How to Care For St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine Maintenance and Care
St. Augustine grass is medium to dark green and coarse grass, additionally it has a low, dense growth habit. It grows well
in nearly all soil types and tolerates shade, heat, salt and is drought tolerant. It does not tolerate waterlogged soils
or extended periods of cold weather. Proper care for St. Augustine grass forms a dense cover that handles light traffic
and competes well with most weeds. St. Augustine grass is the most shade tolerant warm-season turfgrass.
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Water is the most important of the three. A lawn without water can die in a few days in the Texas heat. Proper care for St. Augustine should be watered thoroughly, yet as infrequently as possible. A good watering once or twice a week for about 1 inch of water is ideal. A very common mistake is watering too frequently, consequently lead to fungal diseases such as gray leaf spot, brown patch and take all root rot. It is also important to not water in the evenings because this leaves the grass moist all night which also can cause gray leaf spot in the hot summer months. Allow the soil to dry a bit in between watering, but not to the point of causing the grass to wilt.
Sunlight is another essential element and many times I have heard a customer wonder; “Grass used to grow here under the trees. I don’t understand why it won’t grow now.” Trees grow. It is that simple and if you are trying to grow grass under trees you will have to keep them well trimmed. St. Augustine will need four hours or more of direct sun a day. Keep the trees trimmed up creating avenues for sunlight to enter early and late in the day. Thinning the trees will let light filter though the trees during the middle of the day. Try not to mow the grass too low in deep shade. Mowing very low in the shade will cause it to fade out more quickly.
Another step in the process to care for St. Augustine is nutrients. You wouldn’t be very healthy if you didn’t eat regularly. The same goes for your lawn. Fertilize your lawn three or four times per growing season. Use a 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer or one similar with a slow release formula. Be consistent, but don’t over do it and put down too much. Too much fertilizer can damage your lawn.
- The most common disease in St. Augustine is a fungal disease called take all root rot (TARR) of St. Augustine. It begins with the grass blades turning a bright yellow. Grass then progresses to rotting runners and dying grass, consequently the bright green will turn yellow with brown and black lesions. They then rot and the grass dies. This disease is more prevalent in areas that get more water or where water tends to stand. There are no effective fungicides for treating this disease. The solution is topdressing with peat moss. The low ph of the peat creates an environment in which the fungus cannot survive. Usually the grass begins to improve in several weeks.
- In the hot, dry months (June-Sept.) be on the look out for chinch bugs. These extremely small beetles chew on the runners of St. Augustine poisoning it with their saliva. The results are irregular dead spots. Chinch bugs can be deceptive because they make a lawn look like it is not getting enough water. If you are watering your lawn, however don’t understand why it is still dying, you probably have chinch bugs.
- During the hot summer watch out for gray leaf spot. This fungal disease shows up during extended periods of rain during hot weather. It begins with little dead spots appearing on the blades of grass. They will be ringed with a bit of gray or black. As the disease progresses the grass begins to die. Many times this disease will go away just by scaling back on the water. More serious cases may require fungicide treatments.