Residential Lawn & Garden

Lawn FAQs

For information on other topics visit our A-Z Gardening Index.

If you'd like you can e-mail us a Florida gardening question.

Areas of my lawn are turning brown and dying. What could be causing this?

It depends upon what kind of grass do you have:

If St. Augustine — possibly chinch bugs.
If Bahia or Bermuda — possibly mole crickets.
If St. Augustine or Bermuda — possibly nematodes.
If it's been dry — possibly poor sprinkler coverage.
If it's been raining a lot — possibly brown patch, take-all or other root disease.
If it's mid-late fall — may be grassy weeds dying out, not the lawn!

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How often should I water my grass? When is the best time of day to do this?

The amount of water a lawn needs depends on several factors: the type of grass, how it is maintained, the site (shady or sunny?), and the time of year. The best approach is to water "as-needed" when areas of the lawn begin to show wilt. This approach keeps your lawn lean and mean.

Some signs of wilt are:

  1. The grass color becomes a blue-gray rather than a clear green;.
  2. Footprints remain for a long time when the grass is walked on.
  3. Grass blades fold in half lengthwise.
  4. Soil samples from the root zone feel dry.

A general rule for watering is to apply 3/4 to 1/2 inch of water two times per week in the summer and once every ten to fourteen days in the winter (in the event of no rain). This amount does not change throughout the year; however, the frequency of application will change according to temperature and rainfall. In winter (November-February), when temperatures are dool, days are short, and plants are dormant, the lawn may need to be watered once every two weeks if it doesn't rain. June through September are typically rainy months in Florida and additiona irrigation is often not needed. October, March, April and May are interim, dry months when more frequent watering is usually required.

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What type of grass will grow in the shady areas of my yard?

Many types - All of the turfgrasses that are grown in Florida require full sun except two varieties of St. Augustine: Seville and Bitter Blue. Seville is more shade tolerant than Bitter Blue, however, neither will take dense shade. In densely shady areas, planting a shade loving ground cover instead of turfgrass is recommended.

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When should I reseed my Bahia lawn? I have had trouble getting the seed to grow.

April through June - The best time to seed is from April through June since this permits a full growing season before cold weather and takes advantage of the rainy season. Poor germination can be caused by a couple of factors. Germination of bahia seed is often slow and erratic because of a hard waxy seed coat, therefore, try to locate scarified seed (seed mechanically treated to increase the germination rate). Bahia must also be covered with soil and kept constantly moist to germinate.

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I can control many weeds in my lawn, but not the grassy weeds. Do you have any suggestions?

Here's why - Weed killers that are labeled safe for lawngrasses usually will not kill grassy weeds because their structures are too similar. A pre-emergent herbicide will prevent the germination of annual, grassy-type weeds and any other weeds that grow annually from seed. Pre-emergent weed killers are applied before weed seeds begin to germinate in spring and/or fall.

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Every winter my lawn turns brown, but I have noticed some lawns are bright green during the winter. What grass is this?

Rye grass - Lawn grasses in Florida are warm season grasses which often turn brown at the first frost. To produce a green winter lawn, you can overseed your established lawn with an annual grass called winter rye. This should be done at the end of October or early November. The seed should be sowed at a rate of 10-20 lbs/1000 sq. ft. Regular mowing, fertilizing, and watering is necessary.

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Can I grow a St. Augustine lawn from seed?

There is a St. Augustine seed product available. It is a variety of St. Augustine ('Raleigh') that is adapted to North/Central Florida. Summertime heat slows it's growth. It is much easier to establish a St. Augustine lawn from sprigs, plugs, or sod.

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Every summer my Bahiagrass develops yellow spots even though I fertilized. What causes this?

Yellow spots or streaks indicate an iron deficiency. In the spring and summer, Bahia grows so rapidly that it cannot keep up with its own nutritional demand for iron. It is best to make supplemental iron applications and avoid heavy summer fertilization or fertilizing with a fertilizer high in water soluble nitrogen since this will encourage excessive growth and increased demand for iron.

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I have read about this wonderful miracle grass called Zoysia. Is it as good as the advertisement says?

Over-enthusiastic newspaper advertisements often mislead the public about the merits of zoysiagrasses. It has been misinformed on the merits of zoysiagrasses. Zoysiagrass has advantages and disadvantages like all Florida lawngrasses. It is drought, salt and wear tolerant, but is otherwise considered to be a higher maintenance grass for lawns. The most serious pests on zoysiagrasses are nematodes. These microscopic worms attack the grass roots, and can ultimately kill the entire turf. Other disadvantages include slow recovery from damage, high fertiilty requirement, need for frequent irrigation, susceptibility to damage from hunting billbugs, and several diseases. All zoysias produce a heavy thatch that requires periodic renovation. If you are interested in planting a zoysiagrass lawn, consider one of the newer cultivars and review their merits, maintenance requirements and limitations carefully. For more information, consult ENH11 "Zoysia grass for Florida" - which is available from your county Extension office or on the web at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/.

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Should I leave my grass clippings on the lawn or should I have a catch bag on my mower?

If you are mowing frequently enough, it is best to leave the clippings on the grass to recycle the nitrogen in them (as much as 1-2 pounds per year - the equivalent of 1 to 2 fertilizations per year). Mow often enough so that no more than 1/3 of the grassblades are removed. The small amount of clippings generated from frequent mowings will not contribute to thatch.

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