For a homeowner, one of the greatest thrills is to have a lush, green lawn all year long. Unfortunately during the winter months in Florida, this can be a real challenge. In our area there are two types of lawns that the majority of Floridians share: St. Augustine and Bahia. Most people have the Floratam variety of St. Augustine grass.
Before I get into winter lawn maintenance, I would like to talk a little about Floratam grass. The Floratam variety of St. Augustine grass was introduced to Florida in 1973 and is used almost exclusively to other grasses. Floratam grass has many advantages to other types of lawns. It is very adaptable and can thrive in a wide range of soils and environmental conditions. It does well in Florida's intense sunlight. This type of lawn is also relatively chinch bug resistant. This is a good point since many of the insecticides that were effective for chinch bug control such as Dursban and Diazinon have been removed from the market. Floratam is also a fast grower that can fill in empty areas of your lawn fairly quickly. The thickness of the lawn also helps to control weeds.
Bahia grass, on the other hand, offers some disadvantages over its rival. During the growing season it produces large seed heads and over time, the lawn can thin out which will allow weeds and other wild grasses to take over. It also needs a large amount of iron or the grass will yellow during the spring and fall. It also has a very course texture.
Now let's talk about keeping it green. During the winter months, all lawns can have times when they thin out or just do not grow as rapidly as they do during the remaining times of the year. This can cause bare spots and browning. This can be especially problematic after a freeze or heavy frost. One way to ensure your lawn stays green looking and limits the intrusion of weeds is to overseed with rye grass. When you overseed your lawn with ryegrass, you help keep that green look all winter long. When the warmer weather arrives, the ryegrass will die out and your lawn will again fill in very nicely for the remainder of the growing season. As the ryegrass dies off, it acts as a natural fertilizer as it decomposes in the soil. If you have a Bahia lawn, you may have to overseed with Bahia grass seed in the spring. If you have a Floratam lawn, you can fill in patches with grass plugs. Remember, Floratam is not available in seed form.
Proper watering and fertilizer is also essential to a healthy lawn. Always keep your lawn evenly moist. Under watering as well as over-watering can both cause problems such as drying out or fungus, for example.
A regular fertilizer program is essential for a lush green lawn. You should apply a good quality slow release lawn food about once every 3 months. February is an excellent time to apply a good quality weed and feed. A weed and feed product has the advantage of both feeding your lawn and getting rid of annoying weeds.
Care should be exercised when choosing weed control products because you can only use certain herbicides on certain lawns. If you have a Floratam lawn, be sure you choose a product that contains Atrazine. This is a safe herbicide for use in St. Augustine variety grasses. If you have Bahia grass, choose a product with 2.4D or an equivalent. Use of the wrong herbicide can have very undesirable effects. Always apply your fertilizer according to the package directions and always use a spreader. Never try to apply lawn food by hand.
With a little care and some work, you too can have a green lawn year-round!
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to email@example.com or visit his Web site www.hometowngarden.com.