The Q&A Archives: proper care for st augustine grass

Question: St augustine grass sod was put in my back yard last july. What is the proper maintanence schedule so it stays healthy all year long?

Answer: Here are some guidelines for keeping your lawn healthy: Newly installed sod should be kept well watered for a period of 10 days to 2 weeks. This is the most critical period in the life of your lawn. Water several times a day increasing frequency for extremely hot or windy weather. New sod must be kept wet. After your lawn is established less water will be required. A thorough irrigation every 3 -4 days in warmer weather (5 - 7 days in cooler weather) is sufficient in most situations. Your goal is to achieve water penetration to a depth of 6 inches. This will encourage deep rooting and a healthier lawn. Verify the depth of watering by probing soil with a screwdriver or sharp instrument. If the screwdriver enters the soil easily to a depth of 6 - 8 inches you have achieved proper moisture penetration. Although St. Augustine is moderately drought tolerant and will not be damaged by slight wilting and drying, the turf must be adequately watered according to the amount of sun or shade and soil conditions it receives.

MOWING?In California, St. Augustine doesn?t required as frequent mowings as in other areas. Mowing height should be between 1 to 1 ? inches. Frequency of mowing is determined by how fast the grass grows. However, the grass should be cut often enough that no more than one-half of the leaf blade height is removed at any one time. St. Augustine can be easily cut with any type of sharp and well adjusted mower.

FERTILIZING?The preplant fertilizer put down before you installed your sod will take care of the fertilizer requirement for the first month. Maintenance fertilizer such as Gro-Power should be used with subsequent applications monthly during the growing season (March - October) to achieve good growth and color. Good fertility programs help the lawn resist disease, weeds, and pests. Follow label instructions on all fertilizers, and be sure to water fertilizer well into the soil after application.

INSECTS, DISEASES AND WEEDS?In California there are very few insects or diseases which attack St. Augustine. However, Chinch bugs are considered a common problem in other areas. They are quite small (1/8 inch or less) and are quite active and found in large numbers. The turf usually starts to turn yellow or brown in patches. Flooding the suspected patch with water, will bring up evidence of the bugs to the surface. A timely application of an insecticide can correct the problem. Follow manufacturer?s label instruction on all chemicals.

VERTICAL MOWING?St. Augustine normally builds up a thick, dense, thatchy mat as it matures. When the mat becomes objectionable or does not permit proper penetration of water or fertilizer, vertical mowing will be necessary. A vertical mower cuts the thatch and brings it up to the lawn surface where it can be raked away and removed. Do not confuse verticutting with renovating done on bermuda grass. The cutter blades should be set low, but not to soil level. Severe scalping can permanently damage a St. Augustine lawn.

DORMANCY ?St. Augustine will slow its growth as the average temperatures cool in the fall. When soil temperatures drop below 40 degrees, your lawn will begin lose its green color and appear to have red-purple streaks or turn completely yellow or brown. During this period fertilizing and mowing are not necessary. When temperatures rise again in the spring, St. Augustine will slowly regain its green color.

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