#AskAnAgronomist: How Do I Care For Grass In Florida?

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How to take care of grass in Florida

on October 23, 2015 by TruGreen

Florida is a gorgeous state with world class beaches, lots of sunshine, theme parks, golf courses, and major college and professional sports teams. But for all the wonderful things Florida can boast about, there’s one struggle that many homeowners face in the Sunshine State: lawn maintenance.

From pest problems to lawn diseases, not to mention a wide variety of soil conditions to deal with, taking care of a yard is no walk in the park. In fact, it’s a headache for many of our customers who live there.

You’ve had a lot of questions about how to grow and maintain a beautiful yard in your beautiful state, so we enlisted our agronomist, Erica Santella, to answer those questions. She gave us some great advice on Florida lawn care.

 

Q: What should Floridians understand when it comes to Florida lawn care?

A: The rules are much different here, with number one being this: routine mowing and watering is a must, otherwise your lawn will most certainly become less attractive and you may need to replace it. We get over 52 inches of rain each year, but it is not evenly distributed throughout the 12 months and maintaining adequate water levels is particularly crucial in the fall.

In Florida, lawns can’t be seeded. That means lawn repair often requires a plug, which looks a bit like a cupcake. Be aware that this is no quick fix, taking 6-8 weeks to work properly. 

 

Q: What's the biggest threat to lawns in Florida?

A: The biggest threat to Florida lawns is the grass itself! Warm season turfs cannot be seeded, so any thin spot bigger than a dinner plate formed because of weeds, insects, weather, or drought will need to be plugged or sodded. This will help your lawn fill back in and fend off weeds and insects, since a thick, healthy turf is the best prevention against pests. 

 

People like to think of Florida as a tropical paradise, but it’s more like the Amazon--a jungle with alligators, bees, snakes, bears, fire ants, and scorpions. EVERYONE wants to live here, even the pests, because the climate invites all sorts of characters. 

Florida has weeds that no other area can claim to have due to the high humidity, rainfall, and sandy soils. And since crabgrass is more closely related to warm season turf than up north, it’s a problematic weed with no selective control.

The turf has chinch bugs, sod web worms, grubs and mole crickets that are just waiting to use our lawns as a buffet. Unfortunately, chinch bugs also thrive in drought. A well-watered lawn is a great defense to keep them at bay. 

Learn more about how TruGreen can help with a targeted pest control plan.

We’re here to help, but fighting chinch bugs is a partnership between you and TruGreen. You’re the first line of defense, and the two most powerful tactics to achieve success are for you to mow and water.

 

Q: What should Florida maintenance look like? 

A: While lawn maintenance never stops, summer and early fall are probably the most difficult on our lawns. Florida grasses are warm season turfs, not hot season turfs, so they struggle with the continual heat.

Everything must be done just right to keep the warm season turf happy during our hot summer months. There’s a good chance that you will lose some turf sooner or later, making plug renovation a must. Watering and maintaining your irrigation system for the best possible coverage is critical because you can’t miss a spot. We recommend water 2-3 times a week in the summer and every 10 days during the winter.

Even with an irrigation system fitted to your lawn, you may have summer “hot spots” that need an old-fashioned hose and sprinkler to help the turf survive. Keep a watchful eye on your lawn to determine the right amount of water by using a rain gauge (a small plastic tool that helps show how much water your lawn has and if it needs more) which your local TruGreen specialists is happy to provide, so don’t be shy and ask for one!

 

Q: What advice would you give people in Florida when it comes to taking care of their lawns through the winter? 

A: Don’t scalp your turf in anticipation of the fall. Just mow like you always do. 

You may wake up one morning to brown and green leopard spots in your lawn - don’t be alarmed! You might also see red spots in your lawn AND your leaves. It might add a dash of color, but it’s not something you’d hoping for. The red coloration is due to the turf plant not making enough chlorophyll, which leads to the red pigment showing through. 

Your lawn may or may not go totally brown for the winter, but with a specialist’s help, they’ll let you know how much watering your lawn needs. Be careful, because over watering could invite cool season weeds or even disease causing fungi.

Your lawn care plan is completely dependent on which zone you fall into: For instance, in Northern Florida zone covers (Pensacola, Fort Walton, Tallahassee, Savannah, and Jacksonville.), you should mow St. Augustine grass at about 3.5 inches. Central Florida zone (Tampa, Hudson, Orlando, Daytona, and Melbourne) lawns may or may not go dormant, which means they may or may not stay green. Finally, in the Southern Florida zone (Fort Myers, Sarasota, West Palm, Vero, and Fort Lauderdale), there’s a higher risk for water-related diseases and brown patches, making adjustments to your watering system a vital to-do!

 


We hope you gained some valuable information and learned a bit more about your lawn. Have a question you’d like to #AskAnAgronomist? Share it with us on our Facebook or Twitter page and we’ll help you find an answer.
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