Trying to have a weed-free, lush, green lawn in Florida is challenging at best. Below is a listing of frequently asked questions we have received throughout the years from local residents that may be helpful to you, as well as links to related University of Florida publications.
What type of grass will grow in the shady areas of my yard?
All of the turfgrasses that are grown in Florida require full sun except two varieties of St. Augustine: Seville and Bitter Blue. Seville is more shade tolerant than Bitter Blue, however, neither will take dense shade. There are also some specific cultivars of Zoysia grass and Centipede grass which are somewhat shade tolerant. In densely shady areas, planting a shade loving ground cover instead of turfgrass is recommended. Check the web site below for additional information.
Will pre-emergent herbicides control crabgrass in my lawn? If so, when should I apply it?
Pre-emergent herbicides are expensive but they are usually effective. Applied in granular form they use soil moisture, rainfall or irrigation to form a chemical barrier that will not harm any existing plant but will not allow any seedling to penetrate. So it not only stops crabgrass, an annual, heat loving weed, but also stops any other weed seed from successful germination. Then with proper fertilization your desirable grass quickly fills in those small bare spots that would have been nothing but ugly weeds. Pre-emergent products are available in combination with turf fertilizers to give your grass a boost, too. When to apply it? When you see dandelions blooming that means the soil temperature is warming up to the point where crabgrass can germinate, usually between late February and mid-March.
What's the best time to spray or apply a weed and feed product for my existing weeds?
For maximum efficiency the weeds should be in a lush, actively growing state. Keep your eye on those dandelions again. When they hit the puffball stage, when you can pick the flower heads and blow the seeds away, that's the ideal time.
When should I reseed my Bahia lawn?
I have had trouble getting the seed to grow. The best time to seed is from April through June since this permits a full growing season before cold weather and takes advantage of the rainy season. Poor germination can be caused by a couple factors: Germination of Bahia seed is often slow and erratic because of a hard waxy seed coat, therefore, try to locate scarified seed (seed mechanically treated to increase the germination rate). Bahia must also be covered with soil and kept constantly moist to germinate.
How often should I water my grass? And when is the best time of day to do this?
It is nearly impossible to say how many times a week a lawn should be watered since so many factors will influence this. Thus, it is best to water on an as-needed basis or when the grass shows signs of stress from a lack of water.
Some of those signs are:
- The grass color will be a bluish-gray rather than a clear green.
- Footprints will remain for a long time when the grass is walked on.
- Grass blades will fold in half.
- Soil samples from the root zone feel dry.
- A general rule for watering is to apply 3/4" of water two or three times per week in the summer and once every ten to fourteen days in the winter. The best time for lawn irrigation is in the early morning hours to avoid prolonging the dew period which can encourage disease problems.
Is this a good time to seed a lawn?
The best time to seed is during the spring and summer months from April through July, since this permits a full growing season before cold weather. Seed may be planted as late as September or early October, but establishment is much slower because of cooler weather. In most instances a mature sod will not be formed when planted this late until the following summer.
In north Florida, young seedling grasses may be winter-killed if they are planted too late in the fall. Spring and summer seeding also takes advantage of Florida's rainy season and may greatly reduce irrigation requirements.
Here are a few spring seeding tips:
- Seed as soon as possible so the seed is in the ground and ready to germinate as soon as the soil temperatures rise.
- Improve the seed-to-soil contact by raking or disturbing the soil before seeding.
- After seeding, a light raking will further mix the seed and soil or a light rolling will push the seed into better contact with soil.
- Water lightly to keep the seed bed moist as soil temperatures warm and the seed starts to germinate.
- Avoid any herbicide applications to the seeded areas until the seedlings are established and mowed at least 3 or 4 times (this might May or later depending on the weather).
- Since the seedlings will not develop a good root system until next fall, keep the newly seeded areas well-watered all summer. So unless you absolutely have to sow seed in the spring remember that a poor fall seeding is always better than a good spring one.
I have recently moved to a new home with an established yard. When should I fertilize?
Your plants will benefit from two feedings per year, one in March and another in September. Remember that fertilizing equals more branches, more stems, more leaves, more roots, therefore, more maintenance cost, more cutting, more clipping and more pruning. If you are happy with the size and appearance of your plants, why encourage it to change?
Can I grow a St. Augustine lawn from seed?
