As a landscaper who frequently works with St. Augustine grass, I often hear homeowners complain about how high-maintenance and difficult to care for this turfgrass can be. Many see St. Augustine’s reputation and get intimidated, fearing constant problems no matter what they do. But in reality, St. Augustine grass isn’t nearly as tricky to grow and maintain as some make it out to be.
In this article, I’ll share insider tips and tricks for demystifying St. Augustine grass care. You’ll learn the keys to keeping your St. Augustine lawn healthy and thriving with modest effort. I’ll discuss how much watering, mowing, fertilizing, and other maintenance St. Augustine truly requires. You’ll discover smart strategies for preventing and treating common issues like weeds, disease, and shade problems. And I’ll bust some misconceptions about St. Augustine being ultra-finicky.
Don’t let St. Augustine’s reputation scare you off from trying this popular warm season grass. With the proper knowledge and practices, growing lush St. Augustine can be simple and enjoyable. Let’s dig in to why this grass may be easier than you think!
Assessing the Basic Care Needs of St. Augustine Lawns
Before deciding whether St. Augustine grass is too high maintenance for your yard, it’s important to understand the basic care it requires. Proper watering, mowing, fertilization and soil preparation form the foundation for healthy St. Augustine turf.
Watering Requirements for St. Augustine Grass
As a warm season grass, St. Augustine thrives in heat and humidity. Adequate moisture is imperative for St. Augustine to spread and fill in properly.
On average, St. Augustine needs about 1-1.5 inches of water per week from irrigation or rainfall. More is needed in very hot climates. Soil type also impacts water needs.
Daily light watering is ineffective. St. Augustine prefers a thorough soaking 2-3 times a week to encourage deep roots. Water early to allow drying time.
An extra watering may be required if fertilizing or during drought, but too much continuous moisture creates fungus issues. Proper irrigation scheduling prevents disease.
Overall, St. Augustine is fairly drought tolerant for a lush grass. But letting it go dormant and brown to save water requires restarting growth each year.
What Type of Soil Does St. Augustine Grass Prefer?
St. Augustine thrives best in fertile, slightly acidic soils with good drainage. Sandy loam soils are ideal, while heavy clays can be improved with organic matter.
If soil prep is done properly before planting, St. Augustine establishes readily and requires little long-term amendment. Annual aeration relieves compaction issues.
St. Augustine withstands a fairly wide pH range of 5.0-8.5. Get a soil test ifgrass struggles, but this grass isn’t too finicky about soil nutrients once established.
How Much Fertilization Does St. Augustine Grass Need?
Apply nitrogen-rich fertilizer 2-3 times per year during active St. Augustine growth and recovery periods. Slow release organic options provide steady nutrients.
Look for a balanced fertilizer near a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio for optimal nutrition. Iron supplements may be needed periodically in alkaline soils.
St. Augustine mainly needs modest nitrogen to sustain growth and color. Avoid excessive phosphorus and potassium, which encourage foliar growth over root depth.
With a proper fertilization schedule, St. Augustine maintains good color and cover density without succumbing to disease from too many nutrients.
The bottom line: St. Augustine grass doesn’t need heavy feeding and pampering if cared for correctly. Set up your lawn for success from the start.
Managing Common St. Augustine Grass Problems
St. Augustine may need a bit more care and vigilance when issues like weeds, disease, and shade arise. But preventative practices and prompt treatment keep problems in check before they spiral out of control. With proactive maintenance, St. Augustine lawns thrive for years.
Strategies for Controlling Weeds in St. Augustine Lawns
St. Augustine’s dense canopy normally crowds out weeds. But unsightly invaders sometimes sneak in, especially when turf is thin or stressed. Stopping weeds early is key.
Spot treat isolated weeds as they appear before they spread. Selective herbicides like atrazine and Celsius target broadleaf weeds but won’t harm St. Augustine.
Familiarize yourself with common St. Augustine weeds – crabgrass, dandelions, and clover – and treat promptly. Catching weeds early prevents takeover.
Maintain optimal turf density through proper mowing, fertilization, irrigation and soil pH. Dense, vigorous grass leaves little room for weeds.
While some weeding is inevitable, taking a proactive approach minimizes infestations. Weed control is manageable with attentive lawn management.
How to Prevent and Treat Diseases in St. Augustine Grass
Excess moisture and dense growth create prime conditions for disease in St. Augustine lawns. But preventative care makes disease management very achievable.
Allow drying time between watering and improve drainage if fungus appears. Keep mowing height higher to encourage airflow. Organic fungicides treat active infections.
Consult your local extension office for disease identification and recommended fungicides for your area. Act quickly at the first disease signs.
While disease susceptibility is the tradeoff for St. Augustine’s lush tropical look, diligent cultural practices limit problems substantially. Maintain, don’t neglect.
Keeping St. Augustine Grass Green in Shady Areas
With its preference for full sun, St. Augustine thins over time when planted in dense shade. But strategic care keeps it looking reasonably lush.
Raise mowing height to 4+ inches for deeper roots and more blade surface area capable of photosynthesis in shade. Avoid scalping.
Use a shade-tolerant cultivar like Bitterblue or Palmetto. Avoid excessive traffic and soil compaction around tree roots.
Light, frequent nitrogen fertilization provides energy for growth despite lower light. Iron supplements combat chlorosis. Reduce thatch buildup.
