How to Care For St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) is a popular warm-season turfgrass known for its lush, thick, carpet-like appearance and excellent adaptability to various climates.

Whether you’re a seasoned lawn enthusiast or new to St. Augustine, providing the right care is essential for maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn. If you aren’t able to maintain a St. Augustine lawn on your own, contact your local lawn care company for a free lawn care quote!

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps, techniques, and best practices for nurturing your St. Augustine grass, ensuring it thrives throughout the growing season. 

Understanding St. Augustine Grass

Characteristics and Varieties

St. Augustine grass is recognized by its broad, dark green blades and a dense growth pattern. It’s available in several varieties with unique traits like shade tolerance, drought resistance, and cold hardiness.

Ideal Growing Conditions

St. Augustine grass thrives in warm, humid climates and is well-suited for the Southern United States. It prefers full sun to partial shade, making it an excellent choice for lawns with varying sun exposure.

Benefits of St. Augustine Grass

Aside from its aesthetic appeal, St. Augustine grass offers many benefits, making it a popular lawn choice.

Its dense, lush growth pattern provides an attractive, carpet-like appearance that enhances the aesthetic appeal of any landscape.

This grass variety is highly tolerant of warm climates, making it an excellent choice for regions with hot and humid summers.

Additionally, St. Augustine grass has a remarkable ability to adapt to various soil types, making it versatile and adaptable to different environments.

Its rapid growth and aggressive spreading nature help to establish a thick turf, effectively outcompeting weeds quickly. 

Moreover, once established, St. Augustine grass requires relatively low maintenance, requiring less frequent mowing than other grass species.

Its resilience to foot traffic and shade tolerance further add to its versatility, making it a favored choice for lawns, parks, and recreational areas.

Overall, the benefits of St. Augustine grass make it a reliable and attractive option for creating vibrant, durable, and visually pleasing landscapes.

Soil Preparation and Installation

Soil Testing

Conduct a soil test to determine its pH level and nutrient content before planting St. Augustine grass. This information will guide you in making necessary amendments for optimal growth.

Site Preparation

Clear the area of debris, rocks, and weeds. Loosen compacted soil to a depth of at least 4-6 inches to promote proper root development.

Choosing the Right Sod or Plugs

Select high-quality St. Augustine sod or plugs from a reputable nursery or supplier. Ensure they are free from pests or diseases.

Proper Installation

Lay sod or plugs in a staggered pattern, ensuring tight seams and avoiding any gaps. Water thoroughly after installation to encourage root establishment.

Watering: Finding the Right Balance

Establishment Phase

During the first few weeks after installation, provide frequent deep watering to help roots take hold. Water every day or every other day, depending on weather conditions.

Established Lawns

Once established, St. Augustine grass requires about 1 inch of water per week. Deep, infrequent watering encourages deep root growth and helps the grass withstand drought conditions.

In the spring and fall, if you have pop-up heads, you should be watering 12 minutes per zone and if you have rotary heads, you should water 26 minutes per zone.

During Summer, you should water 15 minutes per zone with pop-up heads and 30 minutes per zone for rotary heads.

Avoid Overwatering

Be cautious not to overwater, as excessive moisture can lead to disease issues. Proper drainage and periodic soil aeration can help prevent waterlogging.

Fertilization: Nourishing Your Lawn

Timing of Fertilization

St. Augustine grass benefits from regular feeding. Apply a balanced fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in early spring, late spring, and early fall.

Avoid Excessive Nitrogen

While nitrogen is crucial for healthy growth, avoid over-fertilizing with high-nitrogen products, as it can lead to excessive top growth and weaken the grass.

Iron Applications

St. Augustine grass often benefits from supplemental iron, especially in alkaline soils. Iron can improve color and overall vigor.

Mowing Techniques for St. Augustine Grass

Maintain the Right Height

Keep St. Augustine grass at a height of 2.5 to 4 inches in the summer and 2 to 2.5 inches in the spring and fall. This encourages a strong, healthy root system and helps prevent weed growth.

Avoid Scalping

Never remove more than one-third of the grass blade in a single mowing. Scalping can stress the grass and lead to weakened growth.

Regular Blade Sharpening

Ensure your mower blades are sharp to create clean cuts. Dull blades can tear the grass, leaving it susceptible to disease and stress. The best practice is to sharpen the blade at the beginning and midway through each season.

Dealing with Pests and Diseases

Regular Inspections

Monitor your lawn for signs of pests and diseases. Early detection allows for prompt treatment. If you have a program with us, our technicians will check for signs of pests and diseases and provide you with a plan for your lawn.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach with St. Augustine grass involves a holistic and sustainable strategy for maintaining a healthy lawn.

This method emphasizes prevention and minimizes the need for chemical interventions.

Firstly, regular monitoring of the lawn’s health is crucial, keeping an eye out for signs of stress, disease, or pest infestations.

Proper cultural practices play a pivotal role; this includes mowing at the correct height, ensuring adequate irrigation without overwatering, and promoting proper soil nutrition through balanced fertilization. 

Additionally, selecting pest-resistant varieties of St. Augustine grass can significantly reduce vulnerability to common pests.

Natural predators like ladybugs and beneficial nematodes can be introduced to control harmful insects while maintaining a diverse plant community in the surrounding area can attract beneficial insects.

When necessary, targeted and environmentally friendly pesticides should be used as a last resort, always following label instructions.

By integrating these practices, an IPM approach promotes a lush and thriving St. Augustine grass lawn and contributes to a more ecologically balanced and sustainable outdoor environment.

Disease Prevention

Promote good air circulation by avoiding excessive thatch buildup and maintaining proper mowing heights. Fungicide applications may be necessary for severe cases.

Aeration and Dethatching

Aeration

Perform core aeration annually or biannually, especially in compacted or high-traffic areas. Aeration enhances root growth, improves water penetration, and reduces thatch buildup.

Dethatching

If thatch exceeds half an inch, consider dethatching. Use a dethatching machine or rake to remove excess organic matter and promote a healthier lawn.

Continuing Lawn Care

Caring for St. Augustine grass involves a combination of thoughtful practices, from proper installation and watering to fertilization and regular maintenance.

By understanding the unique needs of this versatile turfgrass, you can create a vibrant, thriving lawn that enhances the beauty and functionality of your outdoor space.

With dedication and the right techniques, you’ll enjoy the benefits of a healthy St. Augustine lawn for years to come.

Call for a free quote today!