Will Dead St. Augustine Grass Come Back?

If you walk outside one morning to find your St. Augustine lawn looking more brown than green, it can be disheartening. As a longtime gardener and lawn care enthusiast, I’ve seen my fair share of grass troubles. And let me tell you, even the sturdiest St. Augustine can occasionally take a turn for the worse.

But just because your grass appears dead doesn’t necessarily mean it’s too late for revival. St. Augustine is known for its potential to bounce back from decline. With a little TLC and the right approach, you may be able to nurse your lawn back to its former lush glory.

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of reviving dead St. Augustine grass. I’ll share the techniques I’ve used to bring St. Augustine back from the brink over the years. You’ll learn how to evaluate the current state of your lawn, troubleshoot what factors caused the die-off, and take the proper steps to encourage new growth. We’ll also discuss when it makes more sense to remove and replace dead grass rather than attempt restoration.

Whether your goal is to revive your existing St. Augustine or start fresh with new sod, you’ll find the information you need right here. I’m excited to pass along the lawn recovery tips and tricks I wish I knew when I first started seeing brown patches. Let’s get growing!

Can St. Augustine Grass Recover from Death?

As a lawn care enthusiast with over a decade of experience reviving lackluster landscapes, I’ve seen my fair share of grass troubles. And when it comes to St. Augustine, even the heartiest varieties can occasionally take a turn for the worse.

If you’ve noticed more brown than green taking over your once-lush St. Augustine lawn, it’s understandable to worry it may be too far gone. But don’t lose hope just yet! With the proper care and intervention, you may be able to coax your grass back from the brink.

Evaluating the State of Your St. Augustine Lawn

Before attempting to revive your St. Augustine, it’s important to assess the extent of the damage. If small, scattered brown patches are all you see, recovery is very possible. But larger areas of die-off covering over 50% of the lawn may indicate an underlying issue that needs addressing.

To determine if your grass is truly dead or just dormant, there are a few signs to inspect:

  • Examine individual grass blades – are they brittle and easily pulled out of the soil? Dead grass won’t have pliable blades.
  • Check for new growth – dry out a small section of lawn and look for new green shoots emerging from the soil beneath. Their presence means living roots remain.
  • Test for residue – rub your fingers across brown grass areas. Dead material will break down into debris while dormant grass won’t shed residue.

If examination reveals your St. Augustine is in fact dead, don’t give up. Diagnosing what caused the die-off is key to getting your lawn back in shape.

Pinpointing What Led to Your St. Augustine’s Decline

In my experience reviving lackluster lawns, these factors are often the culprits behind St. Augustine die-offs:

Poor drainage – St. Augustine needs consistent moisture. Excessive water runoff or areas that collect standing water can drown the grass.

Insufficient irrigation – Grass deprived of adequate water, especially in hot conditions, can go dormant and eventually die.

Compacted soil – Soil that is too dense prevents proper oxygen flow to the roots. Aerating helps alleviate this issue.

Excess shade – St. Augustine thrives on 4-6 hours of direct sunlight daily. Too much shade encourages moss growth.

Unsuitable maintenance – Overfertilization, scalping while mowing, or improper herbicide use can damage and kill grass.

Once you identify potential causes, you can take the proper steps to get your St. Augustine looking lush again.

Strategies to Revive Dying St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine Grass that was dead

If your grass shows signs of decline but isn’t completely dead, don’t lose hope! Here are some tips I’ve used over the years to nurse struggling St. Augustine lawns back to health:

  • Improve drainage and aerate compacted areas. Addressing these fundamental issues provides the roots ample air and moisture.
  • Overseed with St. Augustine blend grass seed to fill in patchy spots. Look for “dense shade” varieties if needed.
  • Fertilize with a balanced turf builder to encourage new growth without excessive top growth.
  • Water early in the morning to allow moisture to soak in before the hot sun can evaporate it.
  • Adjust mowing height to 3-4” and avoid removing more than 1/3 of the blade length when cutting.
  • Monitor for signs of disease and treat appropriately. St. Augustine is prone to take-all root rot and brown patch.

With attentive care tailored to the factors impacting your lawn, you can nurse struggling grass back to a vibrant state. But what if your St. Augustine has passed the point of no return? Let’s discuss how to start fresh.

How to Restore a Dead St. Augustine Lawn?

If your St. Augustine lawn has passed the point of revival, all hope is not lost. With a little hard work and TLC, you can restore a dead lawn to its former lush green glory. I’ve helped homeowners do just that for years using the lawn restoration tips I’m excited to share with you.

When tackling a lawn this far gone, it’s best to start from scratch and prep the area for new sod or seed. I know it seems daunting, but with the proper process, you can have a revived lawn in as little as 6-8 weeks.

Remove Dead Grass and Debris

The first step is getting down to the bare soil by removing every trace of dead grass and debris. Here are two options I recommend:

Manual Removal – This labor intensive method involves raking thoroughly to lift dead material and then using a sod cutter for any remaining grass. Finally, dig up any leftover roots still clinging to life.

Smothering – An easier alternative is to smother the lawn with compost or mulch to decompose the dead grass over 2-3 weeks before digging and raking it up.

No matter the removal method, be sure to dispose of the dead grass and roots appropriately. Never leave it to compost in the bare lawn area.

Aerate and Dethatch the Bare Soil

Once all dead material is gone, the soil needs prepping to optimize conditions for new grass growth.

First, aerate the entire lawn area using a core aeration machine that extracts plugs of soil. This alleviates compaction and allows air and water to permeate.

Next, dethatch if necessary. Use a stiff rake to scrape up and remove the top thatch layer of compressed grass stems and roots. Too much thatch blocks water, air and nutrients from reaching the soil.

Finish by grading the soil and filling any low spots to establish a flat, even surface. The bare lawn is now perfectly primed and ready for grass seed or sod.

Method 1 – Overseed with St. Augustine Grass Seed

If choosing to restore your lawn via seeding, select a “dense shade” St. Augustine seed variety, which is more disease resistant. When overseeding a dead lawn, use double the amount of seed recommended for sparse patching.

To plant, divide the seed into two batches. Broadcast the first evenly across the lawn, then go perpendicular and repeat with the second batch. This ensures thorough, uniform coverage. Gently water the seed into the soil right after planting.

Maintain consistent moisture and fertilize weekly with a balanced turf builder. In about 6-8 weeks, you should see a fully revived lawn.

Method 2 – Lay New St. Augustine Sod

For faster results, replacing dead grass with new St. Augustine sod is ideal. While pricier upfront, laying sod avoids the wait for seeds to germinate and establish.

Prep the soil as outlined above, then lay fresh sod in a staggered brick-like pattern. Eliminate air pockets and seams by butting edges tightly together. Once placed, roll the sod flat and water thoroughly everyday for two weeks.

Fertilize with turf builder starting three weeks after install when the roots take hold. While sod establishes quicker, limit foot traffic and mowing for a full month.

In as little as two to four weeks, diligent sod care rewards you with a thick, revived lawn.

Whichever option you choose, with attentive restoration care, patience and a bit of hard work, you can resurrect a dead St. Augustine lawn. Soon, you’ll have a thriving green oasis again.

When is it Time to Replace Dead St. Augustine Grass?

Reviving dead St. Augustine lawn takes effort, but sometimes, the damage is too far gone for restoration. As a longtime gardening pro, I’ve learned how to evaluate when it’s better to call it quits and start fresh with new sod or grass seed.

Replacing an entire dead lawn is admittedly more labor intensive than patching thin spots. But in the long run, you’ll save time and frustration compared to constantly fighting to nurse struggling grass back to health.

Here are the signs it’s time to replace your dead St. Augustine rather than keep trying to revive it.

Examining the Extent of Decline

As a general rule of thumb, if 50% or more of your total lawn area is dead or struggling, replacement may be the best option.

Scattered brown spots are one thing. But extensive swaths of dead grass indicate a problem at the roots. Even if you succeed at greening the lawn up again, underlying issues like poor drainage, disease, or inadequate care will likely lead to repeat die-offs.

Starting fresh gives you a chance to address underlying problems and establish healthy, uniform grass. It also prevents dead areas from spreading or feeling like a never-ending battle.

Considering Costs of St. Augustine Sod vs. Seeding

When planning a lawn renovation, sod or seed are the two main options. Which is best for you depends on budget, timeframe, and lawn expectations.

Sodding provides instant gratification but comes at a steep price. Expect to pay $200-500 for enough St. Augustine sod to cover 1,000 sq ft. However, you’ll have lush green grass again in as little as two weeks.

Seeding costs a fraction of the price at $100-150 per 1,000 sq ft. But you’ll wait 6-8 weeks for seeds to germinate and establish. The lawn may initially look patchy too.

