Care of St. Augustine & Bermuda Lawns

Cultural practices, particularly fertilizing, largely determine lawn quality, which is generally measured in terms of color, density, and uniformity. A fertilizing program should include timely applications of fertilizer in amounts and formulations that meet the requirements of your lawn. Common sense and refraining from over doing is one of the main keys to successful lawn maintenance. Over-fertilizing even once can cause  many problems, including:

  1. An over-abundance of grass foliage to mow, which in turn creates thatch buildup on the lawn.
  2. Thatch accumulation provides a refuge for insects and fungus spores.
  3. Over fertilizing weakens the grass and makes it more susceptible to damage from insects and disease.

Grass clippings can be caught, raked, or allowed to decompose to prevent heavy thatch buildup. But over fertilizing causes lawn grasses to grow too quickly, requiring frequent mowing and subsequent thatch buildup. Or a homeowner will cut too much of the grass blade, which is difficult to decompose in the lawn, leading to increased insect and disease damage, as well as poor cold tolerance.

Poor timing of fertilizer application also increases the likelihood of chinch bug and brown patch problems in St. Augustine grass lawns. Use the chart in below to aid in identifying any other problems you may encounter.

Environmental conditions, such as shade, soil type, and rainfall also influence fertilizer requirements. Moderately or heavily shaded areas should not be fertilized as much as grass in full sunlight.

Grass growing in shade is more succulent and has a weaker root system than grass growing in full sunlight. Turfgrass growing in sandy soils requires more frequent applications of nitrogen than those growing in heavy soils. Lawns in areas subject to high rainfall require more total pounds of nitrogen per year than lawns grown under dry conditions.

Lawn Problems

SYMPTOM TIME CAUSE SOLUTION
Large dead circles Early spring
Early fall
Brown Patch Fungus
(Rhizoctonia solani)
Terrachlor
|Control: Bayleton
Small, ash colored bubbles on grass blades After time of high moisture Slime Mold Fungus
(Physarium cinereum)
Control: Wash or brush away - Daconil
Powdery substance on grass blades After time of high moisture Powdery mildew
(Erysiphe grammis)
Control: Bayleton
Loss of vigor; blotchy streaking in leaf-blades Growing season St. Augustine Decline Virus Control: Plant resistant varieties like Raliegh, Humore Product
Large, yellow or brown discolored area Summer dry period Chinch bugs
(Blissus insularis)
Control: Diazinon, Sevin,
Delta Eight, Killa Bug II
Areas of dead grass that seem to have little remaining root system Spring and Summer White grubs
(Phyllophaga spp.)
Preventative: Diazinon (June)
Control: Diazinon, Dylox
Mounds of soil Anytime Ants
(Formicidae Family)
Control: Diazinon
Baits: Ocephate, Fipronil

Fertilizer Applications

Timing and distribution of fertilizer applications are important considerations in a lawn fertilizing program. Timing applications to correspond to grass requirements rather than to the convenience of the homeowner can reduce maintenance problems (see chart below).

Lawns require supplemental applications of nitrogen at 45 to 60 day intervals between spring and fall fertilizing. These applications should not exceed one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft per application. Slow release nitrogen should be used on St. Augustine during the summer, since soluble nitrogen sources increase lawn susceptibility to chinch bugs. Heirloom Gardens 21-7-14 Premium Fertilizer contains over 40% slow release nitrogen to reduce nitrogen runoff and leaching and to lower lawn susceptibility to insects and diseases.

St. Augustine lawns may require periodic application of iron chelate to prevent iron chlorosis. These applications may be needed several times during the growing season. Iron chelate should be applied according to the manufacturers directions. Fertilizers should be distributed with a broadcast (cyclone type) spreader. Uniform distribution is essential to prevent light and dark streaks across the lawn.

Fertilizing Your Lawn

Heirloom Gardens 21-7-14 Premium Lawn Fertilizer is specifically formulated in a 3-1-2 ratio for the soils of the Brazos Valley, as outlined by Texas turf experts.

Planned applications are necessary for optimum lawn vigor, health and beauty. To receive the most pleasure from your lawn, Heirloom Gardens recommends that you follow this program. Shown are the recommended ratios of Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium.

  Heavy Soils Soils
St. Augustine Grass
mid-late February
mid-late May
mid-late June
mid-late September
3-1-2
3-1-2
3-1-2
3-1-2
3-1-2
3-1-2
3-1-2
3-1-2
Common Bermuda Grass
mid-late February
late April; mid May
early-mid September
3-1-2
3-1-2
3-1-2
3-1-2
3-1-2
21-0-0
3-1-2
3-1-2
Hybrid Bermuda Grass
(Tifway, Tifgreen, Tifdwarf)
mid-late February
late April, mid May
mid-late June
mid-late July
mid-late September
3-1-2
21-0-0
3-1-2
3-1-2
3-1-2
3-1-2
21-0-0
3-1-2
21-0-0
3-1-2

For other fertilizing needs or turf problems, see an Heirloom Gardens Texas Certified Nursery Professional.

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