St Augustine Turf

Written by 2:18 pm Fertilizers, Lawn Tips, Staff's Picks

The Pros and Cons of St Augustine Grass – How to Establish & Care for St Augustine

St. Augustine Grass grows well in warm, humid regions of the country. Characteristically grown near the coast, this grass has regional names varying from Charleston grass (east coast), buffalo turf (Australia), buffalo grass (South Africa) and carpetgrass (California). Although St Augustine can be found throughout the southern United States, it is native to the Gulf of Mexico area.

Advantages of St. Augustine Grass

  • Shade tolerant
  • Heat tolerant
  • Tolerates wide range of pH levels
  • Tolerates moderate foot traffic
  • Endures wet conditions very well
  • Chokes out weeds
  • Quick post-winter green-up
  • Stays green during drought

In a nutshell, it’s tough as an old boot.

St. Augustine Grass is very shade tolerant and makes a great choice for lawns that do not get ample enough sun for other species. It also does well in the high heat and drenching wet conditions typical for subtropical climates.

This coarse-textured, wide-flat bladed grass grows best in well drained, fertile soils and has an ability to grow in a wide range of soil pH levels (5.0-8.5). It is also tolerant of salt, which make it an ideal choice for areas with occasional saltwater spray.  

St. Augustine can handle moderate foot traffic and will recover fairly quickly from injury.  Additionally, it grows fast when established on nutrient-rich soil. The grass forms a dense layer of turf, especially at the soil level. These factors make it very effective at choking out weed competition.

Known for its deep, rich green color, St. Augustine greens up quickly coming out of the winter and hold this color well into the Fall after the first frost.  If protected by a layer of leaves, St. Augustine will hold its color further into the winter months. St. Augustine will also hold its color better than other grasses during times of drought.

Disadvantages of St. Augustine Grass

  • Sensitive to cold temperatures
  • Susceptible to pests & diseases
  • Can't tolerate heavy foot traffic
  • Cann't be cultivated with seed

One of the biggest downsides to St. Augustine Grass is its sensitivity to cold temperatures, which limits its range to southern and coastal regions of the United States. This grass also needs irrigation and fertilization to develop an attractive lawn.

St. Augustine is susceptible to a wide variety of pests and diseases. Chinch bugs and St. Augustine Grass decline virus (SADV) being two of the most common.

Chinch bugs are the bane of many of St Augustine lawns! Chinch bugs use their mouthparts (lol… mouthparts) to suck moisture from the blades of grass, while also injecting with their saliva which inhibits water movement through the grass. As a result, damage will often resemble drought damage.

Treat damage with a pesticide such as Talstar P Professional Insecticide or if considering planting St. Augustine, use a chinch bug resistance variety like Floratam or Floralaw.

From time to time, St. Augustine might be impacted by other “grass pests” like webworms, armyworms, and mole crickets, which all can be controlled by pesticides. The one we recommend the most for St. Augustine is Talstar.

Lastly, in high traffic areas, St. Augustine isn’t the best choice due to the potential for damage and slow recovery.

Establishment & Maintenance

St Augustine isn't a heavy seeder and seeds are not generally available at a commercial level. So your options for establishing a new St Augustine lawn are using sod or St Augustine grass plugs.

In general, use sod to establish the grass over a large area and use plugs for small project areas or to fill in holes in your lawn.

Establishing a St Augustine Lawn Using Sod

This is, by far, the fastest way to establish a new St Augustine lawn. To establish a new lawn using sod, simply:

  1. Measure the square footage of your project area
  2. Prepare your project area for the sod by clearing the area of existing vegetation and leveling the area as necessary
  3. Head to your local garden supply store and purchase enough sod for your project
  4. Once the sod is delivered, spread it out over the project area
  5. Keep the new sod moist for the first couple of weeks – NEVER let it dry out
  6. After a few weeks, reduce waterings to once per day
  7. After another few weeks, reduce the waterings to once or twice per week as needed

Establishing St Augustine Using Plugs

If your project area is small, or you need to fill in a few holes in your lawn, use grass plugs. We actually have an entire post dedicated to establishing St Augustine using plugs, but the Cliff Notes version is as follows:

  1. Prepare the area for the new St Augustine plugs
  2. Measure your project area
  3. Purchase enough plugs to spread across the entire area
  4. Plant the plugs
  5. Keep the newly planted St Augustine grass plugs moist for two weeks

Mowing & Irrigation

Mowing height of St. Augustine lawns can vary depending on season and maintenance intensity.  In heavy maintained yards, mow grass weekly during the spring and summer at a height of 2”.  In this plan, it is important that the grass gets adequate water (1” per week).  For less maintenance, as well as fall\winter care, mow the grass between 2-4”.  Not following proper maintenance, much like over fertilizing, will cause a detrimental thatch layer to form.  Grass clippings do not have to be bagged, or removed, unless they clump together on the surface. In this case, a simple leaf blower can be used to break up the clots.

Fertilizing

A fertilizing program is needed to maintain a beautiful yard of lush St. Augustine grass. However, if over fertilized, thatch will accumulate and impede further growth. Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are the common nutrients in fertilizers, potassium needed to build up winter resiliency and nitrogen being used to control growth and color. The more nitrogen used (up to 1lb per 1000 square feet), will cause the grass to turn darker green, however increase growth and need more frequent mowing.