If time and money are no obstacle, sodding is the quickest route to a flawless, revived lawn. For those on a budget, seeding achieves similar results with more patience required.

Preparing the Area and Laying Fresh Sod

Once you decide to take the replacement route, prep work is key to success. Remove every trace of the dead lawn completely – grass, roots and all. Dig down several inches and amend the soil with compost or topsoil as needed to optimize growth.

When laying the new St. Augustine sod, stagger the joints like brickwork to prevent gaps or dips. Eliminate air pockets by pressing and rolling sod pieces firmly into the soil, then water thoroughly.

The initial two weeks are critical for establishing sod roots. Water daily without saturating, and avoid mowing or heavy foot traffic during this time. Then you can enjoy your lush, revived lawn for years to come.

Replacing dead St. Augustine lawn is an investment of time, effort and money at first. But restoring a struggling lawn multiple times is ultimately more labor intensive. With healthy new sod and attentive care, you’ll avoid repeat die-offs and enjoy a flawless lawn for seasons to come.

FAQ: Dead St. Augustine Grass

As a longtime gardening enthusiast, I’ve helped countless homeowners revive their lackluster St. Augustine lawns over the years. Along the way, I’ve fielded every question imaginable about troubleshooting dead and struggling grass.

Below I’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions I receive on restoring dead St. Augustine grass. Feel free to contact me with any other lawn care questions!

What is the fastest way to bring back dead St. Augustine grass?

When your St. Augustine lawn declines rapidly or dies off completely, the fastest revival solution is replacing it with new sod. While certainly the priciest option, laying fresh St. Augustine sod can restore a lush, green lawn in as little as two to four weeks when properly cared for.

The tradeoff for fast results with sod is the higher upfront cost compared to seeding. But if you’re eager to see a revived lawn and money is no object, high-quality St. Augustine sod installed correctly yields quick, flawless results.

How long does it take for St. Augustine grass to spread?

If you choose to bring your dead St. Augustine lawn back via seeding, patience is key. It can take upwards of 6-8 weeks for the grass seedlings to fully mature and fill in bare patches.

St. Augustine is a spreading grass variety. But the growth rate from new seedlings is much slower than that of established sod pieces. Don’t expect noticeable spreading or filling in of bare areas for at least 8 weeks post-seeding.

With diligent watering and fertilization, you’ll eventually see your new St. Augustine grass spread, slowly but surely. But full establishment takes several growing seasons.

Should I use a weed killer on dead St. Augustine grass?

It’s best not to use a standard broadleaf or total vegetation weed killer on dead St. Augustine prior to reviving it. These herbicides can leave behind residues in the soil that inhibit new grass growth.

For any remaining live weeds mixed in with dead grass, use a targeted spot treatment herbicide instead. Once all dead grass is removed and the bare soil is prepped, apply a pre-emergent herbicide to deter new weeds from sprouting up in establishing grass. But avoid total “bare ground” weed killer sprays.

In summary, selective weed control products are ideal when restoring dead lawns. Avoid broad spectrum herbicides that could compromise the growth of your new St. Augustine grass.

I hope these answers help provide a jumping off point for successfully reviving your St. Augustine lawn from scratch. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any other questions. I enjoy sharing the knowledge I’ve gained from years of hands-on experience bringing lawns back to life.


Bringing your St. Augustine lawn back from the dead is no small feat, but it can certainly be done with time and dedication. After years of trial and error reviving lackluster lawns, I’ve seen firsthand how proper care and intervention can coax struggling grass back to its former glory. But I’ve also learned that sometimes, it’s best to call it quits and start fresh.

As we discussed, take the time to properly assess your lawn’s condition and pinpoint what factors led to its decline. Address drainage issues, aerate compacted soil, adjust maintenance practices – take the steps needed to create an environment primed for lush grass.

If signs of life remain, there are techniques like overseeding, fertilizing and attentive watering that can nurse St. Augustine back from the brink. But large areas of die off may warrant total replacement with new sod or grass seed for the best results.

Whichever route you choose, don’t let completely dead St. Augustine dismay you. With persistence and care tailored to your lawn’s specific needs, you can bring about an amazing transformation. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying green, vibrant grass once again.

As a fellow lawn care enthusiast, I’m always happy to offer additional tips and answer any questions you may have on restoring your landscape. Feel free to get in touch with the details of your specific situation. I wish you the very best in bringing your St. Augustine lawn back to its full glory.

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