There is no magic cure for lawn problems. Most people will experience frustration with their lawn at some point in time in northwest Florida. Some people are continually frustrated with the condition of their lawn. There are many reasons why our turf grasses are, at times, difficult to maintain. In the Southeast it is possible for a lawn to look picture perfect one year and decline the very next year. The causes of problems in our lawns can be complicated by environmental conditions such as, pests and poor maintenance. To appreciate the difficulties of maintaining a lawn in Florida, it may help to understand our Southern turf grasses.
There are four main types of grasses used in home lawns in Florida. All four are not native to the United States.
This turf produces a vigorous, medium green, dense turf that is well adapted to most soils and climates found in Florida. It has excellent wear, drought and salt tolerance. Bermuda establishes rapidly and is available in seeded varieties. However, it requires high levels of maintenance, and has poor tolerance to many insect, disease and nematode pests.
This turf variety is well adapted to the climate and soils of central and northern Florida and is the most common turf type in the Florida Panhandle. It has fair shade tolerance and survives drought conditions. Centipede can be established from seed, sod or plugs. However, it is prone to chlorosis (yellowing of leaf blades) and has poor cold tolerance. It is also very susceptible to nematodes, ground pearls and centipede decline caused by Gaeumannomyces.
This turf produces a green to blue green dense turf that is well adapted to most soils and climatic regions in Florida. It has relatively good salt tolerance and certain cultivars posses fair shade tolerance. St. Augustine establishment from sod is usually quick and easy. However, it is highly susceptible to chinch bugs and many diseases. It also has poor wear, drought and cold tolerance. Excessive thatch buildup is also common.
This variety of turf is extremely dense which resists weed invasion. It has good shade, salt, wear and insect tolerance. Zoysia also repairs itself quicker than other turf varieties, because of it’s aggressive growth habit. However, it can be slow to establish and builds up heavy thatch. Other disadvantages are poor growth on compacted soils and poor drought tolerance.
All of these grasses have been studied extensively and in most cases plant breeders have developed improved cultivars which we commonly use today. It’s surprising to some to learn that our lawn grasses are not native. It’s important to understand this in order to appreciate and better understand the difficulties of growing these grasses in our landscapes.
To better understand our lawn problems, it also helps to know that northwest Florida was not designed to be a “grass growing area.” If you study the natural vegetation of north Florida, you will find primarily a densely wooded area comprised of a combination of various pines, oaks and other trees, a tremendous variety of shrubs, vines, wild flowers and other vegetation.
A common practice in our modern landscapes is to remove many of the natural or native plants and replace them with these foreign grasses. We then expect these grasses to provide a picture perfect lawn in a foreign environment created for trees and shrubs.
While it’s not impossible to have a thick lush lawn in northwest Florida, it’s definitely not easy.
Give Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. a call for all your Lawn Care needs. (850)897-3073 Niceville (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach