As an avid gardener who has spent years cultivating a lush, green lawn, I’m often asked when is the optimal time to plant St. Augustine grass. This warm-season turfgrass thrives in hot, humid environments like the Southeastern US, but careful planning is needed to ensure newly planted grass takes root and flourishes. From assessing your soil to selecting the right variety, proper preparation is key to establishing a thriving St. Augustine lawn.
In this article, I’ll share my personal experience and top tips for planting St. Augustine grass as someone who has done it successfully many times. We’ll cover the ideal St. Augustine planting seasons, how to get your lawn ready pre-planting, different planting methods and care for new grass. I’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about this finicky grass type.
While St. Augustine grass can be particular, you can grow a gorgeous lawn with this iconic southern turf if you follow sound horticultural practices. Proper planning will pay off in the long run with a lush, green lawn you’ll enjoy for years. Let’s dive into the specifics!
When is the Best Time to Plant St. Augustine Grass?
As a seasoned gardener, I’m often asked when is the optimal time to plant St. Augustine grass seed or sod. This warm-season grass thrives in hot, humid climates, but the planting window is smaller than you may think. Through trial and error in my own lawn, I’ve found late spring and early fall are the best times for establishing new St. Augustine grass.
Spring Planting of St. Augustine Grass
In southern lawns, the ideal time for spring St. Augustine grass planting is April through May, after the last frost date. This allows the young grass to capitalize on the warm, wet weather of early summer.
Aim to get new grass planted at least 30 days before the onset of hot mid-summer temperatures. This gives the St. Augustine time to develop deeper roots to withstand heat and drought stress.
There is a caveat with spring planting – you’ll need to irrigate new grass frequently until the roots take hold. The hot, dry conditions of early summer can be challenging for tender new plantings. Be prepared to water daily or every other day for the first 4-6 weeks.
Fall Planting of St. Augustine Grass
Fall is also a prime season for laying St. Augustine sod or plugs. Aim for early September through October for the best results.
The moderating autumn temperatures allow new grass to establish before cold winter arrives. St. Augustine will continue developing roots throughout the fall and winter, making for thicker, lusher growth come spring.
Weed pressure is also lower in fall, giving St. Augustine grass a competitive edge. Less irrigation is required at this time of year as well.
The only caveat with fall planting is cold tolerance. If frost or freezing hits before grass has fully rooted, some dieback may occur. However, St. Augustine should still bounce back nicely in spring.
In summary, to ensure a successful start for St. Augustine lawns, I highly recommend planting in spring after all danger of frost is past, or in the early fall before temperatures drop too low. Proper timing sets your lawn up for lush, verdant grass for years to come.
How to Prepare Your Lawn for St. Augustine Grass?
As someone who has installed St. Augustine grass in my own yard several times, proper lawn preparation is one of the most important steps to ensure your new grass thrives. Rushing into planting without setting the stage will likely lead to disappointed results. Trust me, I’ve made that mistake before!
Based on my experience, there are three keys to readying your lawn for St. Augustine grass: checking and adjusting soil pH, removing existing vegetation, and grading and leveling the lawn. Let’s explore each one.
Test and Amend Soil pH for St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine performs best when the soil pH is between 5.0-8.5. Testing your yard’s pH is quick and easy with an at-home soil test kit. I prefer the LaMotte brand test kit for its reliability. Once you know your soil’s pH, you can amend it accordingly.
If the pH is too low (acidic), apply lime per package instructions to raise it. Pelletized dolomitic lime is easiest to spread evenly. Re-test in 4-6 weeks to ensure you’ve reached the target pH range.
If pH is too high (alkaline), incorporation of elemental sulfur will lower it. Mix in thoroughly before planting new grass. Be patient, as it takes 4-6 months to see the full effects.
Getting soil pH right is crucial because otherwise St. Augustine won’t be able to utilize nutrients effectively. This can lead to stunted, yellowing grass despite your best fertilizing efforts. Take the time to test and correct upfront for best results.
Remove Existing Lawn and Weeds Before Planting St. Augustine
If you currently have a lawn, it’s imperative to remove all existing grass and weeds first. St. Augustine is quite intolerant of competition, and won’t thrive if other plants are stealing sunlight, nutrients and water.
For large areas, rent a sod cutter which will strip off the current lawn cleanly and efficiently. You can then till the soil. For smaller yards, use a flat shovel to take out each strip of sod by hand.
Once the old lawn is gone, thoroughly till the top 6 inches of bare soil to uproot any remaining grass, roots and weeds. Apply a non-selective herbicide like glyphosate if needed to kill off any lingering vegetation.
Level the soil and break up any large clumps. Now you’ve created the blank canvas for lush St. Augustine grass to come!
Proper Lawn Grading and Drainage for St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine lawns require good drainage to avoid fungal diseases and root rot. Proper grading is also key to prevent erosion and allow even irrigation.
Use a landscape rake to smooth out any low or high spots for consistent grading across the lawn. Fill in dips with extra topsoil. Remove small hills and slopes.
