How, exactly and why more importantly, would you change your lawn from Bermuda grass to St. Augustine? Reasons range from just wanting a new look, necessity due to shade from growing trees and landscapes over the years, even allergies to Bermuda grass.
Lawns in full sun
In full sun situations, the transition will be the quickest. Most grasses are sun loving and St. Augustine is no exception. Its broad leaf blades shade Bermuda grass when competing for the same space.
To start the process in full-sun areas, treat the Bermuda grass with systemic glyphosate product. This will kill most of the Bermuda. When the treated area has browned, usually 10 to 14 days set the mower on its lowest setting and make a pass over the lawn. Bag all the grass clippings.
Next, prepare the soil by lightly tilling or using a verticutter or de-thatching machine, which loosens the soil with vertical knives. This is also an excellent time to level your lawn by filling in depressed areas with screened topsoil and lowering raised areas or high spots.
Be prepared to install the St. Augustine sod as soon as it is delivered. Keep the new plantings moist, but not wet. This means watering once or twice daily for short periods of time until the new sod roots into the soil. Once rooting has occurred, reduce the number of days you water while increasing the duration each time, until you gradually reach the usual program for your lawn’s needs. This is generally about an inch a week.
Anytime after the third mowing, fertilize the new sod with one-half the normal rate of fertilizer. St. Augustine grass lawns do not require as much feeding as Bermuda: Twice a year on April 15 and Sept. 15 or three times a year, April 15, June 1, and Sept 15. While the new St. Augustine grass is establishing its root system, avoid pre-emergent applications for at least six months.
Areas in partial or full shade
In areas with partial shade where the lawn is exposed to at least four hours of sunlight and the Bermuda grass is already thin, a process known as plugging can be utilized, since Bermuda grass competition will be minimal. This process involves using a spade to physically remove the existing grass and soil and replacing it with small “plugs” of the new St. Augustine grass. Plugs can range in size from 4 inches to any part of a standard size piece of sod, including installing the size in a checkerboard pattern.
This method can also be used in full sun, with the understanding that it will need time to completely fill in the space.
Solid sodding the St. Augustine in a partial shade situation is also an option. The instructions for water, fertilizer and pre-emergent remain the same as above.
Locations receiving less than four hours of sunlight would be best served by ending the frustration of trying to maintain turf grass. Instead, consider one of the many available ground covers that perform well in heavier shade environments.
No matter the reason for the conversion, this would be the best time to formulate the plan and make the change to a St. Augustine lawn.
Jimmie, Every year I grow Hibiscus plants in containers. I don’t have a greenhouse, so I put them in the garage over the winter. Then, come late spring, they seem really lethargic. What can I do to speed them back to vigorous growth?
Leslie L. in Prosper
Hibiscus, bougainvilleas and most other tropicals really struggle with several months’ confinement to the garage. They often are set back so far that they to recover at all. Consider building a cold frame or lean-to greenhouse for future winters. However, for this year’s crop, apply a high-nitrogen, water-soluble plant food and keep them in a bright, warm location. Trim them as needed if they have died back. Otherwise just be patient and hope for the best.
Jimmie, How can I eliminate dallisgrass in my St. Augustine lawn?
Mark C. in Prosper
Sadly, that’s the toughest of all the weed problems. I’m going to state the same facts a couple of ways to prevent any possible confusion. There is no herbicide available that will eliminate dallisgrass without damaging your St. Augustine. While Bermuda lawn owners should use MSMA to kill dallisgrass in their turf, it cannot be used in St. Augustine. That said, you have two options in St. Augustine. You can either hand-dig the dallisgrass or take the best possible care of your lawn so it will be able to resist further invasion, or you can spot-treat with a glyphosate such as Roundup. Use a hand-sprayer to apply the herbicide specifically to the weed area only. While it will kill both the dallisgrass and the St. Augustine on which it is sprayed, Roundup is the most effective grass killer we have. It does not contaminate the soil, and the St. Augustine can spread back across the bare ground fairly quickly.
Note: Bermuda grass lawn owners should never use Roundup to control dallisgrass since MSMA is nearly as effective and will not kill their turf.
Hope that helps you out!
Until next time… Happy gardening!
Send your landscaping and gardening questions to Jimmie Gibson Jr. at http://www.absolutelybushedlandscaping.com or in care of the Prosper Press at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jimmie is the owner of Absolutely Bushed Landscaping Company. He is a resident in Prosper. His landscaping and gardening column runs every other week in the Prosper Press.