Make Sure Grass Is in It for Lawn Haul

The Florida Times Union, April 29, 2000 | Go to article overview

Make Sure Grass Is in It for Lawn Haul


Do areas of your lawn need a makeover or are you going to plant new turf areas in the near future? Now's the time, since spring and early summer are the best times for planting turf.

If you have lawn areas that died and need to be replaced, don't be too hasty. First, determine why the lawn died. Is the area shady and has a lot of tree roots competing for water and nutrients with the lawn? Is it an area that has no irrigation and it's an impossible feat to get water there? Perhaps weeds have taken permanent residence and pushed the grass out.

You may be enticed by a promotion for a wonder grass to grow in our area. Don't fall for that gimmick. There is no beautiful, lush, low-maintenance lawn. All lawns have their pluses and minuses.

Before you rush out to buy new seeds, plugs or sod, consider the alternatives. If there is an ongoing problem with shade and tree roots, it might be time to switch gears. There are no lawn varieties that grow well in heavy shade. Instead, consider using a low-maintenance ground cover.

Dwarf mondo grass makes an excellent substitute for turf and will thrive in the shade. It can even be mowed once or twice a year if you want some exercise. Other options include Confederate jasmine, Asiatic jasmine, ferns, ivy, liriope and wedelia. Sure, these cannot handle the foot traffic like a St. Augustine grass, but they will grow with minimal care.

St. Augustine grass: This grass is still the lawn of choice for most

residential landscapes. It is adapted to warm, humid regions like Florida. St. Augustine grass establishes quickly, has moderate salt tolerance, and there are many cultivars adapted to various site conditions.

Bitterblue, Floratine, Delmar, Seville and Jade cultivars can best tolerate shady conditions. For open areas where cold tolerance might be an issue, grow Bitterblue, Delmar, Jade or Raleigh for increased hardiness. If you want a more compact lawn, Delmar Jade, and Seville are semi-dwarf cultivars.

As for chinch bug resistance, Floratam and Floralawn are the cultivars of choice, but there is some evidence that a new chinch bug exists that will feed on these also. Palmetto is a newer cultivar, but no impartial information is available because little research has been done. It is reported to have good shade, drought and cold tolerance. Some people in our area are having great success with it, whereas other are reporting problems. The jury is still out, but the University of Florida is currently conducting tests on this variety.

St. Augustine grass cannot be grown successfully from seed but should be purchased as sod or plugs. Sod establishes within a few weeks. Plugs take three to 12 months, depending on spacing. Lay sod over bare, level, moist soil and stagger in a brick-like pattern with edges close together. Water at least twice per day with 1/4 inch of water until the sod is rooted, typically two to three weeks. Then water on an as needed basis. …

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