Similar to mowing and watering, the level of maintenance will determine the fertilizer rate. For best conditions, add nitrogen in summer months (May-August) and add potassium in September (1lb per 1000 sqft). For less maintenance, reduce the applications rates by half.

Fertilizer should be applied onto dry grass and watered in to reduce the chance of burning the blades of grass.

Weed Control

St. Augustine is fairly sensitive to the common weed herbicide, 2-4,D. Therefore, common weeds, easily controlled in other types of grass, may be more difficult in St. Augustine. If post-emergent weed control is needed, consider using a product with the chemical, atrazine.

St Augustine Frequently Asked Questions

What causes St Augustine grass to turn yellow?

The two most common causes of St. Augustine grass turning yellow is due to an iron or nitrogen deficiency. Iron is an essential element in chlorophyll production. Not only does chlorophyll help the plant absorb sunlight, but it also causes its green color. Iron deficiencies typically occur in the spring and are identified by green streaking on a yellow blade. Iron deficiencies can easily be corrected with an application of Ferti-Lome Chelated Liquid Iron.

If the blades of grass are a solid yellow color, is likely suffering from a nitrogen deficiency. To correct this problem, apply a fertilizer with higher nitrogen, or first number (N-P-K). In many situations, iron and nitrogen can be applied together.

Which St Augustine grass is best for shade?

Overall, St. Augustine handles shady areas better than most other grass species. However, optimal growth needs between 6-8 hours of direct sun. The most shade-tolerant varieties are Seville and Palmetto.

When should I plant St Augustine grass?

Spring or Summer, when the temperatures are at least 80 degrees. Like all new sod, St. Augustine needs to be water multiple times a day for the first couple of weeks. Then reduce watering to once a day. St. Augustine sod or plugs need at least 90 days to establish before the first frost.

When should I fertilize St Augustine grass?

This type of grass responds best to a split fertilizer treatment. Apply nitrogen in the summer months and potassium in the early fall. 

For more information, refer to our fertilizer recommendations for St Augustine.

When does St Augustine grass go dormant?

Soil temperature determines if St. Augustine stays green or goes dormant in cooler weather. When soil temperature falls, and remains, below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the grass will go dormant. If in an area where soil temperature is always above this, the grass remains active.

When does St Augustine grass come out of dormancy?

As soil temperature rises above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the grass will begin to turn green and become active.

Where does St Augustine grass grow?

St. Augustine can be found from North Carolina to Texas, however is predominately found near coastal areas. This grass thrives in areas with hot summers and mild winters. It also tolerant of salt water splash.

Where is St Augustine grass from?

Historically a coastal grass, St. Augustine grass varieties have “their roots” from the gulf coast of the United States, Caribbean and western Africa.

How to get St Augustine grass to grow back?

Proper maintenance of St. Augustine will encourage it to grow back. Follow our fertilizer recommendations of nitrogen in the summer months and potassium in the early fall. We recommend Ferti-lome St. Augustine Weed and Feed. Also, ensure that the lawn is getting at least 1” to 1 ½“ of water per week.

How to fix bare spots in St Augustine grass?

Remove any dead thatch before replacing or filling in bare areas with new sod or plugs. Once established, St. Augustine will quickly fill in bare areas.

Is St Augustine grass okay for dogs?

Dog urine can burn, or cause St. Augustine grass to turn brown. Encourage dogs to go away from the grass, or water areas after a dog has gone.

Is St Augustine grass shade tolerant?

St. Augustine grass is the most shade tolerant species of warm season grasses. However, for maximum growth, St. Augustine grass lawns need at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight.

Is St Augustine grass drought tolerant?

This grass species is one of the more drought tolerant warm season grasses, however for optimal growth needs between 1” and 1 ½“ spread over one week.

Why does St Augustine grass turn brown?

St. Augustine will turn brown as it goes dormant during colder months. Dog urine can also cause the grass to turn brown. Lastly, dead St. Augustine grass will turn brown and crispy as it dries out in hot temperatures.

Will St Augustine grass choke out weeds?

A properly maintained St. Augustine yard forms a dense layer of turf that is extremely effective in preventing and choking out weeds. Follow our guide to maximize your St. Augustine lawn’s potential.

Will St Augustine grass grow in sand?

St. Augustine will grow in sandy soils, however will not grow in pure sand.

Will St Augustine grass spread?

When properly maintained, St. Augustine can be very aggressive and spread quickly. This is mainly due to runners, or stolons, that spread the grass above the soil. Follow our guide to maximize your St. Augustine lawn’s potential.

Stolon of St Augustine Grass

What kind of St Augustine grass do I have?

Determining the specific variety of St. Augustine grass can be difficult, even for an experienced turf expert. The most frequently planted variety is called Floratam. It is the easiest to maintain and most disease resistant. Seveville is the variety of choice for extremely shady areas. This variety has a finer blade than Floratam and can thrive with, as little as, 6-7 hours of direct sun.

Can St Augustine grass be overwatered?

Established St. Augustine grass lawns need around 1 ½“ of water spread out over a week. Overwatering your St. Augustine grass lawn can be problematic. Signs of overwatering include curled leaves, color change to grayish blue, soggy depressions, and in extreme situations, grass dieback.

Can St Augustine grass grow in full sun?

St. Augustine grows very well in at least 6-8 hours of full sun. Full sun, combined with adequate irrigation, will maximize your lawns potential.

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