The ideal grade is a 2-4% slope per 100 feet for optimal drainage. Use a string level, laser level or straight 2×4 board to check slopes.
Also evaluate drainage patterns. St. Augustine cannot tolerate standing water. Install French drains as needed to divert downspouts and channel water away from the lawn.
Addressing drainage and grading may be labor intensive initially, but it’s a worthwhile investment for healthy grass over the long-term.
In summary, preparing your soil chemistry, removing existing vegetation and minding your lawn’s grade are all vital steps before planting St. Augustine grass. It may seem tedious, but trust me – doing it right from the start pays off hugely down the road. Your mature St. Augustine lawn will thank you for it!
Planting Methods for St. Augustine Grass
When starting a new St. Augustine lawn, you have three main planting options – plugs, sod, or seed. Which is best for your situation? Based on turning my own yard into a lush St. Augustine oasis over the years, let me walk through the pros and cons of each method.
Planting St. Augustine Grass Plugs
St. Augustine grass plugs are small chunks of grass and soil, about 2-3 inches square. Plugs are a versatile and budget-friendly planting method for St. Augustine. Here are some tips:
- Space plugs 6-12 inches apart in staggered rows. Closer spacing fills in faster but costs more upfront.
- Before planting, thoroughly water the lawn area to moisten soil to a 4-6 inch depth.
- Use a bulb planter or soil auger to make a hole the same size as the plug. Place the plug in the hole and firm soil around it.
- Lightly water each plug after planting to settle soil and eliminate air pockets.
- Apply starter fertilizer to give new transplants a nutritional boost. Follow label rates.
- Keep soil consistently moist until the plugs spread and fill in. This normally takes one growing season.
- Plugs are great for gradually converting sections of yard over time. You can do part now, part later.
Overall, plugs require more patience at first but let you populate a large area with grass fairly affordably.
Sodding for St. Augustine Grass Lawns
For immediate lawn gratification, St. Augustine sod roll-out is tough to beat. With full strips of ready-to-go grass, you get an instant lawn. Here are some key tips:
- Have soil prepped and leveled before delivery so sod can be laid smoothly.
- Unroll strips edge-to-edge with tight seams like bricks. Avoid gaps or overlaps.
- Use a roller or hand tamp to ensure strong contact between sod and soil.
- Water newly laid sod daily without soaking completely through the underlying soil. Just dampen.
- After two weeks, deeper watering can commence once the sod takes root.
- Mow once sod is rooted, but raise blades high at first. Gradually lower to normal height.
Sodding yields quick results, but at a higher upfront cost. Determine how much instant gratification your budget allows!
Seeding St. Augustine Grass from Seed
While not as common, it is possible to establish St. Augustine grass from seed. Here are some tips:
- Only use fresh St. Augustine seed – viability declines quickly. Purchase from a reputable supplier.
- Wait until soil temperatures are at least 70°F and all chance of frost is past.
- Prepare soil to fine texture. Wet thoroughly and allow top 1” to dry before seeding.
- Seed at a heavy rate of 1-2 lbs per 1000 sq ft. St. Augustine seeds are tiny!
- Top dress seeded areas very lightly with 1/4” of compost or fine soil to protect seeds.
- Keep seedbed constantly moist but not soggy until germination in 14-21 days.
- Be patient – seeded lawns fill in slowly over one to two growing seasons.
St. Augustine seed can produce a cost-effective lawn with proper care. Just allow ample time for the grass to fully mature.
No matter which planting method you choose, following sound horticultural practices tailored to St. Augustine’s needs will ensure your lawn gets off to the healthiest start possible. Take the time upfront to prepare the soil, use quality materials and keep newly planted areas well-irrigated. Your efforts will soon be rewarded with a lush, thick, resilient lawn for years of beauty and enjoyment.
Caring for Newly Planted St. Augustine Grass
Once your St. Augustine grass is planted, whether by plugs, sod or seed, the work isn’t done. Appropriate lawn care and maintenance is crucial for newly established grass. Based on nurturing St. Augustine lawns over the years, I’ll share key tips for watering, fertilizing and mowing during this delicate growing phase.
Watering Tips for New St. Augustine Grass
Frequent, deep watering is vital for newly planted St. Augustine grass. Until the roots grow down 4-6 inches, irrigation needs to be consistent and thorough. Here are my top watering guidelines:
- Soak new sod or plugs to a 6 inch depth daily for the first 7-10 days. This encourages initial root growth.
- For seeded lawns, keep the top 1⁄2 inch of soil constantly moist but not saturated for the first 3 weeks.
- Transition to every other day deep watering over the next 2-4 weeks. Probe with a screwdriver to check sub-surface moisture.
- Water early in the morning to reduce evaporation loss and fungus risk. Avoid overhead watering at night.
- Adjust controllers seasonally as temperatures and rainfall fluctuate. Check soil frequently to gauge water needs.
- Once grass is established, gradually taper off to twice weekly deep watering to train roots to stretch deeper into soil.
Proper irrigation, customized to soil type and weather conditions, is essential during every phase of St. Augustine grass growth. Don’t let the top inch of soil dry out.
