I don’t have a great lawn today. I’ve committed sod neglect for years after being utterly disgusted with the advice from professionals in my area. I spent thousands of dollars on monthly spray companies. I spoke with the guys who cut my lawn, and I tried pushing a spreader for a couple of years. It didn’t make any difference.

My Dad grew a near-perfect lawn when I was young, but that healthy, lush grass-growing gene doesn’t belong to me. Years ago, I decided that great grass was unachievable—or is it?

Inspecting the Ground Beneath My Feet

Soil pH plays a big part in successfully growing hibiscus, hydrangea, and roses. Why wouldn’t the chemical makeup of the dirt under my sod impact its development? But no one ever suggested that I test the soil.

I was scrolling through Facebook a few weeks ago, and an “unsolicited” advertisement for Sunday do-it-yourself lawn care popped up. It’s shocking how social media algorithms sometimes just read your mind. I devoured the blog posts and instructional articles on the GetSunday website. A soil test is part of their starter package. I looked into getting a whole new lawn, and the estimates are that resodding my corner lot would cost upwards of $10,000. I fear I could end up with a horrible lawn again if I don’t learn how to grow and maintain a yard correctly.

The Best Type of Lawn in the South

St. Augustine is the most popular grass in Florida because it grows fast and is both heat—and drought-tolerant. It also thrives in our acidic, sandy soil. St. Augustine is a dense, coarse-textured grass with medium-to-dark blades. Floridians describe these lawns as thick, dense “carpets.” St. Augustine is an active grower from February to October. Grass blades grow horizontally on a stem that creeps along the ground’s surface, with roots and shoots extending several inches.

This great video by the Grass Doctor helps newbies like me identify St. Augustine from Carpet and Centipede grasses.


These two grass types can push out the preferred St. Augustine t if not treated and removed.

St. Augustine has four popular varietals in Florida:

  • Floratam – the cost-effective, blue-green turf that loves the sun
  • Seville – a finer and darker blade of grass that can grow in shade
  • Palmetto – the hardy, emerald-green color
  • Bitter Blue – a blue-green and cold-tolerant variant

My property is home to three giant oak trees that throw a lot of shade. St. Augustine can grow in shade, but all grasses need 5 or 6 hours of direct sunlight to thrive. I may need a different idea for growing grass under these oaks.

My yard includes at least six different kinds of turfgrass and assorted weeds. It appears to be 40% Floratam St. Augustine mixed with some sedge (a weed) and centipede grass. The yard was mostly St. Augustine in the 1970s. Because I didn’t mow the lawn and opted to hire mowing crews, they brought in seeds and weeds from other yards. Over the 40-plus years, varieties of Bermuda, Bahia, and carpet grass took up residency; fixing this lawn will be challenging.

Is My Grass Sick?

All grasses are susceptible to disease and insect problems. Fortunately, I don’t think I have these problems yet. The St. Augustine lawn can quickly die off if you miss the signs.

  • Leaf Spot is a fungus that accelerates with fertilizer in the Spring. Spots appear on the blades and runners in gray-brown and yellow.
  • Chinch bugs are small, black insects with white, diamond-shaped patches on their wings. They attack the grass in the sunniest areas from June through August, making it appear dried and drab. If left untreated, chinch bugs can destroy a lawn.
  • Brown patch is a cool-weather disease that shows up in late September or October as the grass is going dormant. It is a leaf disease that rots the blades and where leaves attach to the runners. The blades will pull free of the runners easily.

The Lawn Feeding Schedule

I never realized there was a schedule for applying fertilizer. That schedule is exact when caring for grasses. You have signs In the northern part of the US because you don’t fertilize plants when it snows. You can actually encourage weed problems if you feed the lawn before the Spring growth begins. The first fertilizer application comes in late March or April. A second application is applied in June. The final pre-winter application should be scheduled for October. It is actually illegal in my area to fertilize between July 1 and September 30 because the state wants to discourage algae growth in our waterways.

Weeds

Weed control is vital to a healthy lawn in the South. A great lawn deters weeds because they can’t take root in the healthy turf. Ironically, my backyard is mostly weeds. There is a healthy amount of grassy weeds like sedge, nutgrass, sandspur, and crabgrass, but fewer broadleaf weeds like dollar weed, clover, and chickweed.

I applied a pre-emergent in March before applying my first fertilizer. I did see some yellowing out of existing, established weeds. But I will need to keep treating weeds for this entire growing season.

Wish me luck and follow along!

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