St Augustinegrass friends, don’t panic. The fall is a tough time for our lawns and we all have areas, or even very large sections, that look like this:
This is from my stage right section, Floratam St Augustine. What you see here is a bunch of sinks that just 2 weeks ago were plump, green and growing strong. We had a tropical storm go through that dumped rain on us for days and days. It was also the 34rd warmest September on record.
Then just about 10 days ago things dried up. And when I say that I mean we had no rain for 5 days straight and temps stayed warm. Then about 6 days ago things stayed fairly dry but temps dropped into the high 60s overnight with day highs barely in the high 70s. While most of the humans were celebrating, the dry cold, rain drunk-hungover St Augustinegrass was checking out.
You know how every year I tell the cool season folks to get ready for the rain hangover leading from spring into summer? They KBG, fescue and ryegrasses are fat and happy from all the spring rains, then sometime in May they get that first 3-day stretch of 85-90 degree temps and their hungover lawns turn steel gray and even blue-brown quick.
This is the same thing out St Aug goes through but because of its growth habit, it just turns to straw.
If you have not seen it, review this video here where I talk about the growth habit of St Augustine grass:
So when we have plenty of water to support these long stolons, along with lots of sunlight (days are longer) the St Augustine is super happy. Rain-drunk stolons run wild, weaving their way through your soil forming a dense mat of beautiful fat turf. Thing is, these long stolons require a LOT of water to function and when they don’t get it for even just a few days, they “close up” and conserve and the grass blades close up and are sloughed off. And that is what you are seeing in my picture above.
The reason this happened is that I had a sprinkler head broken and so that area did not get the water it needed from my irrigation system. Here is a video from this weekend where I talk about it some more:
Sadly, these brown blades are mostly not going to come back. Once the St Aug cuts off the sinks and turns them into sources, they will not recover. However, new grass blades can grow and replace these and that is what we will talk about in the next video I do in a week or so.
This is primarily aimed at you folks here in Florida where the St Augustine isn’t going to go into winter dormancy. If you live somewhere further north like the panhandle, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or Texas or over Georgia or South Carolina, your St Aug is going to go dormant anyway so you should just let it go… but don’t stop watering! Just because your lawn has gone dormant the soil has not and we do not want the soil to dry out. When soil dries out, microbes die and that is not good. So be sure to keep your lawn watered at least ½” per week all winter long, even if your neighbors stare at you like a crazy person.
I actually had a question come in from an LCN this week. He is located in northeast Texas and has a wedding coming up in November. He wanted some tips are keeping his St Aug green until that time. Here was my advice to him - it starts and ends with “Hope for the Best!”
The key challenge we are going to have is that St Aug wants to stop growing that late in the season.
Typically, St Aug likes soil temps above 70F as the bare minimum and also 11+ hours of daylight in order to be green and growing.
Based on the area code of your phone number, I have assumed you are in Tyler, TX (northeast TX) and if the wedding is in early November your soil temps at that time will probably be below 70F and your day length for sure will be shorter than preferred.
That said, it isn't a totally lost cause here - you can keep it from going dormant if we get lucky and have a warmer October and November than normal and you keep it fertilized and most importantly, keep it irrigated.
That is the number one most important thing is to keep watering the SA. I recommend at least 1/2" of water every 3rd or 4th day. If you notice it starting to checkout, take the watering up to every other day and see if that helps keep it from going to sleep.
For fertilizers, we do not want to try to push a ton of growth on it but instead, encourage it to keep growing, slowly. I will still assume the wedding is in early November.
I recommend that right now in October you give it 4-5lbs/1000 of XGN DIY (X-Green). This has some N and some iron for the color, but also contains potash and the potash helps with water retention which I have already mentioned is important. We call it "sneaky green" because it comes on slow but holds quite a long time.
Then, 7 days before the wedding, I recommend you hit it with 7-0-0 Greene Effect at 8oz/gallon/1000.
Greene Effect has high iron and a little N for the color, but most importantly, it can absorb through the grass blades (foliar absorption) so it has a better chance of getting into the plant when it's not actively growing. (if the grass is dormant, skip this).
Additionally, starting now and continuing up until 3 days before the wedding, hit the lawn every week with RGS at 3oz/gallon/1000. The sea kelp will continue to stimulate growth without pushing it too hard. The sea kelp has hormones that stimulate the St Aug and will help keep it out or dormancy.
(the links above are to 5 gallons each - you probably won't need that much so you can build a box of single gallons here)
Here's the thing: we really need to weather to cooperate for this to happen the way we want. If you get a freak frost in October or November, it could send the SA into dormancy no matter what you do. Watering is the key here, and for sure, mow tall and stick to the 1/3rd rule. If you let the grass get overgrown and have to take a lot off, it will not have the energy or needed sunlight to regrow and that can also send it into dormancy.
As always, let’s Thrower Down, and hope for the best!