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Secrets to keeping a thick-healthy St. Augustine lawn all year round

Discussion in 'Fertilizer Application' started by lep, Aug 24, 2010.

  1. lep

    lep LawnSite Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 52

    1. Never water more than 2 times week in cooler weather and 3 times a week in warm (hot) weather.

    2. Each time you water make sure that at least 1/2 inch of water gets distributed.

    3. Do not water every day, or the roots will become shallow, causing weak immune properties of your lawn, ultimately increasing its susceptibility to disease (fungi, dollar patch, brown spot, take all root rot).

    4. In the summer, watch for weeds and remove anything manually by hand.

    5. In late August, September, early October, be on the look out for a small white moth that flies in and out of everyone's lawn in the neighborhood -- including yours. These moths drop eggs of army cutworms and sod webworms. Such worms come out at night and can digest a square meter of lawn in one evening. You'll know when you have sod webworm infestation since whole sections of you lawn will disappear, leaving only the thatch -- i.e. a brown look to everything within a matter of weeks. (to confirm their existience when you think you have them, mix one gallon of water and several tablespoons of dish detergent, get a flashlight, dump solution on lawn, and watch what comes up). In late fall, you can actually walk your dogs around the neighborhood (or drive around) and see large circular patches of people's St. Augustine eaten up by these critters. A natural insecticide against sod webworms is neem oil, diluted with several tablespoons per gallon of water and sprayed on your lawn -- I have neem oil but have not yet experimented with it. Rather, use Bayer Complete spray if I think it's too late for sod webworms, or the granular Bayer Complete if I am ahead. You can also switch it up and use Ortho Max, but never use the same product twice in a rows --> always switch it up.

    If you do not do the above you will potentially lose your entire lawn in one month in the Fall due to sod webworms -- "I guarantee it"

    6. For winterizing, it helps to lay down a high potassium (for root strength) winterizer fert in say November.

    7. Maybe in December, lay down 1/4 inch of manure over your entire lawn. Peat moss when laid down in 1/4 inch layers is known to be the best killer of take all root rot (TARR), which forms 10-14 foot lengths of dead lawn -- which normally you would think would be due to insect infestation.

    8. Water in the winter 1 time per week -- and don't skimp.

    9. In the spring, maybe use Scott's Bonus S to kill pre-emergent weeds.

    10. Aerate your lawn in the spring.

    11. One week later (March, April) put down a lot of Milorganite, which will never burn your lawn.

    12. During, say, June-July, apply Milorganite again.

    13. Usually in June-July your lawn will become weak due to the heat, and will succumb to fungal infection from "dollar patch" or "brown spot" fungis. To control these, I apply Spectracide Illuminox anti-fungal spray, which hooks up to the hose.

    14. At this point you now go to step 5 (above), and watch out for white moths dropping sod webworm eggs in your lawn.


    How does my lawn get micronutrients? From applying manure in November, and Milorganite year round (every 3-4 months).

    What about weeds all year long? You have to deal with weeds manually and pull out anything you notice. Nimblewill and nutsedge are the biggy's for St. Augustine. (Nutsedge is said to grow where there are drainage issues).

    What's Milorganite? Human sewage sludge from Jones Island Sewage Treatment Plant, Lake Michigan, Wisconsin. Where can I get it? Home Depot, Lowe's, local fert store. Milorganite has about 4% iron, so St. Augustine will turn a dark green like Kentucky Blue Grass after treatment. Apparently, LESCO makes an Iron Plus, which will make your lawn turn amazing dark greenish-bluish colors -- but it's a little expensive, and that's why I go with Milorganite. It's all in the natural iron in human sewage sludge.

    Right now (late August) I know that if I don't apply a strong dose of Bayer Complete or Ortho Max insecticide within the next 1-2 months, then we can lose our entire lawn to sod webworms when the moths arrive. This happened last year, and I am now staying on top of it. (do you know how long it took in the late fall and winter to grow the entire lawn back? --> about 4-5 months because the lawn was dormant).

    Never stop doing the above and your St. Augustine should do very well. The majority of these tricks were learned right here at the LawnSite Forums, so I give credit where credit's due.
  2. BikePilot

    BikePilot LawnSite Member
    Messages: 248

    Great advice, I lost a bunch in my yard from all the rain we had over the winter in our area.
  3. RAlmaroad

    RAlmaroad LawnSite Silver Member
    from SC
    Messages: 2,253

    Most of your thoughts seem familiar EXCEPT all of that Milogranite. Applying 1lb of Nitrogen with it could be a pain. I think the analysis is about 6-5-0 (1lb of Milogranite =6% of a lb.) a very long way from 1lb. On the bag 1/2lb of Nitrogen requires 17lbs of Milogranite. Point being St. Augustine loves Nitrogen. Also and most important is the potassium requirement. There's none in Milogranite! Roots need potassium as it is not stored in the soil. Requirement of Potassium is almost equal to the Nitrogen. How about the need of Micronutrients and Iron? A little manure will not do that for our sandy soil.
    Comment on Nutsedge needs to be researched. Sandy soils have no bottom and therefore drain too fast; thus sedge and drainage could be questioned. More to the problem is an over-abundance of water. The nutlets are 90% water and gather it when ever they can and produce more and more offspring.
    I'm not being critical nor demeaning; just questioning what I've encountered and you do have some great advise for overdressing in the winter. Good job on gathering up comments
  4. lep

    lep LawnSite Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 52

    I have noticed indeed several areas with brown patch this fall - the typical smoke rings with healthy lawn in the center. Many other forums have comments that, in the Southern states, as soon as the temperature cools and moisture builds up, brown patch in St. Augustine initiates during which the blades first turn yellow, then brown (death). A tell-tale sign is that yellow blades can easily be pulled of their stolons (runners, or carriers). This is either due to decreased immunity of the lawn, increased growth of the fungus during cool wet evenings, or both.

