A Quick Guide to Winter Lawn Care in South Florida
Winter lawn care in most of the US means that your lawn will go dormant during cold weather, so not much happens with lawns during this time. However, South Florida is a different story because moderate year-round temperatures mean that keeping your lawn green and vibrant during the winter can be a little tricky for most homeowners. A lot of proven practices and treatments go into developing your lawn to its full potential, even in the winter.
Winter lawn care
Preparation for a beautiful winter lawn begins in the fall by fertilizing in late September through early November while the lawn is still actively growing. Keeping the grass growing strong and maintaining a healthier lawn in the warmer months will help prepare the lawn for the cooler winter months when it is not growing as actively and may even go dormant. Other concerns for your winter lawn include:
· Watering – This is where it gets tricky! Because the rate of water evaporation slows down in the cooler months, overwatering or irrigating in the winter causes water to stand on your lawn and invites fungi and diseases to develop. Once fungi or diseases get started on your lawn, it can be frustrating and time-consuming to return your lawn to a healthy state. Watering your lawn every couple of weeks works for most South Florida lawns in cooler seasons. Overwatering prevents your grass from developing deep roots. If your grass is forced to reach deeper for water, it will grow healthier and stronger each year. You may need to adjust your watering cycle if your grass appears blue or gray in places, if more than half of your lawn’s grass blades fold in half or if your grass doesn’t spring back when stepped on, leaving footprints.
· Mowing – Cutting your grass too short and cutting too often during cool months can stress your lawn and make it vulnerable to disease and harmful insects, as well. Make sure to mow your lawn to remove debris, weeds, and fungi before overseeding your lawn.
· Irrigation systems – Ensure your irrigation system is functioning well. The cooler months provide a good time to get your irrigation system serviced, so it’s ready to go in the spring.
· Coloring – If your dull lawn is stressing you out, several tricks of the trade that golf courses and other sports venues use to enhance the color of their lawn involve turf colorants consisting of paint and dye applications that make your lawn look greener but they do not take the place of watering and mowing your grass properly. This usually involves calling a professional and can get rather expensive.
· Overseeding – This does not pertain to the vast majority of St. Augustine grass lawns in South Florida as seed is not used on these grasses. For other types of grasses and lawns, particularly up north, you certainly can and should overseed your lawn with grass seed that grows during the winter to keep your grass green. Feel free to get carried away and put out a lot of seed. Ryegrass provides winter grass that is relatively inexpensive, widely available, and grows fast. This winter grass will die out in the spring and be replaced by spring and summer grass in the warmer months.
Professional care for your lawn and shrubs
Here’s the good news! If you want to take the guesswork out of caring for your lawn and shrubs, professional pest control companies such as Petri Pest Control Services can keep your lawn and landscape plants healthy all year long. We offer several lawn care programs in addition to spraying shrubs and small trees less than 10 foot tall that surround your home. In South Florida, ornamentals and shrubs are susceptible to aphids, mealy bugs, scale, whiteflies, and other pierce-sucking insects, in addition to chewing insects, such as beetles and caterpillars. Petri Pest Control Services recommends spraying plants in your yard, as well as your lawn regularly, along with treating overwatered plants for fungus conditions, if necessary.
Lawn Care Programs
We offer two programs for your lawn care.
· General Lawn Program
This program is ideal for homeowners that are seeking assistance treating their lawns in the fight against disease and insects that are common issues for South Florida lawns.
o Utilizes a power spraying method to apply an insecticide that works to eliminate and prevent common lawn pests, including chinch bugs, sod webworms, armyworms, and fire ants.
o Our trained and licensed service technicians will also check your lawn for brown patch and gray leaf spot, as possible fungus conditions that we treat with a fungicide.
· Total Lawn Program Plus (TLP)
Our all-inclusive lawn treatment program protects your lawn from harmful insects and lawn diseases in addition to providing fertilization and broadleaf weed control. We will thoroughly inspect your lawn during nine scheduled visits per year to determine the treatment or application it needs to grow stronger, healthier, and greener. We also advise our TLP Plus customers on proper mowing and watering practices, as well as address other issues that can affect the health and appearance of your lawn (i.e., shade in your yard, high traffic areas, etc.). Our technicians are trained in identifying and correcting lawn conditions typical for South Florida Saint Augustine turf. As a Total Lawn Program Plus customer, based on the time of year and your lawn’s needs:
o During each visit, we apply a specifically selected treatment, formulated to continuously feed your lawn.
o Perform broadleaf weed control from November through March.
o As a TLP Plus customer, you can choose to add flea and tick protection in additional areas of your yard.
