures. Another benefit is that this type of St. Augustine grass grows slower so there’s less mowing.
- St. Augustine grass is a popular grass used often on home landscapes.
- Although Bitter Blue grass has a darker green color and improved texture than common St. Augustine grass, it has a lower tolerance to the herbicide, Atrazine, making weed control harder.
St. Augustine grass seed is well adapted to a wide range of soils types. With dark green blades and rounded tips, St. Augustine grass grows best in sun but tolerates shade. When watered regularly, St. Augustine seed grows quickly and the grass spreads by surface runners that root at the joints. New grass will grow into other areas, but can be pulled up easily because of its shallow root system. Varieties include "Amerishade," "Bitterblue," "Classic," "Delmar," "Delta Shade," "Floralawn," "Floratam," "Floratine," "Palmetto," "Raleigh" and "Seville."
This type of St. Augustine Grass was the result of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station and was released in 1959. There are several features of this grass that differ from the original. For one thing, it has a finer texture, and it is a deeper shade of green. This strain also tends to keep its rich color later into fall and does better with closer mowing.
This strain of St. Augustine Grass was around prior to Floratine and became the preferred variety for yards until Floratine was created.
Also introduced in 1980, this strain was released by the North Carolina Experiment Station. The difference is this variety was meant to be a cold tolerant strain that was also resistant to SAD. It is finer than Floratam and develops into a denser turf. This strain is also does better in shade, but lacks the tolerance to chinch bugs.
This type has been produced commercially in Texas since 1920.
Seville was created as an attempt to resist SAD and tolerate chinch bugs. It was released by the O.M. Scott and Sons Company in 1980. It is finer in texture and cannot tolerate colder weather.
In 1972, this variety was released by the Florida and Texas Agricultural Experiment Stations. This strand was also created to not be as susceptible to chinch bugs and the SAD virus. The leaf blades of this strain are wider than traditional St. Augustine Grass. This type of grass is most commonly used in South Florida for pasture grass, mostly on muck soils. Floratam is also not as resilient against cold as the type that is found in Texas, so it’s best for areas in Southern Florida and other coastal zones in the South. However, Floratam does not have the shade tolerance that some of the other choices for St. Augustine Grass do.
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Deep blue-green, fast-growing and easily cultivated St. Augustine is uniquely suited to our climate and is one of Florida’s favorite turf grasses. Use these helpful tips to keep your St. Augustine lawn looking its best all year long.
- Never cut more than one-third of the total length of your lawn. Cutting grass too short interferes with photosynthesis and can cause yellowing. To maintain a lawn 3 inches in height, allow the grass to grow 4 inches long before mowing.
- Moderate fertilization can reduce mowing frequency to every four to five days or once weekly.
- St. Augustine lawns should be maintained at a height of between 3-1/2 and 4 inches to develop a strong root structure and look their best. If you allow the lawn to grow to over 6 inches high, you’ll risk cutting the stolon when mowing, stressing the turf and reducing new growth.
- Choose the highest wheel setting on your mower to achieve the proper height and always use a sharp blade. Dull blades whip the grass rather than making clean cuts. Jaggedly cut grass yellows quickly and requires more water. Sharpen or replace mower blades yearly for best results.
- Allowing St. Augustine to overgrow can result in a thick mat or thatch at soil level. Thatch reduces water absorption and is a leading cause of cinch bug infestations and damaging fungus.
- St. Augustine usually requires supplemental irrigation during prolonged dry periods to remain green and thriving.
- Most turf grasses naturally go dormant in the fall. Reduce mowing frequency when the weather changes. In mid-March, mow the brown tops from the lawn to warm the soil and expose the roots to sunlight. It isn’t necessary to cut the grass very low or scalp it.
If you have questions or need help maintaining your St. Augustine turf, contact the lawn specialists at Keep it Green today.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 at 2:54 pm and is filed under Lawn. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
I know you’re wondering, “why is my St Augustine grass dying?”.
Usually the first symptoms of take-all root rot show up in spring and summer. The lawn has a yellow-green cast from the yellow leaves called chlorosis. As the fungus progresses a severe thinning in irregular patches occurs as infected stolons begin to die.
If all grass dies in an area it is soon replaced with weeds.
Shady areas do not seem to show the damage as much as grass in areas with lots of sun. St Augustine grass with a “heavy dose” of take-all root rot, looks patchy in decline when accompanied with a weak root system.
In areas where St Augustine grass does not go completely dormant, the greatest recovery from the fungus happens during the winter. However, when spring rains return, often so do the symptoms.
Every lawn grass has a height at which it should be mowed for best health. The rule is that only one-third of a grass plant should be removed in one mowing. As an example, if you intend to mow your St. Augustine grass lawn at a 2 inch height, you can allow it to grow to 3 inches between mowings. If you fertilize moderately, mowing a lawn should only be needed once per week.
St. Augustine grass lawns need to be cut at a height of 2 to 3 inches. Rotary mowers can do a good job if your St. Augustine grass lawn is relatively smooth and you keep the blade sharp. Otherwise, a more expensive reel mower will be needed. Research indicates that a height of 3 inches is best when growing St Augustine grass in partial shade.
If you allow the grass to get much taller than 3 inches you’ll mow down into the stems that have grown tall and the lawn will not look its best after you mow.
Measure the mowing height by stationing the mower on a flat surface and noting the distance between the blade and the ground. Make sure all four mower wheels are set to the same height.
The first step in good mowing is to have a sharp blade. If the blade has not been sharpened in the past year, it needs to be sharpened or replaced. Dull blades whip the grass ends rather than cutting the grass. The ragged ends left by a dull blade cause a lawn to look yellowish the day after you mow. Ragged grass blades also lead to more water use by the grass and possibly an increase in disease.
In fall, let the grass go dormant without excessive mowing. It will have a nice brown color during the winter. In mid March, mow off the top brown blades to expose the soil to the sun and warm the soil. Scalping the grass very low is not necessary. Burning the dead grass is also not recommended. It is illegal in most areas and it is dangerous in all places.
It is not necessary to catch the clippings when you mow. Research has shown that letting the clippings fall on the ground does not lead to disease or thatch problems. The clippings actually return nitrogen to the soil and save you money on fertilizer.
St. Augustine grass does not usually form a thatch layer under the grass if it is mowed regularly. Using a de-thatcher when it is not needed can hurt the grass more than it helps. If the turf seems to be growing directly in the soil and if the thatch is less than 1/2 inch thick, don’t use a dethatcher.
Q: We need to buy a lawn mower soon. Do we really need a reel mower for the St. Augustine grass ?
A: If the St. Augustine grass lawn is flat, you can get by with a rotary mower, with a sharp blade, instead of a reel model. If there are lots of low places, though, a rotary mower’s wheels will fall into them and produce half-moon scalped spots. You’ll either need to fill the depressions or buy a reel mower. I strongly recommend that if you get a rotary mower, it be a mulching model. You’ll save time by eliminating bagging and you’ll save money on fertilizer too. The clippings that are left on a lawn contribute their nutrients back to the existing turf.
Q: We are contemplating buying a riding mower. What kind would be best for a St. Augustine grass lawn?
A: Your best choice would be a mower whose cutting height is easy to adjust and whose blade is easy to sharpen. Beyond the mower, though, your lawn should be substantially free of ruts and high spots. If a riding mower wheel falls into a rut, the blade will make an ugly scalp in the grass. St. Augustine grass should be mowed at two inches tall. At that height, a sharp blade is mandatory. Don’t think the widest deck would be the best – one 30 to 36 inches wide would be better able to maneuver in a typical home lawn.