There is a St. Augustine seed product available, but it is a variety of St. Augustine ('Raleigh') that is adapted to Central Florida. Therefore, it is much easier to establish a St. Augustine lawn from sprigs, plugs, or sod.
Every summer my Bahia grass develops yellow spots even though I fertilized, what causes this?
Yellow spots or streaks indicate an iron deficiency. In the spring and summer, Bahia grows so rapidly that it cannot keep up with its own nutritional demand for iron. It is best to make supplemental iron applications and avoid heavy summer fertilization or fertilizing with a fertilizer high in water soluble nitrogen since this will encourage excessive growth and increased demand for iron.
I have read about this wonderful miracle grass called Zoysia. Is it as good as the advertisement says?
Due to over-enthusiastic newspaper advertisements, the public has been misinformed on the merits of zoysia grasses. Zoysias have advantages and disadvantages like all Florida lawn grasses. The improved zoysias have to be propagated vegetatively and are extremely slow in becoming established. An entire growing season may be required for coverage of the lawn when propagated by plugging or sprigging.
All zoysias produce a heavy thatch which required periodic renovation. Other disadvantages include: slow recovery from damage; high fertility requirement; need for frequent irrigations; can be severely damaged by nematodes, hunting billbugs, and several diseases.
If you are interested in having a Zoysia lawn, locate a variety developed for Florida (such as Cashmere); the varieties usually advertised will not grow in Florida.
Should I leave my grass clippings on the lawn or should I have a catch bag on my mower?
If you are mowing frequently enough, it is best to leave the clippings on the grass to recycle the nitrogen in them (as much as 1-2 pounds per year - the equivalent of 1 to 2 fertilizations per year). Mow often enough so that no more than 1/3 of the grassblades are removed. The small amount of clippings generated from frequent mowings will not contribute to thatch.
What is the best height to cut my grass? How often should I cut it?
The suggested mowing practices during the growing season is: Bahia grass, 3 to 4 inches, every four to seven days; Bermuda grass, to 1 inches, every three to five days; Carpetgrass, 1 to 2 inches, every 10 to 14 days, Centipede grass, 1 to 2 inches, every 10 to 14 days, St. Augustine grass, 2 to 4 inches, every four to seven days. Zoysia grass, 1 to 2 inches, every 10 to 14 days.
My neighbor tells me I am fertilizing my lawn too often. What problems could that cause?
My lawn looks fine now. Many pest problems are increased when the lawn if overly stimulated with soluble nitrogen. Chinch bugs, sod webworms, nematodes and brown patches are just a few of those problems. Excessive growth means more mowing. Most established landscape grasses grown well with two or three applications a year.
Which grass is drought tolerant, nematode resistant and is low maintenance?
Bahia grass fits the bill on all three counts.
When planning a landscape, what security problems should be considered?
Keep your front door in view from the street. Let windows be visible. You may want to plant barberry shrubs beneath windows. The thorns can keep people away. Don't plant an area that can be a hiding place for burglars. Also, incorporate low-voltage lighting in your landscape design.
My lawn is lush and healthy, so why do I have mushrooms growing there?
Toadstools are often seen on lawns high in humus content. They do not damage the lawn and can be removed easily by taking the back of a rake.
We have a border of very attractive, big, blue liriope. However, this summer it never really got green and lush, and there were barely any flowers. We pulled out a lot of brown blades from the center, but that didn't seem to help?
To encourage lush liriope with a profusion of spears, early in the spring, cut the whole thing back to just above the ground with scissors, lawn mower or nylon edge cutter. In no time the plants will improve dramatically.
The property we purchased has a combination lawn of St. Augustine and Centipede grass. What can I use for weed control, and when is the best time to apply it?
If you are trying to control crabgrass or goosegrass, you can use a pre-emergence herbicide such as Atrazine in December and plan to reapply approximately two months later for seasonal control, you can apply a post-emergence herbicide (ex.Asulox) one in May and again in August. However, you should not apply a post-emergence herbicide when the temperature is more than 85 degrees or your lawn is suffering from lack of water.
When is the best time to overseed with winter rye grass?
In our area, you can overseed with annual rye grass anytime from the middle of November through early December. Ideally, you want to wait until the average daytime temperatures stay consistently below the mid-70 degree F range.