St. Augustine Grass: A Complete Guide
St. Augustine grass is a warm-season grass; therefore, it is very popularly used in lawns by homeowners in tropical and subtropical, capable of growing in USDA hardiness zones 8-10. For this reason, it is often the grass species of choice for yards in the deep south. Like other warm-weather grasses, it is fast-growing, drought-tolerant, and withstands heavy foot traffic. St. Augustine outcompetes other warm-season turf grasses with its shade-tolerance. If you live in a hot climate and have a yard with lots of shade, St. Augustine grass could be the perfect choice for your outdoor space. Consult with a local lawn care expert to be sure.
How to Grow St. Augustine Grass
When establishing a new lawn, you have the choice of seed, sod, or plugs. Each of these has their advantages and disadvantages, and the best option depends on your budget, needs, and the type of grass you are trying to establish.
St. Augustine grass actually cannot be grown from seeds. This is mainly because, as a species, it tends to not produce seeds viable enough to be sold commercially. For that reason, you cannot buy St. Augustine grass seeds.
Because of this, the only methods available for establishing a St. Augustine grass lawn are either sod or plugs, and the best choice depends on the extent of your needs. For a lawn that is particularly damaged, or one that needs complete coverage, sod is the best choice, although, it is more expensive than plugs. Plugs are a better option if you are simply trying to fill in some empty patches, or if you are trying to stay within a smaller budget and do not mind waiting for the grass to grow, which could take up to a year.
Regardless of what you choose for your St. Augustine grass lawn, it is crucial that you ensure you soil is well-watered and fertilized before installation.
How to Maintain St. Augustine Grass
Like other warm-weather turf grasses, St. Augustine grass goes dormant during the winter months, when the soil temperature drops below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. When this occurs, the grass will turn brown and stop growing. In warmer climates though, St. Augustine grass will never go dormant as the soil temperature will not drop low enough. Therefore, the area in which you live will play a large part in determining the best lawn care plan for your outdoor space.
Optimal winter care for your St. Augustine grass lawn actually begins in fall. As you notice temperatures dropping, you should prepare your lawn for upcoming dormancy by conducting a soil test. This way, you know exactly what nutrients your lawn is lacking and can add accordingly. During colder months, you should not be adding nitrogen to the soil. For example, if you apply nitrogen too late in the fall, it could encourage growth in your grass when it is about to go into dormancy. This would not only be a waste of fertilizer, but this can make your lawn more susceptible to disease or frost damage.
The proper way to fertilize your St. Augustine grass lawn before winter starts with mowing it to about 2 inches leading up to the colder months. Then, once nighttime temperatures drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you should cut it even shorter to 0.5 to 1 inch. This is when you are going to want to apply lime, sulfur, and potassium depending on the needs indicated by your lawn’s soil test. Lime will raise the soil’s pH to make it more alkaline or basic while sulfur does the opposite, making soil with a high pH more acidic. Potassium, or potash, will help your grass retain its strength and nutrients.
Once winter passes, spring is when your St. Augustine grass really has the opportunity to thrive. It will be coming out of dormancy and slowly turning from brown to green in color. Once there is no danger of the soil going through a late-season frost, this is when you can begin to fertilize with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, depending on the results of another soil test (soil tests should be continuously conducted for an optimal lawn). If a soil test cannot be conducted, a fertilizer with a 3:1:2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is your best bet for meeting your grass’s needs. Fertilization should be repeated about every 8 weeks, depending on the type of fertilizer and instructions on the bag.
Summer maintenance is very similar to spring, which a focus placed on high-nitrogen fertilizers. Depending on a soil test, you might even want to switch to a nitrogen-only fertilizer. This will encourage growth, while avoiding an excessive amount of phosphorus in the soil, which could result in deficiencies in other nutrients, such as zinc and iron. As the summer months come to an end, this is where we will begin preparing for the colder months once again.
For help with caring for your St. Augustine grass lawn, reach out to us here at LawnCare.Net. Our network of professionals can provide the exact services your lawn needs to thrive year-round.