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Brown St. Augustinegrass

Q:  In my neighborhood I have noticed some lawns are already totally brown and dead while others are still green.  All of the lawns are St. Augustinegrass so how do you account for the differences?

A:  First, simply because the grass blade is brown, does not necessarily mean the grass is totally dead.  It is important for the stolon, which is the above ground stem, and roots to be kept alive during the winter months. If the stolon is still green and the roots are healthy, your lawn should come back once the spring returns, which is usually March.

We would recommend cutting back on watering during the cooler months to once every 10-14 days to ensure the roots receive ample water. Of course, cut back on irrigation it rains.  Do not be tempted to keep the same watering schedule as during the growing spring and summer months because this can contribute to disease issues.

Winter is also not the time of year to apply nitrogen to the lawn – allow your lawn to go dormant from October through February here in the Northeast part of Florida.  I know some of you from colder climates are thinking this is not winter at all. Well, this grass is a warm season grass and as far as it is concerned – this is cold!

There are many different cultivars of St. Augustinegrass – some are more tolerant to the cold than others which mean some may turn brown earlier than others. However, taking care of any St. Augustinegrass properly at all times of the year absolutely determines how well it is able to tolerate stresses such as drought or cold. If you are concerned about your grass, please call the Yulee satellite office (904 548-1116) for a grass “check-up” appointment.

In a nutshell the following are the proper care instructions:

  • Mow at the highest height for the cultivar
  • Irrigate evenly (1/4 – ½ inch) from 6am to 10am, once every 3-7 days in the summer, once every 10-14 days in the winter, calibrate your irrigation system
  • Use 15-0-15 slow release fertilizers March, May & September
  • Avoid broadcasting insecticides, herbicides and fungicides annually but instead spot treat once a firm diagnosis has be given

Call your local County Extension Agent for more specific information regarding appropriate care of lawngrass and specific fertilizer and irrigation ordinances.