    A recommendation is to increase potassium (potash), drainage, aeration, and decrease thatch. I think thatch buildup is a major factor, and dethatching down to the soil will help -- mostly because the thatch tends to be heavy where brown patch occurred. Higher levels of potassium (K) are supposed to minimize brown patch, so potash can be used. Winterizers are big in N and K and not so much for P, (e.g. N-P-K of 28-0-14), but overall, for organics potash has an N-P-K of 0-0-50, which would be ideal in optimized quantities. Nitrogen is supposed to be reduced for brown patch conditions, so use of corn meal(gluten) is not recommended. Be careful no use too much potash or you'll burn out the lawn.

    For synthetics and residential use, research has shown that Azoxystrobin (Maxide brand name) and Chlorothalonil (Ferti Lome and Ortho brand names) are the best for brown patch and other fungal diseases. The commercial synthetics for these are Heritage (Azoxystrobin) and Daconyl Ultrex (Chlorothalonil). However, a downside is that these are supposed to be applied every 28 days, which is quite extreme for home use.
  5. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,727

    Lep, unfortunately Daconil (chlorothalonil)has been outlawed on home lawns. So sad. No longer on residential label.

    So true potash is needed, and not included in Milorganite.

    We need an experiment--someone try it--potassium on the left half of lawn--none on the right half. Let us know what happens. Big difference? Little difference? None?
  6. Landscape Poet

    Landscape Poet LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,638

    I am going to take a guess that Ric has not seen this yet....that or he looked at it and is carefully phrasing the blasting he is wanting to deliver.

    To the OP.

    Let me address just a couple of issues I have with your "Program". I am not nor do I claim to be a expert in SA mgmt and want to make that clear.

    1. You never address complete pest control for SA. You must have experienced some issue with webworms as you seem to be fired up about them...but what about grubs? What about the southern cinch bug? What about????????? The possibilities are endless.

    2. Why are you telling people to water so many times a week? That need should first look at their soils structure...not the turf type alone. For example my soil here in Central Florida has a lot more Organic matter than say just a few miles away in Daytona Beach. Soil being the largest particle of soil does not offer the same field capacity that my soil in general in this area does. Even with my area different homes and their positioning to other factors such as lake front, if the properties lot is covered by shade etc etc etc....are all going to determine how much to water. As a general rule your concept is correct in a text book way but could prove to be a recipie for disaster if some other read your post and attempt to use it at their own home or worse yet a customers if there conditions are not correct for your "program". You have two options here...which is to manually watch your lawn for signs of drought stress to a que as when to water....and or take a measurement to figure out the amount of water to be delivered from the system....watch and react accordingly as some areas may need less water...some may need more. Those are two options which most folks can do without expensive tools. Telling everyone to water up to three times a week during summer can lead to fungal issues ...which could be why you are so gung ho on the fungicides. Which leads me to my next point.
    3. Laying down fungicides without knowing if a problem exist is not being responsible....but it could also be eliminating good fungi that would prevent certain fungal issues that your are experiencing by doing so.
    4. Brown Patch - you can usually see a brighter orange leaf color on Active brown patch. One the turf has declined...even if the disease is no longer active...the turf will be brown and that is most likely what you are thinking is thatch. SA if properly cared for generally does not experiencing a huge amount of thatch which it can not handle breaking down itself. Again by removing thatch on SA you could potentially damage your own turf by damaging the stolans....and if not there...well you are removing OM from your turf if truly did not need to be removed.
    Again back to your fungicides. Most if not all are going to have a re-apply date for preventative when conditions are favorable for the diseases it is labeled. For something like Brown Patch...you could be apply for a extended period of time to truly maintain the fungus at bay as it is soil born and will not be cured but rather just alleviated. IMHO that is why it is often times better to just let a L & O company handle your lawn as many of the fungicides will require reapplications in as little as every 14 days according to the label. And again IMHO unless the lawn has a history of BP in certain areas...there is not a need to broadcast or spray the whole lawn as your wiping the good guys out too.
    5. Topdressing with Manure - while a good idea...it is only as good as the source. If your manure does not have a good source of Mg or Mn etc etc...then you still have not meet the needs of your turf and yet another supplement is needed.
    6. While I am not trying to belittle you or discourage you from posting about this subject I think there are several things you are failing to address. In fact I think addressing the needs of any SA lawn let alone any lawn would be difficult to do in a novel let alone in one post. There are many many things that we have not even covered here so far. What about the micro and macros for example. The theory I go by is that a plant can only perform to its lowest nutritional need. So under my theory you can throw all the N at it you want as well as all the K you want....and it will only look so good...when in fact a lawn with less N and K can look and perform better because a balanced approach to feeding the lawn is being made by addressing not only NPK but also FE, Mg, Mn, Cu, B, Z etc etc etc. And of course while doing so you could potentially save yourself money in the process by using less N and K which are not cheap..but then again neither are the micros but once corrected they often tend to leach slower in many soils to my understanding.

    Just a few of my thoughts, take them for what they are worth.
  7. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    The amount of inaccurate and misleading information in this thread (all of it) is astounding ....... ::sigh:: [​IMG]
  8. Ric

    Ric LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,969


    I am thinking the same thing and didn't want to be the first to point it out. I am not paid to correct Misinformation on Lawnsite.

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