Both lawn care programs guarantee free retreatment for covered pests in the event any pest activity occurs between our regularly scheduled visits. With our lawn care programs, Petri Pest Control Services will leave a door hanger and post a sign following each visit service, in addition to emailing you a service report detailing the service performed during our visit, including pests and conditions we observed, along with suggestions for a greener, stronger, and healthier lawn.
Petri Pest Control Services, a family-owned, full-service pest control company has been proudly serving South Florida since 1956. Maintaining and enhancing South Florida’s luscious lawns and landscaping plants from our Pompano Beach and Boynton Beach locations, connect with Petri Pest Control Services as your lawn care company, for a lawn that will be the envy of your neighborhood – contact us today!
St Augustine Grass Care and Lawn Maintenance Schedule
St Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) is a fast growing, widely-adapted, warm season grass.
It grows in a wide variety of soils and pH levels, comes in several cultivars and is the most common turf grass plants grown and used throughout the state of Florida.
It is also used throughout the southeastern United States. Continue reading to learn more about renovating old lawns with St. Augustine grass.
Properly maintained St Augustine lawns will produce a dense, lush carpet of medium to dark green/blue-green color making it look like a new lawn.
These warm-season grasses do best growing in rich, well-drained soil, in a warm humid climate.
Exposure to cold temperatures should be limited, without excessive or intense duration.
The Advantages of St Augustine Sod
- Produces dense turf of green, dark green, blue green color
- Adapts to a wide variety of soils
- Overall good salt tolerance
- Establishes quickly
- Makes a quick lawn from sod
- Can be started from sod, sprigs or plugs
- Some cultivars handle shade better
Disadvantages of St Augustine Lawns
- Requires water to remain healthy and green
- May require additional irrigation during dry periods
- Under heavy irrigation or fertilizer schedules it can produce thatch
- Does not handle excessive heavy foot or vehicle traffic
- Goes dormant some areas during winter turning tan or brown
- Does not grow as densely as other lawn grasses due to coarse wide leaves
- Chinch bugs can cause serious damage
- Susceptible to take-all root rot, leaf spot and brown patch
- Controlling weeds and preventing them from seeding can be difficult
Cultivars of St Augustine
There are several cultivars available. Below is a listing of the more popular ones used in Florida lawn care and across the Southeast.
St Augustine Grass Maintenance and Care Tips Calendar
How To Care For St Augustine Grass March Through May
As spring arrives and your St Augustine begins to turn green, it’s time to start mowing the grass.
During the winter months your grass may turn brown and tempt you to set your lawn mower or sod cutter lower to remove all the “dead” grass before the active growing season.
Bad choice… St Augustine spreads by stolons or stems on top of the ground. Mowing the grass at a low mowing height can scalp and damage the stolons, it also discourages deep a deep root system.
Mow your grass often, at 2.5 to 4.0 inches mowing height, removing no more than ⅓ of the leaf blade. By mowing more often during the growing season you’ll avoid build up of thatch layer including grass clippings. Unless the grass coming out of the mower is leaving clumps in the yard, collecting the grass is not required.
Before applying starter fertilizer or organic matter to your lawn it is usually a good idea to get your lawn’s soil tested (every 2 – 3 years is fine). Apply lime if the soil test recommends it. Apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet approximately 3 weeks after your grass begins to green up. Do not apply more than 3 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft per year.
Watering St Augustine Grass
During the spring season St Augustine seldom needs irrigation due to the the spring rains. However, if the lawn is established apply irrigation on an “as-needed” basis.
If leaf blades turn a blue-gray color, look wilted or curled, begin to fold over or show foot-prints from walking in the grass – it’s time for irrigation.
Don’t over-water! Apply ¾ to 1” of water per week if needed. Follow all local water restrictions that may apply.
See Determining Irrigation Rates below
Weed Control For St Augustine Grass
If crabgrass has been a problem, apply preemergence herbicides labeled for St Augustine grass by March 1 – (earlier in warmer areas like South Florida)
Remember if grass seed, weed seeds or weeds are actively growing, preemergence herbicides will not control them from further seeding.
When using postemergence herbicides, beware St. Augustine grass is sensitive to certain herbicides like 2,4-D. Never apply postemergence herbicides (e.g., atrazine), when the air temperatures are over 85°F or the turf and soil surface are under moisture stress.
Use and apply postemergence herbicides with caution and ALWAYS follow the instructions on the label directions.
Make sure you have correctly identified the weed before treating and grass with a post or preemergence chemical.
