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Turf Management Series: St. Augustine

By Sean Burgess - seanb@landings.org
Interim Public Works Director

St. Augustine grass is the second feature in our Turf Management Series and is known for its salt tolerance.This grass is best suited for warm, humid areas. St. Augustine is widely utilized throughout the Southeast/coastal regions and is planted at the majority of The Landings Association’s gatehouses. St. Augustine’s unique characteristics, watering requirements, and maintenance needs are outlined below:

ST. AUGUSTINE

Characteristics:

  • St. Augustine grass is dark green with wide, flat blades. It’s most commonly used in tropical locations where a good amount of moisture is present.

Advantages:

  • St. Augustine grass does very well in shaded areas versus other turf species in our area.
  • It also is very tolerant to salt, and when maintained properly with a dense canopy, it will compete well with weeds.

Disadvantages:

  • St. Augustine grass has a low-to-moderate tolerance to foot traffic. If you have a lawn or other turf area that experiences high foot traffic, St. Augustine turf likely would not be a good choice.
  • Even though St. Augustine grass is known for its shade tolerance, if planted in heavily shaded areas, it can become so dense that it can harbor insects and fungus.
  • St. Augustine grass is very prone to insect issues in our area. Chinch bugs are the most common insect issue we fight in the Southeast region. If not treated preemptively, chinch bugs can quickly kill a St. Augustine lawn.
  • St. Augustine grass also is very prone to disease/fungus issues during the hot and humid summer months. Gray leaf spot, large patch, and take-all root rot are among the three major diseases that we see in our area. The best way to prevent your St. Augustine sod from getting these diseases is to avoid overwatering your lawn. During wet periods throughout the year, a preventative and curative fungicide program is recommended to keep a healthy stand of turf. You also can prevent fungus issues by limiting your irrigation during times of high humidity when temperatures are in the 70s.

Irrigation:

  • St. Augustine grass is very temperamental when it comes to watering. A good rule-of-thumb when determining your irrigation needs is to evaluate the top six inches of your soil. You can achieve this through a soil probe or a soil moisture meter. If the test shows that your top six inches of soil is dry, increase your watering cycles. If your test shows abundant moisture in the top six inches, decrease your watering cycles.
  • St. Augustine will tell you when it needs additional water. Your turf blades will turn a dark green color to a gray-blue hue when it is drought stressed.
  • The best practices for watering your lawn is to water heavily and infrequently to promote good root growth.
  • If possible, try to water your St. Augustine lawn in the early morning between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., so there is a limited amount of time that your turf stays wet. This will help to prevent fungus issues throughout the growing season.