Landscaping Home >> Landscaping Ideas & Gardening Tips >> 6 Steps To A Greener, Healthier Lawn

6 Steps To A Greener, Healthier Lawn

It is important to understand that a lawn that is easy to care for and gives you the health and beauty you desire is dependant on several steps including those that occur before you make your first application of fertilizer.

St. Augustinegrass, the type of grass in most Florida homes, comes in many subtypes called varieties and have different characteristics that make them more or less suited for various conditions like shade tolerance and others. The term lawn or turfgrass as found below will be used interchangeably to refer to St. Augustinegrass.

1. Turfgrass Establishment

Successful turfgrass establishment is important because without it lawns perform poorly and become infested with weeds that later can be difficult or impossible to selectively control. Proper soil preparation followed by the selection of quality sod that is of the appropriate variety (cultivar) for your general shade conditions, combined with properly installed irrigation all contribute to the success of turfgrass establishment.

Neglecting any of these important steps can lead to necessary corrective action in order to maintain a healthy desired lawn. This action can include removing sod from an area that is too shady for grass to grow and replacing it with a more shade tolerant plant material, pruning a tree to allow more sunlight, adding or moving sprinklers, or removing the existing weed infested areas and re-sodding with the appropriate variety following proper soil preparation.

2. Mowing

St. Augustine grass should be mowed frequently enough to never remove more that one third of the grass blade and always with a sharp mower blade.Mowers should be set on the highest setting for all varieties other than semi-dwarf varieties such as Seville and Delmar, which should be mowed at about two and one half inches high. When mowing once per week, this practice can be easily followed during the slower growing cooler months but becomes more difficult during the fast growing rainy summer months.

A dull mower blade will split and tear the grass blades that will eventually die from their wounds. Split and torn grass blades can thin the grass, encourage weed growth, cause an entry point for fungus and detract from the overall appearance of the lawns color by combining dead grass blades with green healthy ones. Grass clippings should be mulched and returned to the grass to be used as an additional source of nutrients.

3. Irrigation

Proper irrigation conserves both water and fertilizer and contributes to a healthy lawn by encouraging healthy root growth while discouraging weeds that thrive during constant wet conditions. Irrigation should be performed as needed by recognizing temporary wilt symptoms and then applying three-quarters of an inch of water. If a regular frequency is desired and you are in the St. Johns Water Management District, you must follow the irrigation requirements that allow watering only two times per week and only on specified days that correspond with your street address.You should then apply only three-quarters of an inch of water. Ask your Dr. Jack’s horticulturist for a free irrigation gauge to help you determine how long you need to water each area (irrigation zone) and set your timer (controller) up accordingly.

4. Fertilizing

Fertilizer is a lot like vitamins. There are many different opinions on what fertilizer is the best and what the frequency and rate should be.

Turfgrass experts will all agree that St. Augustinegrass must receive additional fertilizer other than grass clippings in order to be healthy and have a good green appearance. Most turfgrass experts will also tell you that St. Augustinegrass in Central Florida requires 4 to 6 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year. Most will also agree that nitrogen should be applied at 1 pound per 1000 square feet, and that formulations should contain some slow-release fertilizer. We recommend that as much as 50% of the nitrogen applied should be a slow-release form.

Do not be fooled by the term organic! Organic can be an expensive slow release synthetic or natural long feeding product, or it can be a cheap quick release synthetic or natural slow feeding product. The important key word again is slow-release.

Since our soils in Central Florida usually contain adequate amounts of Phosphorus, and because Phosphorus is detrimental to the health of our lakes, it should be applied in smaller amounts than Nitrogen and Potassium or eliminated from the fertilizer completely. Potassium is important for root growth and should be included at rates close to those of Nitrogen. Micronutrients such as Iron and Manganese help with turf color but can cause staining if applied to paved surfaces.

Generally, you get what you pay for when it comes to fertilizer. The cheaper the fertilizer the more you will need to buy and the shorter time it will last. This will ultimately cost you more than if you buy a more expensive fertilizer that requires you to use less but feeds your turf far longer.

Good quality broadcast spreader types are the easiest to use and achieve the best results. Avoid getting any fertilizer on paved surfaces and if you do, blow or sweep the pellets back into the lawn area to avoid potentially staining paved surfaces. It is also important to apply fertilizer in a manner that can be utilized by the grass and not wasted or cause pollution to our lakes. Many of our paved surfaces drain into lakes and can carry misapplied fertilizers into our waterways during rainfall. All fertilizers are harmful to our lakes so you should always follow Florida’s Best Management Practices (BMP) when making fertilizer applications. You can learn more about fertilizing and other Best Management Practices by visiting:

In conclusion, you need to determine several things before you apply fertilizer. Have you purchased the desired blend? Are you going to apply the right rate evenly so that you achieve an even, rich color that you desire while avoiding damage to the lawn from applying too much fertilizer? And most importantly, are you avoiding any detrimental environmental impact?

5. Pest Control

A certain level of expertise is required to properly identify the different pests that can harm our St. Augustinegrass turf before you decide to use a pesticide. You can view pests that damage St. Augustinegrass by visiting: Proper identification of insects, diseases and weeds will help you decide if a pesticide is required and if so which one should be used.

You need to read and understand the label before making any application of pesticides. There are several things you can do to reduce the need for pesticides on your site. These include proper watering, mowing, fertilizing, reducing traffic where possible, and avoiding any other stress to the grass. If you are unsure about what you are attempting to control, you should consult or hire a professional.

Any pesticides that are unused in an application should be stored safely away from children, always kept in their original container with the label attached, and never disposed improperly by pouring them into a sink drain or body of water.

6. Change Your View and Perspective

If you think your lawn doesn’t look as good as you think it should, or it is not as green as your neighbors across the street, try walking across the street to view your lawn.

There is no such thing as the perfect lawn and sometimes we see things up close that aren’t apparent from further away. You will probably find several things wrong with your neighbor’s lawn up close that were not apparent from your home across the street. Having a residential St. Augustinegrass lawn that looks like a closely mowed Bermudagrass hybrid that you play golf on is an unrealistic goal. Remember, the grass is always greener on the other side of the street!

For more information, please visit

Dr. Jack's, a Central Florida Plant Care & Pest Control company, was founded in 1972 by Dr. Jack Reinhardt (Plant Pathology). The family owned and operated company provides high quality lawn & ornamental lawn care, termite protection, and pest prevention by degreed horticulturists. Jim Reinhardt, Jack's son, earned a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida. Jim's brother, Rick Reinhardt, president of Dr. Jack's, obtained a degree in Horticulture. Jim has been a licensed Florida Pest Control Operator since 1985. He has served on the Orange County Agricultural Advisory Board and many tasks committees with the Bureau of Entomology an Pest Control (division of DACS).

Article Source:

Get Listed in Landscapers Direct | Update Directory Listing | Contact Landscapers Direct | Landscapers Main

Copyright 2005-2011, all rights reserved.
Thank you for visiting, your online source for landscapers, lawn care professionals and landscape design services. To find gardeners and licensed landscape contractors in your area, please click one of the states above (pulldown menu in the upper right-hand corner of this page). Landscapers Direct is not affiliated with the landscapers, gardeners, landscaping contractors, individuals or companies listed on this site or responsible for the accuracy of their content listed herein or on their website. Information contained herein is deemed accurate and correct, but no warranty is implied or given.