Saint Augustine grass is a popular turf in humid states such as Florida. This salt tolerant grass is grown in coastal areas, and you’ll also hear it referred to as carpet grass. It’s even, smooth, and very tolerant to low moisture and high temperatures. Traditionally, Saint Augustine seeds have been difficult to establish, but the development of new seeding methods have made it a popular choice for many. Keep reading to learn how to grow Saint Augustine grass.
Soil Preparation For St Augustine Grass Seed:
Before planting Saint Augustine grass, the soil needs the proper preparation. Here are some tips:
- Rake the lawn away from the house at a slight slope to help water drain in the opposite direction of the home’s foundation.
- Rough up the top two inches of soil
- Get rid of debris such as wood, rocks, and uproot buried stumps.
- Get rid of unwanted grass and weeds using an organic herbicide.
- Before installation, water the amended soil once a week.
- Use an organic lawn starter fertilizer
- Clay soil is easily compacted and dense, so it will need an amendment that provides better aeration and drainage.
- Compost makes a great amendment, add 2 to 3 inches on top of the soil and till until it has an 8 inch minimum depth.
- Hardwood bark or wood chips are good amendments for clay soils.
- Use a lawn roller to even out the surface; this process will let you know if you need to add any additional soil.
- Allow the area to settle before installation.
Plug Saint Augustine Grass
You can buy plugs in trays, and they’ll come as small grass plants similar to the seedlings of other flowering vegetables or plants. Take them out of the tray and plant them into the soil. If you’re looking for a quick way to establish a lawn though, plugging is not a good option because it takes a while. For fast growth, runners are preferred.
Runners For Saint Augustine Grass
Runners are individually planted into a new lawn area. Be warned, they are not easy to plant because each lawn runner will need its own individual trench, and it must be the same length as the runner. Once the runner has been planted, the trench will need filling up. Once runners have been removed from the original soil, you’ll need to re-plant them quickly too, before the roots deteriorate and dry out.
How to Make Saint Augustine Grass Spread Faster
Once the roots are established, Saint Augustine grass will start spreading within 4 to 14 days. Once the growth and the spreading start, filling will vary depending on the plug spacing. In general, for Saint Augustine grass to spread fully, it can take over a year. It is also important to mention that Saint Augustine grass grows faster during the summer months, and then slows down when it gets colder. There are also many factors to take into consideration when it comes to growth rate, such as nutrients, moisture control, shade, and temperature. However, you can speed up the growth process a little, so here are some tips on how you can make your St Augustine lawn spread and grow faster:
The Right Soil: Not all soils are made equal, so you will need to choose the best soil for Saint Augustine grass seed. For example, waterlogged soil will deplete the underground oxygen supply and stunt the growth of St. Augustine. For uneven areas and bald spots, add some top soil to limit pooling. You may have a water-logging problem if saint Augustine grass seed doesn’t spread fast, and you’re growing it in compacted clay soils.
Saint Augustine thrives in well drained soil with a pH level between 5.0 and 8.5. Choose a soil that is slightly acidic such as sandy soil. To top dress a Saint Augustine lawn, use either clean free-flowing sand, or sandy loam soil.
If you’re new to growing grass, you may need to hire a professional to test whether you’ve got the right soil type for Saint Augustine grass.
The Right Cultivar: There are several cultivars for Saint Augustine grass each with a range of strengths and weaknesses. Palmetto is the most popular because of its resilient root system and a high degree of vibrance. The Raleigh cultivar works well in cold weather. Seville is narrow and smaller, and Floratam has broadleaf blades. They all have their own advantages and disadvantages, so you’ll need to do your research.
Consistent Maintenance: Consistency is key to the proper growth of Saint Augustine grass. Put together a weekly maintenance schedule, and stick to it; maintaining your grass will include mowing, fertilizing, and watering. You will need to use a high-quality slow release fertilizer, and keep the grass height at 3.5-4 inches. Mow the lawn once the sod or plug are properly rooted and the grass has started growing normally.
During the first week after installation, you’ll need to water the grass several times a day. During the second week, irrigate with at least half an inch of water. By the sixth week, you’ll only need to water the lawn when it’s necessary.
Plant During the Summer: Saint Augustine is a warm season turf grass, and it grows best in warm weather. A good time to establish the lawn is in mid summer; if you’re looking for a quick spread, don’t try to grow Saint Augustine during the winter or fall, because it’s usually dormant during this time.
Weed Control: Keep weed growth under control by getting rid of them early. They’ll prevent growth by competing for the same nutrients as the grass. Common weeds that can stunt growth include dallisgrass, crabgrass, and most broadleaf weeds. It’s best that you pluck the weeds by hand, because herbicides can damage the lawn. However, if this isn’t possible, be extremely careful when using a herbicide.
Insect Control: Saint Augustine grass attracts pests such as webworms, mole crickets, white grubs, chinch bugs, and more. These are just a few of the bugs that are attracted to Saint Augustine grass. Ultimately, good lawn care will protect your grass from pests, but if you do get an infestation, get rid of them using insecticides or pesticides.
Treat Diseases: Saint Augustine grass is prone to fungal diseases such as gray leaf spots. To protect your grass against diseases, make sure it’s properly maintained through regular fertilization and water. If the lawn does get a disease, prevent it spreading by using a fungicide.
Saint Augustine Grass Aeration
After a while, the top soil of a lawn gets compacted and pushed down, and this prevents water and nutrients from reaching the grass roots. This also has a negative impact on the environment because the grass is unable to release the right amount of carbon dioxide. An aerator gets rid of matted roots, plugs of soil, and thatch from the turf, creating pores so that oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients, and water can flow freely.
It’s advised that you add lawn aeration to your yearly maintenance list. But you should also keep in mind that aeration may be required more than once a year in certain situations. For example, if children and pets frequently walk over the lawn; or if you’ve had repairs or construction on your home and heavy vehicles have had to pass through, these activities will compact the lawn.
You will know if your lawn needs aeration because it will have a springy and spongy feel due to thatch build up. You can also do a patch test by using a sharp knife to cut a strip of sod, if there is more than ½ an inch of thatch, the lawn will need aeration.
When to Aerate: Early spring is the best time for lawn aeration; you should avoid it during the summer months because the heat can damage the root system. Aeration can also be done in early fall.
Aeration Machine: The type of machine will depend on the size of the lawn. A manual aerator will work for small areas. But you’ll need a ride on or a power-driven machine for a large lawn. Regardless of the machine you choose, you’ll need to make sure that the tines are hollow. Metal, solid tines will make the compaction problem worse.
Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Saint Augustine grass seed.
Can St Augustine grass be grown from seed?
No, because St Augustine is vegetative, and can only be installed by planting plugs or laying sod.
What is the best grass seed for St Augustine?
The best alternative grass seed for St Augustine is Zenith Zoysia, it has a nice dark green color, good texture and wide blades. Installation is possible when dormant, so you can use it all throughout the year.
Will St Augustine grass choke out weeds?
St Augustine is thick, so it’s a great option for choking out weeds.
Can I lay St Augustine sod over existing grass?
No, you’ll need to prepare the grass first
Consistent maintenance is the most important aspect of maintaining healthy Saint Augustine grass. Following the recommended maintenance schedule will ensure that you have a lush, thick, and gorgeous lawn all year long.