Choosing a lawngrass

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 10:13 AM.

A beautiful lawn can add substantial value to your home.  While providing an attractive setting for landscape ornamentals, a good lawn will reduce weed growth and prevent erosion.  Selecting the proper grass for your specific location is a basic key to attaining these goals.

Five lawngrasses are commonly grown in Florida.  Saint Augustine, Bahia, Centipede, Zoyia are most popular, while carpet are used less often.  In this article we’ll offer some facts which could help you choose the species that would be best for your home site.  My information was provided by J. Bryan Unruh, Associate Center Director and Professor, West Florida Research and Education Center, Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, Jay, Florida.

The most important thing to consider when selecting a lawngrass is the compatibility of that grass with the soil, climate, and growing conditions of your specific area.  For example, if you live along the coast, you should plant a salt tolerant grass, such as Saint Augustine.  If you try to grow Centipede or Bahia, you’re asking for trouble.  You might be able to establish these grasses in a coastal location, but only with considerable expenditures of time and money.  Likewise, if you need a grass for a shaded lawn, you should plant Saint Augustine or Bahia, not Bermuda, which requires full sun.

After you decide which lawngrasses will grow well in your area, you should choose one that you’ll be able to manage properly.  Now lawngrass is maintenance free, but some types do require more care than others.  For example, Bermuda produces the most beautiful lawns, but only if it’s heavily fertilized, frequently mowed, and kept free of pests and diseases.  If you can’t provide such high maintenance, you’d be wise to plant a low care grass, such as Bahia, or Centipede.  Saint Augustine is not difficult to maintain, but thatch and chinch bugs are common problems.

The amount of water a particular grass requires is another consideration.  Bahia has excellent drought tolerance Saint Augustine ranks second and Centipede ranks third.

In recent year, dramatic improvements in Zoysia grass have been made by turfgrass breeders.  These improvements include insect resistance, accelerated establishment, and overall performance.  Zoyiagrasses are adapted to a variety of soil types and have good tolerance to shade, salt, and traffic.   They provide and extremely dense sod that resist weed invasion, but certain pest can be problematic.

Of all Florida Lawngrasses, Bahia is mot resistant to pests.  It’s the best choice for landscapes heavily infested with nematodes.  Saint Augustine also has good nematode tolerance.  But, as we said, chinch bugs are a serious threat to this grass.  While it may be severely damaged by nematodes, centipede has few other pest problems, providing it is not fertilized to heavily.  Bermuda is plagued by many problems, in fact, it’s particularly impossible to grow this grass without a continuous control program to cope with nematodes, insects, and diseases.

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