A popular grass type in the southern region, St. Augustine boasts a lovely range of color from light to dark green. Its beautiful appearance and dense growth make it desirable for many homeowners from Florida to Texas. However, there are a number of conditions that must be met in order to make it thrive. Here's almost everything you need to know about this tropical grass, from the required soil pH to the availability of seeds. That way you can make a more informed decision about whether or not it's a good choice for your lawn.
Sod, Plugs, or Sprigs Only
St. Augustine grass seeds are in high demand and hard to come by. And those who are working on breeding it report that seed production can be inconsistent. Therefore, sod, plugs, or sprigs will be your quickest way to a beautiful lawn.
Sod can be expensive, and it generally requires grading the soil prior to laying. Plugging involves placing squares of grass, up to 24 inches apart. But one other option involves sprigging. This is planting the stolons along the ground and then covering with a layer of soil. Stolons are horizontal grass stems that send their roots into the ground.
All of the above methods require a bit of planning and preparation, but sprigs will be easiest on your budget. However, they are also more likely to suffer under adverse conditions, and that certainly will play a factor in your final decision.
Shade and Sunlight
St. Augustine grass does okay in light to moderate shade. But under heavier shade, the blades will thin out. This type of grass doesn't do well under trees, though, so keep that in mind when weighing your choices. Ideally, this grass should get a lot of sun, at least four solid hours per day, to really thrive.
St. Augustine grass is tolerant of high salinity. For this reason, it's a great choice in coastal climates.
One of the reasons St. Augustine grass is so prevalent in the south is because it doesn't handle cold temperatures very well. In fact, there seems to be a geographic range where it's best suited for growth. Areas west of Ft. Worth, Texas, and north of the line that extends from Dallas to the eastern coast of South Carolina are likely to be too cold, ultimately inhibiting growth. However, skip to southern and central California and you can once again enjoy this lovely breed of grass.
Incidentally, if you live in a part of the country that never falls below 60 degrees, you'll enjoy green grass all year long. But once the temps fall below 55, St. Augustine goes dormant. As the temperatures drop, the growth continues to slow down.
Amount of Traffic
St. Augustine grass does better in areas that don't get a lot of foot traffic. Although the grass is course, it still tends to wear out when exposed to this sort of thing. So it's not a great option for a sports field or a park. Regular everyday traffic is fine.
St. Augustine grass needs plenty of moisture. In humid climates where rainfall is plenty, you'll be glad to know that maintenance on your lawn will be minimum, and regular mowing should be sufficient.
If you're in a dry climate, you might still be able to get away with this breed of grass, however. It simply depends on how dry it is. Those who experience less than 30 inches of rainfall per year will need to supply adequate irrigation for growth and to maintain the color.
The best way to irrigate St. Augustine is to water only when necessary. When the grass turns blue-green, water heavily to a depth of 3-4 inches. Giving that much at once will help push the roots deeper, thereby allowing it to go longer periods between watering. Be sure to water in the early morning hours. This will allow the surface of the grass to dry, which inhibits disease and pests.
The Right pH
Test your soil either with a store-bought probe or use an easy, cost friendly DIY technique.
Ideal pH of the soil should range from 5.0-8.5. But this does come with two caveats: soil that's too alkaline (over 7.5) can result in blades that turn pale green or yellow. In soil that is too acidic, you run the risk of creating thatch.
Thatch is essentially a layer of roots, stems, and other debris that gather between the soil and the grass itself. It's damaging to your lawn because it can hinder the absorption of water and nutrients.
To raise the pH levels, spread a layer of limestone along problem areas. To decrease the pH, apply sulfur as needed. For more information about the care of your seed, check out sites like https://californiasodcenter.com/.