Frequently Asked Questions: Turf
Where do I start if I want to install turf?
Select the type of turf appropriate for the level of maintenance you’re willing to accept, your budget, and for the conditions that exist on your property. Measure the areas to determine how many square feet you need, then determine whether you want sod or plugs.
How do I decide on the variety of turf to install?
The decision is based on the look you want, and the amount of time, labor and money you’re willing to commit to the turf.
I’d like to install St. Augustine, but how I decide whether to use sod or plugs?
There’s a trade off between time and money. Sod costs more but in return, there’s no waiting period. Plugs cost less but they take several months to achieve the same look.
Where can I find St. Augustine seed?
So far, St. Augustine seed has proven to have a low germination rate and a susceptibility to fungus problems. On a cost/benefit basis, it’s quite expensive compared to plugs or sod.
Isn’t Bahia seed easy to start?
It’s not easy for a decent gardener, much less the average homeowner. Most homeowners have trouble keeping the seed moist enough long enough to allow germination. Again, from a cost/benefit basis it’s expensive compared to Bahia sod.
What's the difference between Argentine and Pensacola Bahia seed?
Pensacola Bahia is normally use for roadsides. It’s a tougher grass but tends to grow in clumps and is not usually used for home lawns. Argentine Bahia is finer and less ‘clumpy’, so it’s considered best for home lawns.
How do I know how long and how often to water?
There's no standard answer due to the different variables. Time of year, soil type, weather, temperature, and amount of roots (and soil) on the sod all play into the decision. The standard answer would be "whenever it needs water." At first, the size of the root system of sod is very limited, so that would indicate that you'll need to water frequently to begin with. A conservative recommendation would be to water twice a day for a week, once a day for a week, every other day for a week, twice a week for a week and after that go with your water restrictions. That way you're forcing the roots to go deeper and deeper for water but not allowing a shortage of water to harm or slow the growth of the turf. But that recommendation should be tempered by the weather and the other factors listed above. In the middle of a drought or in the middle of a rainy week, obviously the recommendation would change.
How soon can I mow newly installed sod or plugs?
When they’re firmly rooted. That way the mower won't chew them up and spit them out. In the rainy season it might be as little as 2 weeks, in the winter, it might be a month or more.
Do I need to kill and/or remove existing weeds and turf before sodding or plugging?
Not necessarily. If the area is not level, it would be best to level the area, that is, fill in the low spots and take off the high spots. You can use an herbicide such as Round-up to kill the existing turf and weeds about a week prior to plugging or sodding if you like. Some folks prefer to remove the existing plants with a tiller or sod cutter.
How far apart do I space plugs?
That depends on how soon you want the plugs to fill in. At a spacing of 12 inches, in the middle of the summer, they could fill in nicely within 2 months. At a spacing of 18 inches or more, in the winter, it could be 6 months before they fill in.
My uncle put in some sod and left gaps between the pieces. Was that right?
No! The gaps cause the edges of the sod to dry out quicker and give weeds a chance to get started. Sod should be installed edge to edge.
I want Bitter Blue St. Augustine - where can I find it?
There’s little or no true Bitter Blue St. Augustine being produced anymore. Floratine and some of the other semi-dwarf varieties are improved versions of Bitter Blue.
Isn’t it cheaper to buy sod, cut it into pieces and use them for plugs?
Not if you count the success rate and the cost of the labor involved. Also, plugs have a much more developed root system so they’re easier to root and have far fewer failures
Some folks say I have to roll the lawn - is that true?
No, in Florida due to the growth rate of our turf, rooting takes place very quickly. If the turf is kept properly watered, the turf will root without rolling.
Which is the Best Variety of St. Augustine?
Each variety has advantages and disadvantages. By learning the differences and choosing wisely, you’ll save time, labor and aggravation.
How do I know when to renovate?
That depends on your tolerance level. Several publications suggest that when an area of turf is 40% damaged, it's time to renovate, but the final decision is yours.
Where do I start if I want to renovate my lawn?
By deciding if you want to keep the same variety of turf. Then measure the area(s) to determine how much area to repair and choose between sod and plugs.
How do I decide whether to use sod or plugs?
When you choose the variety of turf, you start eliminating options. For Bahia, only seed and sod are available. For St. Augustine, only plugs and sod are viable options. Then it becomes a time/cost decision.
What turf will grow under trees or in the shade?
It depends whether the shade is light shade or moderate-to-deep shade. No turf will grow well in moderate-to-deep shade. Only St. Augustine will survive in light shade (such as under pine trees). Bahia will not tolerate any shade.
How do I decide if a semi-shady area will allow grass to grow?
As a rule of thumb, even St. Augustine needs about 4 hours of full sun per day to do well. Less sun will cause deterioration of the quality of the turf, more weeds, etc.
What do I do if I can't get turf to grow in certain areas of my yard?
Switch to groundcovers Mondo grass, lirope, aztec grass, ivy, dwarf or regular Confederate jasmine, ferns, etc in the shade. Lantana, society garlic, coontie, Beach sunflower, etc in the sun.
Why does Bahia develop yellow patches in the summer?
Usually the cause is a lack of iron. Bahia can outgrow it's own demand for iron in the height of the growing season. Supplemental iron or Milorganite will usually cure the problem until growth slows in the fall.
Should I bag the clippings or not?
No, not unless the clippings are heavy enough to damage the turf. Recycling the clippings is good for the soil, good for the turf and good for the environment.
How often do I water my lawn?
That depends on the needs of the turf and the water restrictions in your area. If the turf is newly installed, some areas have an exemption that allows irrigation of newly installed landscaping, or hand watering.
My brother says lawns need to be verti-cut every couple of years. Is that true?
No. Verti-cut only when thatch becomes a major problem. Thatch is usually a symptom of over-fertilization, especially with quick release fertilizer. Curing the underlying problem will cure the symptom.
My neighbor says lawns need to be aerated every couple of years. Is that true?
No. Usually Florida soils are sandy and quite well drained. Exceptions do occur when poor quality fill dirt is brought in. In those cases, choose a turf that can adapt to the soil rather than a turf that will be labor-intensive on that soil type.
When do I fertilize my lawn? Everyone I ask has a different answer.
Depends on the type of turf, the look you’re after and your commitment. Twice a year fertilization, spring and fall, is a low-maintenance program for both Bahia and St. Augustine. St. Augustine can be maintained at higher levels of 4 to 6 applications. Slow-release fertilizer is recommended for St. Augustine. A low salt fertilizer (sludges such as Milorganite) is recommended for Bahia.
What is the proper mowing height for turf?
As high as possible. The higher the cut, the deeper the root system. 4 for most St. Augustine varieties and Bahia.
What’s the difference between regular fertilizer and slow release? Which is best?
The primary difference is the release rate. Slow release is best as it allows the plants a more even feeding and doesn‘t contribute much to pollution.