Soil FAQs - Lawns

1.  Lawn turning brown and dying
2.  Lawn watering
3.  Grass for shade
4.  Zoysia grass
5.  Grass clippings
6.  How do I get rid of crabgrass?
7.  How do I select and care for lawn grass in Florida?

1.  Areas of my lawn are turning brown and dying.  What could be causing this?
It depends upon what kind of grass do you have:
      If St. Augustine possibly chinch bugs.
      If Bahia or Bermuda possibly mole crickets.
      If St. Augustine or Bermuda possibly nematodes.
      If it's been dry possibly poor sprinkler coverage.
      If it's been raining a lot possibly brown patch, take-all or other root disease.
      If it's mid-late fall may be grassy weeds dying out, not the lawn!

2. How often should I water my grass?  When is the best time of day to do this?
It is nearly impossible to say how many times a week a lawn should be watered since so many factors will influence this. Thus, it is best to water on an as-needed basis or when the grass shows signs of stress from a lack of water. Some of those signs are:
   1. The grass color will be a bluish-gray rather than a clear green.
   2. Footprints will remain for a long time when the grass is walked on.
   3. Grass blades will fold in half.
   4. Soil samples from the root zone feel dry.

 A general rule for watering is to apply 1/2 to 3/4 inch of water two times per week in the summer and once every ten to fourteen days in the winter (in the event of no rain). The best time for lawn irrigation is in the early morning hours to avoid prolonging the dew period which can encourage disease problems.

3. What type of grass will grow in the shady areas of my yard?
All of the turfgrasses that are grown in Florida require full sun except two varieties of St. Augustine: Seville and Bitter Blue. Seville is more shade tolerant than Bitter Blue, however, neither will take dense shade. In densely shady areas, planting a shade loving ground cover instead of turfgrass is recommended.

4. I have read about this wonderful miracle grass called Zoysia. Is it as good as the advertisement says?
Due to over-enthusiastic newspaper advertisements, the public has been misinformed on the merits of zoysiagrasses. Zoysias have advantages and disadvantages like all Florida lawn grasses. The improved Zoysias have to be propagated vegetatively and are extremely slow in becoming established. An entire growing season may be required for coverage of the lawn when propagated by plugging or sprigging. All Zoysias produce a heavy thatch which required periodic renovation. Other disadvantages include: slow recovery from damage; high fertility requirement; need for  frequent irrigations; can be severely damaged by nematodes, hunting billbugs, and several diseases. If you are interested in having a Zoysia lawn, locate a variety developed for Florida (such as Cashmere); the varieties usually advertised will not grow in Florida.

5. Should I leave my grass clippings on the lawn or should I have a catch bag on my mower?
If you are mowing frequently enough, it is best to leave the clippings on the grass to recycle the nitrogen in them (as much as 1-2 pounds per year - the equivalent of 1 to 2 fertilizations per year). Mow often enough so that no more than 1/3 of the grass blades are removed. The small amount of clippings generated from frequent mowings will not contribute to thatch.

6. How do I get rid of crabgrass?
The best defense against weeds is a healthy lawn, so try to keep your lawn happy by watering, mowing, and fertilizing appropriately. (For more information, read the Lawn Care topics.) However, some degree of weed control is often needed despite your best efforts.
Pre-emergent herbicides containing pendimethalin are typically the most effective way to control crabgrass, and the best time to apply these herbicides is in the spring (early February for South Florida, mid-February for Central Florida, and early March for North Florida). Be sure to follow all directions and safety precautions whenever you apply chemicals.
The University of California's Crabgrass publication describes cultural practices that can help control crabgrass, including hand pulling and solarization, which will kill living crabgrass but not seeds.
To learn more about controlling crabgrass and applying herbicides, visit your County Extension Office, where you can talk to horticulturists and master gardeners who have specialized knowledge of your local area.

7. How do I select and care for lawn grass in Florida?
Visit the UF/IFAS Residential Landscapes Website to get research-based information about home lawn care. If you still have specific questions, contact your County Extension Office and ask for a volunteer Master Gardener or County Horticulture Agent.