Fertilizing New St. Augustine Grass Lawns
While water keeps it alive, fertilizer gives new St. Augustine grass the nutrients required for lush growth. Here are fertilizing tips:
- Apply starter fertilizer when planting sod or plugs per label rates. Slow release is ideal.
- Wait 6 weeks after seeding St. Augustine to fertilize to avoid burning tender grass.
- Use a balanced fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.
- After the first application, fertilize every 6-8 weeks during spring through fall with 1 lb. nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft.
- Switch to a lower phosphate fertilizer after grass matures to deter thatch buildup.
- Iron supplements provide deep green color if soil is alkaline. Spray on ferrous sulfate.
- Spread fertilizer evenly using a drop or rotary spreader. Water in well after applying.
Proper fertilization keeps St. Augustine grass actively growing, while overdoing it can create problems. Stick to a routine feeding schedule.
Mowing New St. Augustine Grass
Mowing is necessary once St. Augustine grass reaches 3-4 inches tall, but go gentle on new lawns. Here are some mowing tips:
- Wait 7-10 days after sodding or plugging before first mow. Allow seeded lawns to grow to 4 inches before cutting.
- Keep mower blade sharp to reduce tearing of tender grass blades.
- Set mower height at highest setting first mow. Drop 1 notch per week to desired height of 3-4”.
- Never remove more than 1/3 total grass blade length when cutting St. Augustine.
- Allow newly planted areas to dry out slightly between watering and mowing to avoid tracking damage.
- Change mowing patterns periodically to prevent ruts. mow north-south one week, then east-west.
- Leave grass clippings in place to decompose and provide free fertilizer.
With patience and proper mowing technique, your St. Augustine lawn will develop into a lush, verdant carpet in no time.
In summary, pamper your new St. Augustine grass with attentive care and it will reward you with vigorous, beautiful growth for years of enjoyment.
FAQs on Planting St. Augustine Grass
Over my many years turning lawns into lush St. Augustine grass oases, I’ve fielded every question imaginable about growing this iconic Southern turf. Here I’ll tackle some of the most common FAQs I encounter on planting St. Augustine grass.
What are the best St. Augustine grass varieties to plant?
There are several warm-season St. Augustine grass cultivars to choose from, each with slight variations in appearance, texture, cold tolerance and disease resistance. Here are some top options:
- Raleigh St. Augustine: Dark green color, finer leaves, and good shade tolerance make this a popular pick.
- Palmetto St. Augustine: A slightly wider blade gives great heat tolerance and deeper roots.
- Seville St. Augustine: Rich blue-green hue and good disease resistance but less frost hardy.
- Sapphire St. Augustine: Striking blue tint but requires more maintenance. Slow to establish.
For best results, choose a variety tailored to your specific climate and lawn conditions. Your local nursery can recommend the ideal cultivar for your area.
How far apart should St. Augustine grass plugs be planted?
For quicker fill-in, space St. Augustine grass plugs closer at 6-9 inches apart. Wider 12 inch spacing saves money upfront but takes longer to fully fill in the lawn. Stagger plugs in offset rows for best coverage.
Also consider the mature size of your specific St. Augustine variety – some cultivars spread more aggressively. Give those types a bit more elbow room.
Adjust plug spacing to suit your timeline and budget. Closer spacing yields a full lawn faster but requires purchasing more plugs initially.
How much does St. Augustine grass sod cost?
The cost per pallet or square foot of St. Augustine grass sod can vary based on type, quality, supplier and location. On average expect to pay:
- $120-$180 per pallet or $0.28-$0.32 per square foot for basic builder-grade sod
- $180-$260 per pallet or $0.35-$0.50 per square foot for premium/improved St. Augustine varieties
- $100-$120 per pallet for palletized plugs to propagate your own sod
Sod farms often offer price breaks for large wholesale purchases. Order early as demand peaks in spring and fall. Proper soil prep is key to justify the investment in sod.
I hope these answers help simplify some common questions around planting St. Augustine grass. Feel free to reach out with any other issues – I’m always happy to share the knowledge I’ve gained through experience!
After years of trial and error establishing gorgeous St. Augustine lawns, I’ve learned proper planning and preparation are key to success with this iconic warm-season grass. While St. Augustine can be particular about growing conditions, you can cultivate a thriving lawn by understanding its needs.
The ideal St. Augustine planting seasons of early spring and fall allow the grass to root deeply before heat arrives. Taking time to correct soil pH, remove competition and create proper drainage pre-planting provides the healthy start new grass requires. Whether planting plugs, sod or seed, following sound horticultural practices tailored to St. Augustine results in rapid establishment and vigorous growth.
Attentive care while new plantings are taking hold, including frequent irrigation, light fertilization and cautious mowing, further ensures your lawn thrives. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the beauty, resilience and lush carpet of green that makes St. Augustine grass the icon of Southern lawns.
I hope these tips distilled from my own experience help you successfully establish a new St. Augustine lawn. Let me know if you have any other questions – I’m always happy to share more gardening wisdom! Wishing you the best as you cultivate your own patch of St. Augustine paradise.