During the spring and fall months you may find brown grass, in circular patches called “brown patch” fungus. Brown patch usually happens during humid, warm weather and is fueled by excessive nitrogen. Fungicides may provide control.
A better “method of control” is to reduce irrigation and nitrogen, improve drainage and air movement through the soil.
The number one insect pests for St Augustine grass is the southern chinch bug. If you notice yellow spots or drought like symptoms in sunny locations – check for chinch bugs. Lawn grub worm control can also be a problem.
Checking for Chinch Bugs
Take a coffee metal can and remove the top and bottom. Push the coffee can into the area you think may have chinch bugs.
Fill the can with water. If chinch bugs are present – they should float. Generally, it is recommended to hire a professional to treat your St Augustine turf for chinch bug.
If your yard need of some lawn renovation, the spring time is the time to re-sod the areas or plant plugs on 6″ to 12″ inch centers.
June Through August
During the hot summer months, unless your lawn is stressed due to drought conditions, mow your grass every 5-7 days. If drought conditions exist, mow less often.
Also during the “growing” summer months, apply 1/2 to 1 lb of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. However, because of the rapid growth during this time of the year, I like to split the application in half.
Apply the first application around mid-June and the second application around the beginning of August.
Remember: DO NOT apply more than 3 lbs per thousand square feet per year.
Watering your lawn early in the morning is always recommended. St Augustine grass can survive for long periods without rainfall or irrigation. However, good moisture in the soil will help your St Augustine lawn retain its color during the summer months. A weekly watering of 1 to 1 ¼ inches should allow the water to penetrate 4 – 6 inches into the soil and provide ample moisture.
Lawn in sandy soils will need more frequent watering. When watering lawns in clay soils, remember the soil “accepts” the water slowly.
Water until the “runoff” starts, water the next zone and come back and water the zone again until the water has been able to penetrate the clay soil to th desired depth.
If grass looks dark and blue-gray, wilted, and curled or folded leaf blades and foot-prints show, your St Augustine is saying it’s time to irrigate.
Never forget: You can help prevent or reduce pests and other problems with proper irrigation practices.
Areas, exposed to heavy traffic – foot or machine – could possibly benefit from lawn aeration. A core aerator will come in handy.
Check for thatch. If thatch depth exceeds 0.75 inches, the best control is to dethatch your lawn or remove the excess with a dethatching machine such as a power rake.
Early summer is the best time for any lawn aeration or cultivation as the St Augustine has plenty of time to recover.
Do a thorough walk over your lawn looking for any drought like symptoms or yellow spots showing up in sunny locations.
If they are found – check for any chinch bug activity. Use the “coffee can” method described above. If chinch bugs are found – treat the area. It’s recommended to seek a lawn professional for treatment.
To control summer perennial and annual broadleaf weeds apply post-emergence herbicides. Always follow the label and directions in application. Make sure the post-emergence herbicide is labeled for St Augustinegrass.
DO NOT Apply any herbicides if:
- Lawn is under stress
- Weeds are not actively growing
Check for large patch or bare spots and gray leaf spot disease.
If your lawn is in need of some renovation, replant any large areas in Late-May, re-sod the areas or plant plugs on 6 to 12 inch centers.
September Through November
Continue mowing St. Augustinegrass following the same guidelines as June-August, mowing every 5 to 7 days and less when the lawn is drought stressed.
Generally, St Augustine grass can be fertilized between 2-6 times per year, all depending on your location.
Due to the climatic range and geographical locations of where St. Augustine grass grows fall fertilizer applications differ depending on location.
In northern areas where St Augustine will go dormant, no fertilizer is needed. However, in south Florida, a year-round fertilization program is acceptable.
Apply lime if a soil test recommends.
Follow the irrigation guidelines for March – May. If your St. Augustine grass is dormant, periodic irrigation may still needed when dry, windy conditions occur for extended periods.
The exception: To prevent desiccation newly planted lawns or sod should be watered during this period.
Do regular checking for large patch fungus.
Check for crabgrass. If present make plans and mark your calendar to apply a pre-emergence herbicide in the spring.
St Augustine Lawn Care December Through February
During this period mowing will most likely not be required, except in the very southern areas like south Florida. However, you can do some healthy lawn clean up by, picking up any debris (sticks, rocks, leaves, dead grass, etc.).
Fertilizer should not required during this period. If you have not taken a soil sample (every 2-3 years is fine) and had your soil tested, now is a good time to find out your lawn’s nutrient makeup and requirements.
Be sure to specify your lawn species. Also, labs are slow so a soil test during this period is perfect.
