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Good Lookin’ Grass Part 1: The Biology

If weed free turf is important to you, your client, or your HOA, listen up! There are a few basic rules of green thumb for good lookin’ grass, and even then, it will not stay perfectly green year-round. There are two primary factors to consider when it comes to keeping your turfgrass terrific:

  1. Biology
  2. Management

Check out the blog about who manages what in part two! Also, consider complementing your terrific turfgrass with more Florida Friendly plants! More planting beds will take your landscape from green to glorious.

Biology

Florida’s lawns are dominated by warm season turfgrasses, St. Augustinegrass being the most common. Plenty of lawns are just mixed species of grasses and weeds that stay mowed, clean, and green, but some people, and most, if not all, HOAs will tell you that is not an acceptable “look.” Admittedly, mixed lawns are like caring for an unruly head of hair, with good and bad days, but plenty of options to keep things carefree and cute. In many places, carefree and cute is not allowed and you agreed to it when you purchased the home.

Grass is a monocot with its active growing point at the base of the blade and sheath supported by a dense, fibrous root system. Grass is awesome at holding the Earth together and creating a living, cooling, carpet. It can be mowed repeatedly and continue to grow because of that low growing point. Because it is almost constantly growing, grass needs nutrition and supplemental irrigation. The only way the plants’ roots can access the nutrients is if the pH of the soil is balanced and the nutrients are accessible in the amounts the grass likes. Lets not forget about photosynthesis (that is how plants make their own food with sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide), the ultimate light diet. Grasses need adequate sunlight to grow well. A super cool thing about most grasses is that they perform a special type of photosynthesis called C4, where they are essentially grabbing extra carbon dioxide out of the air to make energy more efficiently. No wonder so many grasses are food crops! Side note, when it comes to ruminants of the Earth, the animals eat the grass, poop it out, and the manure serves as fertilizer to continue feeding the plants, and the grass keeps growing among many other species intermixed! So in our managed systems that do not have livestock, we have to replace the practices with mowing, fertilization, irrigation, and pest control, including weeds, insects, and disease.

If all these things are not honored in your lawn, your grass may not cut the HOA standard:

  1. pH of soil between 5- 6.5
  2. Minimum 6 hours of full sun
  3. Mow at proper height for turfgrass
  4. Calibrate irrigation system, volume and distribution
    1. Irrigate deep and infrequently to stimulate deeper rooting
    2. Irrigate when footprints in turf do not quickly spring back
    3. Irrigate at a rate of .5- .75 inches, unless rain does it for you!
      1. Follow local watering restrictions
  5. Fertilize following IFAS recommendations and local ordinances
  6. Pre- emergent herbicide mid-February and mid-November (not Weed ‘n Feed)
  7. Scout for other issues and treat as needed:
    1. Weeds – spot treat or selective treatment depending on weeds
    2. Insects – most selective method of killing first
    3. Disease – keep records, preventative best; some other semi-curative options

So who does what in the landscape? Check out the next blog about “The Management” of good lookin’ grass.