Choosing Lawn Grass

Lawns are a very common part of our landscapes. When grass is used correctly, a lawn can be an important part of a landscape. Lawns can provide beauty, reduce dust, glare and heat.

If you think back to the last time you walked barefoot on a hot, sunny day in Florida you might remember the relief you felt when you stepped from the hot asphalt, concrete or even bare soil onto a cool grass area . A healthy lawn will muffle noise, help prevent soil erosion and provide a good recreation area for outdoor entertainment. Grass should be used where it is needed or where it serves a purpose or function in a landscape. Every landscape may not need a grassed lawn area.

Before you can enjoy the benefits of a well-established lawn, you must select the right grass.

There are some misconceptions concerning the selection of a warm-season grass. First, you will need to understand the difference between a cool-season grass and a warm-season grass.

Cool-season grasses grow best during the cool months of the year. They will die during the hot summer months in Florida. Cool-season grasses include fescue, Kentucky bluegrass and ryegrass. These grasses should only be planted in North Florida September through November.

They should only be used for winter cover to prevent erosion on bare ground. Or, if you do not mind the extra maintenance of caring for grass through the winter, you can use a cool-season grass to provide a green lawn during the cooler part of the year when warm-season grasses are dormant.

Warm-season grasses grow best during the warm months of spring, summer and early fall. They will become brown and dormant in winter. Warm-season grasses include Bermuda grass, Bahamas, centipede grass, oysters, St. Augustine grass and carpet grass. These are the grasses you should choose from to establish a permanent lawn for this area of Florida.

There are good and bad characteristics of each of the warm-season grasses. You need to choose the one that will perform best in your situation. For example, all bermuda grasses thrive in full sun but perform poorly in shade. If you wish to fail with bermuda grass, take the time and money to plant it under the canopy of established large trees with time you will be saying bye bye bermuda grass.

The most shade-tolerant warm-season grass is St. Augustine followed by zoysia, Centipede grass is more shade-tolerant then bermuda; however, I would not advise planting it in heavy shade.

Centipede grass is considered to require the least maintenance of any of the warm-season grasses. It requires less fertilizer and less frequent mowing compared to other grasses. Centipede can be established either from seed or sprigs; however, it will take longer to cover an area than bermuda or St. Augustine and has poor salt tolerance.

Oysters produces an excellent turf; however, it requires good management, which means mowing with a reel mower, frequent irrigation and fertilization. Zoysia is not the wonder grass that some publications would like you to believe.

There are many cultivars of bermuda grass available. Bermuda grass has excellent tolerance to salt, wear and drought. Unfortunately it is very high-maintenance, requiring the most maintenance of any Florida turf grass.

Bahamas produces a coarse-textured, open turf. Bahamas is very tolerant of pests and drought, but has poor salt tolerance. Argentine is the best bahamas variety for lawns. All Bahamas cultivars produce tall seed heads during the summer and fall, requiring frequent mowing during seed head production.

All of the warm-season grasses are better established May through June. Warm-season turf grass. seeds, such as centipede, will not do well in a cool soil. The soil temperature needs to be around 70 degrees before they will germinate. If the soil temperature is too cool the seeds will rot. The soil temperature is usually too cool for these seeds to sprout during March and early April. For best results with warm-season turf grass. seeds, it is best to wait until May before planting.

These are only a few of the characteristics of warm-season grasses. Before establishing a lawn, decide where grass is needed or where it serves some purpose and then choose a grass based on your site's conditions.

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Larry Williams

Horticulture Agent

Phone

850-689-5850
850-729-7476

Fax

850-689-5727