Any newly planted lawns or sod should be irrigated and watered to prevent desiccation. Again depending on location, watering may be required.
Do not keep the soil wet as dollarweed and sedges thrive in wet soil conditions.
For the control of chickweed, henbit and others apply a broadleaf herbicide labeled for St. Augustine grass.
Always abide by the label directions carefully on rates and always use with caution.
Tips On Calculating Fertilizer & Irrigation
To determine the amount of fertilizer product required to apply 0.5 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet, divide 0.5 by the first number (%) in the fertilizer ratio.
For example, for a 20-5-5 fertilizer (containing 20% N), divide 0.5 by 0.20 (NOTE: 20% = 0.20).
The result is 2.5 pounds of product per thousand square feet.
To determine the quantity of water supplied by a sprinkler system, place several straight-sided cans (e.g., tuna fish or cat food) in each irrigated zone. Run the zone and record the amount of time required to fill the cans to a level of 1/2- or 3/4-inches.
Each zone will most likely vary in the amount of time required to produce the same quantity of water.
Now program into the irrigation controller the time needed to produce the required irrigation rates to make the sprinkler system automated.
for South Florida
Weed control is a year-round necessity here in the subtropics. the warm weather we enjoy makes our climate a happy place for plants AND weeds.
Weeds rob the soil of nutrients and destroy the clean, healthy look of beautiful landscaping.
No matter how much we work at weed prevention, these persistent and invasive unwanted little plants never give up. Here are basic battle plans for keeping weeds at bay.
How to prevent weeds in the garden
Mulch – This is the most common form of weed control. Mulch blocks light that weeds need.
Be careful not to “bury” plants and trees with too much of a good thing. Too deep and too close to a plant’s base won’t allow it to dry out between waterings and let air roots breathe.
Groundcovers – Growing a thick layer of groundcover plants can choke out most weeds.
You’ll have to hand-pull weeds until the new groundcover plants fill in the garden area.
Weed mat – This black landscape fabric lets air and water through, but not light. Buy from a nursery. box stores sell an inferior product that CAN let light through.
Weed mat tips:
To plant, dig the hole before laying the fabric. Once the mat is in place, cut an “X” over the pre-dug hole. Pull back the flaps and plant – see Planting Tips for planting instructions.
If you already laid down the mat, cut an “X” where you want to plant, then dig the hole and plant. When finished, sweep every little bit of dirt off the weed mat before adding mulch.
Most mulches break down over time and form soil where weeds can sprout. Remove all the mulch every few years and sweep the mat clean. Then add fresh new mulch to the area.
Pre-emergent – It won’t kill existing weeds but instead forms a seal to prevent weed seeds from germinating; some act to neutralize weed seeds.
Apply when you’re all done weeding a garden area (it can go right on top of mulch).
Try a late winter application before “weed season” really gets underway.
Using a pre-emergent can give varied results. Certain ones work better on specific types of weeds. Ask your local nursery for product recommendations.
Ways to remove garden weeds
- Pull by hand – You may want to use a digging tool to try to get all the roots.
- Herbicide spray – Roundup® is the most popular for killing weeds at the roots. Spray on the leaves and avoid getting any on your plants (though a little bit generally won’t hurt). It will take a while for the weed to die, but it’s more effective than hand-pulling where you may not get all the roots.
Preparing a new planting bed?
Try covering the empty garden bed with black plastic. Leave it on 4 to 8 weeks. It won’t let any light or water through (weeds need both), plus the heat underneath will “cook” any stubborn weeds out. Then remove the plastic and add plants.
Hire a weed control professional
Unfortunately, the days of paying a neighborhood kid a few bucks for some weeding and lawn mowing are long gone – but we do have other options.
Hire a landscape company that offers a spraying service.
Pest control companies will spray your lawn for weeds and bugs, as an add-on with in-home pest control.
Use a “gardener.”
Ask your yard man if he’ll do some hand-weeding. Or call a small, Mom & Pop landscape company. they’ll usually charge a reasonable rate to weed your garden areas (as well as do other landscaping maintenance chores, if you like).
Weed control for lawns
Mowing correctly can actually provide a measure of weed control. Mow the grass at a blade height that shades out low-growing weeds. at least 3″ for St. Augustine and Bahia grasses. Mow often to keep weeds from going to seed.
Keep your grass well-fertilized – weeds thrive (and grasses don’t) in dry, infertile soil.
Apply herbicides (post- and pre-emergent). Check with your plant nursery for the best ones to use. There are different herbicides for use in hot weather and in cooler months.