Monitor progress and overseed or transition to a shade-loving grass species if St. Augustine still struggles. Proper expectations prevent frustration.
St. Augustine Maintenance Tips to Make Life Easier
Caring for St. Augustine doesn’t have to be a never-ending chore. By following some simple best practices, you can make maintenance much easier on yourself. Here are my top tips for keeping your St. Augustine green and growing with minimal effort:
Should I Mow St. Augustine Grass High or Low?
Mowing height is crucial for easy St. Augustine care. Cutting too short causes excessive stress. I recommend maintaining St. Augustine between 3-4 inches tall.
Mowing high enhances the grass’s shade and drought tolerance by allowing deeper root growth. Taller blades also help suppress weeds.
However, don’t let St. Augustine get overly shaggy either. Keeping growth between 4-6 inches with occasional mowing prevents matting and thinning over time.
Play around with heights within this range to find the “sweet spot” for your cultivar and conditions. Proper mowing height prevents many issues down the road.
Is St. Augustine a Good Grass for High Traffic Areas?
With proper preparation and care, St. Augustine tolerates moderate foot traffic surprisingly well for a lush grass. Some key tips:
Use sand or topsoil to level any bumpy areas before planting, ensuring an even surface. Frequently aerate compacted areas.
Keep soil moist in high traffic zones to prevent excessive stress on the grass. Consider traffic patterns when installing irrigation.
Promote deep roots by maintaining proper mowing height and fertilization. Longer blades recover better.
Switch to a sturdier St. Augustine cultivar like Raleigh or Palmetto around pools, play areas or entertaining spaces.
While no grass withstands excessive wear and tear, St. Augustine holds up better than many alternatives with smart maintenance.
Does St. Augustine Grass Spread Quickly on Its Own?
One perk of St. Augustine is its aggressive lateral spread via stolons and rhizomes. This enables quick fill-in of bare areas once established.
Encourage spread by watering adequately, fertilizing at optimal times, and setting the mower high. Healthy grass expands more quickly.
But St. Augustine’s rapid growth habit also means more frequent mowing and edging. Be prepared during peak growing seasons.
St. Augustine’s self-spreading abilities make starting with plugs or sod a very viable and cost-effective option. The coverage just keeps improving.
Take advantage of St. Augustine’s natural tendency to spread on its own. Making small management adjustments prevents it from becoming overwhelming.
Caring for St. Augustine grass comes with many common questions. Drawing from years of experience in landscaping, here are some of the top frequently asked topics around maintaining this beloved lawn grass:
Is St. Augustine Grass Compatible with Dogs or Other Pets?
St. Augustine’s tolerance for pets depends on preparation, proper care, and reasonable expectations. This grass survives light to moderate pet traffic better than many alternatives when properly managed.
Avoid excessive dog urine spots, which cause burn marks. Encourage pets to relieve themselves in designated, less visible areas using training, mulch, or pee rock barriers.
Fill in bare spots proactively since concentrated turf wear shows quickly. Plan to periodically re-sod high pet traffic zones to maintain coverage.
Keep St. Augustine a bit taller and fertilize moderately to help it recover from pet damage. Monitor closely and reassess if grass struggles to rebound.
How Long Does St. Augustine Grass Take to Establish After Planting?
Expect new St. Augustine sod pieces to knit together and take root in approximately 2-3 weeks after laying, assuming proper watering and ideal growing conditions.
St. Augustine plugs take longer to fill in but establish roots faster. Allow 4-6 weeks before mowing new plugs and 3 months or more for full coverage.
The grow-in duration can vary based on weather, seasonal timing, and lawn size. Be patient – resist overwatering or heavy traffic until the new grass is firmly rooted.
Proper site prep and starter fertilizer speeds up establishment. But remember, full maturity and thickness takes an entire growing season.
What’s Better for Low Maintenance – St. Augustine Sod or Plugs?
In my experience, St. Augustine sod establishes with less fuss and weeding compared to plugs. The immediate coverage looks great sooner.
However, plugs are much more budget friendly, filling in reasonably thick over one season. Just be diligent with watering and prep for weeds initially.
Long term, once established, there is little maintenance difference between sodded lawns and those started via plugs. The grow-in period is the biggest distinction.
Consider your lawn goals, budget, and how quickly you want full green coverage. Either sod or plugs can work well when properly cared for afterward.
The bottom line – don’t let the initial planting method determine your long-term commitment to proper St. Augustine lawn care. Invest in success upfront.
Conclusion: Is St. Augustine Grass Right for You?
If my years of experience with St. Augustine grass have taught me anything, it’s that proper lawn care techniques make all the difference in the world when it comes to easy, low-maintenance turf. Sure, St. Augustine requires a bit more diligent care than some grasses to look its best. But preventative maintenance truly prevents most issues from getting out of hand.
The key lessons for reducing hassle with St. Augustine include:
- Address problems early before they spread
- Prioritize soil prep and use adaptive care for conditions
- Maintain optimal fertilization and mowing practices
- Monitor trouble spots closely and adjust care as needed
- Set realistic expectations for high traffic areas
- Take advantage of St. Augustine’s self-spreading traits
While St. Augustine does require a commitment to proper care, the payoff is a lush, thick, green lawn that thrives for years. Don’t believe everything you hear about high-maintenance woes. With a thoughtful approach, St. Augustine can be no more difficult than any other desirable turfgrass. Just give it what it needs from the start.