The Q&A Archives: Growing St. Augustine Grass

Question: The label on my st augustine grass says more info available online. I need to know how to plant it, feed it, and insure it thrives. I've rototilled and added gromulch into the soil.

Answer: St. Augustine grass is adapted to moist, coastal areas with mild winter temperatures. It is known to be tolerant of high summer temperatures, and St. Augustine grass retains its color at temperatures as much as 10? lower than those which discolor bermudagrass.

St. Augustine grass tolerates moderate shade, being as good or better than other warm season grasses for shaded sites. However, under densely shaded conditions, St. Augustine grass develops thin, spindly turf.

So long as fertility and drainage are adequate, St. Augustine grass tolerates a wide range of soil types. St. Augustine grass grows satisfactorily at a pH range from 5.0 to 8.5, but develops a chlorotic appearance in highly alkaline soils (above pH 7.5). It does not tolerate compacted or waterlogged soil conditions. St. Augustine grass is highly tolerant of soil salinity, producing satisfactory growth at salt levels as high as 16 mmhos. Bermudagrass will tolerate only slightly higher salt levels.

Fertilization during the establishment period (first three months after planting) is critical to developing a complete cover of St. Augustine grass. A starter fertilizer (one high in phosphorous) or a balanced, complete fertilizer should be applied at planting time. Subsequent applications of nitrogen at monthly intervals at a rate of 1 pound per 1,000 square feet will promote rapid spread of St. Augustine grass plugs.

After establishment the success of St. Augustine grass as a lawn grass depends largely on management. Mowing, fertilization and supplemental watering are required to maintain a dense, green, weed-free turf of St. Augustine grass.

The growth rate of St. Augustine grass is dependent on temperature, moisture availability and nutrient availability. Any one of these factors can limit the rate of growth of this species. In the spring with mild daytime temperatures and cool night temperatures, St. Augustine grass greens up, but makes little growth. As day and night temperatures increase during late spring and summer, the growth rate increases. Thus, an established turf of St. Augustine grass may require mowing every 2 weeks in early spring and as often as every five days by late spring if nitrogen fertilizer is applied.

During the fall, as temperatures cool, St. Augustine grass maintains its dark green color, but its growth rate declines sharply. Mowing frequency may be reduced to twice monthly during late fall and early winter.

Mowing heights may range from 1 to 3 inches depending on the frequency of mowing and the degree of shade present. At mowing heights below two inches, St. Augustine grass should be mowed every five days during late spring and summer. At a 2 1/2 inch mowing height, a 7-10 mowing schedule is adequate. Above 2 1/2 inches, St. Augustine grass should be mowed at 10 to 14 day intervals. In moderate to dense shade, St. Augustine grass should be mowed at about 3 inches at 10 day intervals.

St. Augustine grass is responsive to nitrogen fertilizer in terms of color and growth rate. On sandy soils St. Augustine grass requires about 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per month during the growing season to maintain satisfactory color and density. At rates above 1 pound per 1,000 square feet, St. Augustine grass produces lush growth that is highly susceptible to insects and diseases.

Late fall fertilization of St. Augustine grass helps maintain color and density of the lawn into the winter and promotes early recovery of the grass in the spring. Thus, to extend the length of time a St. Augustine lawn is attractive, the lawn should receive about 1 pound of nitrogen every 30 to 60 days from early spring through late fall.

You'll need to apply one-inch of water per week to your lawn, applying slowly so it trickles down and wets the entire root system.

Hope this answers all your questions!

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