St. Augustine Grass in Spring/Summer

Spring/Summer Care for St. Augustine Grass in Central Florida
by Richie Kidwell, MBA, One Stop Bug Shop

Many of us have noticed already this year the quick growth and presence of troublesome weeds and bugs in and around our home or office. This is because of the dramatic weather change we have endured this year. Our “winter” extended well into this fiscal year breaking records for cold temps in March and April. Many of our seeds and eggs have to wait for the humidity and the temperature to be right before they are able to hatch.
The only way to deal with this effectively is to be proactive. St. Augustine grass grows by runners that encroach throughout the soils and they bare blades of grass that catch all of the sun’s rays and nutrients. The blades of grass also act as a barrier to the soil for those pesky weed seeds and insect eggs. The thicker your grass is, the more drought tolerate and more weed tolerate it will be. Always cut your St. Augustine grass as high as you can, up to 6 inches and no shorter than 3 ½ inches. This also promotes deeper root penetration and will keep your grass from having bald spots.

A proactive approach to springtime fertilization and weed control is knowing what to put down and when. The first fertilizer application of the year should be with a high Nitrogen granular fertilizer (such as a 24-2-11). The first number is Nitrogen, the middle number is phosphates (which are coming out of fertilizer from now on due to leaching) and the last number represents Potash/Potassium (which is needed for root strength, needed towards the end of the year). Now that we are thinking of applying the high Nitrogen fertilizer, we need to think of what this is going to do to the weed seeds waiting in my lawn. The fertilizer will help these seeds along in coming to maturity, so we must also apply a pre-emergent herbicide to the yard. I recommend a granular pre-emergent for both the lawn and plant gardens. This herbicide will halt the process of weed germination for when the conditions are right. Note, most of the time when homeowners apply the herbicide, they apply it too late and it will not show immediate results so this product is not used in the next season. The two times of year when a pre-emergent should be applied is before the spring and fall seasons.
Now if you have missed the pre-emergent application, then we use a post-emergent herbicide to control the weeds that we see. Most herbicides can be mixed together to control many different varieties of weeds in one swoop. I recommend Atrazine (4%) for broadleaf weed control, Basagran for sedge weed control, and a new product called Celcius for tough grassy weeds and crabgrass. These products can only be used once a month as they take time to make its way to through the root systems to control such weeds. Inspect and treat as needed monthly until gone.

Now that we are in the spring/summer time, we are seeing more of a presence of fleas, ticks, fire ants, wasps, grubs, beetles, chinch bugs and other emerging insects that are troublesome pests to us. To be prepared, we must be prepared to apply an insecticide throughout the yard two times per year as a preventative, spring and fall. If you currently have a problem, a hose end application of a strong insecticide may be needed to gain control before you begin your preventative applications. I recommend Talstar insecticide or Permethrin 36% for quick control of lawn and shrub pests. These products cannot be purchased at the big box stores as these are products that only licensed professionals have access to unless you go to One Stop Bug Shop or similar Do-it-Yourself Pest Control stores.