Central Florida Lawn Maintenance

Central Florida lawns need 3 major maintenance programs:

  • Lawn fertilization
  • Adequate watering
  • Weekly mowing program

Proper lawn fertilization is key to maintaining a healthy lawn.  Too much fertilization will add a thicker thatch layer at the base of the lawn and will encourage pests and fungus to establish quickly.  It also will lead to a waste of money since much of it will run off with heavy rains and create more problems in rivers and lakes.

Watering seems to be a hot topic of discussion since many people tend to think watering more will help your lawn, but this is farther from the truth.  Watering the lawn twice a week is more than plenty in the summer since mother nature will tend to also contribute.  Published materials outline that .5″ of water twice a week will help roots grow deeper into the soil and will help the lawn cope better in drought conditions.  While too much water will prevent the roots from growing deeper into the soil since the majority of the water is on the surface.  This will lead to a easily stressed lawn and will invite pests with open arms.

Weekly Mowing will keep the lawn growing healthy and add significant curb appeal.  Most important are SHARP mowing blades and 3.5 – 4 inch cutting height.  First, I cannot stress the importance of Sharp mowing blades since this will prevent tearing of the lawn blade (see picture below).  Torn lawns from dull mower blades also promotes diseases and a browning of the lawn blade tips.  Secondly, the best cutting height from our experience is between 3.5 – 3.75″ inches has proven to be the best for St. Augustine results and minimal pest problems.  Anytime we were told to cut lawns shorter than 3.5 inches has typically ended up with below average looking lawns.

Torn St. Augustine Lawn Blades

This is the result of dull lawn mower blades

St Augustine Torn Closeup

What are Southern Chinch Bugs?

Below is the little bug that causes the many of the issues we see in St. Augustine lawns.

Description of the Damage:

Initially, the base of the oldest grass blades turns yellow while everything else is green. Peel the blade back and chinch bugs will be at the base of the plant. The affected patch expands slowly, yellows, and then dies. It is usually circular in shape. Turf areas that are under stress caused by dry conditions may be damaged much faster.

Chinch Bug description and season:

Immatures (nymphs) and adults feed on fluids at plant base in the thatch layer. Adults are 1/8 to 1/10 of an inch long, have a black body with shiny white wings folded on the back with a triangular-shaped black marking. Young nymphs are reddish-orange with a white band across the back and will darken in color as they mature.  Chinch Bug season is from April to October

Integrated Pest Control:

Natural or “Cultural” control includes maintaining a healthy turf.  Think of it this way, if you are not eating well and your body is not getting the proper liquids and nutrients, you are more susceptible to getting sick and the same is true for lawn and plants. Try avoiding too much or too little water and avoid quick release nitrogen fertilizers as this develops a thick thatch; (use slow release nitrogen).  Another important item is the mowing height at 3.5 – 4 inches and “sharp” mowing blades.  Beneficial insects like ear wigs, big-eyed bugs, parasitic wasps and spiders feed on chinch bugs. Chemical control options include pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, and carbamates.  Try avoiding “All In One” chemicals since they can eliminate chinch bug’s natural enemies.  If the problem is not throughout lawn, treat affected area and six foot buffer area.  Pest control companies have more effective materials for control and often rotate chemicals to prevent tolerance.

Southern chinch bug

The forecast for Orlando, FL by WP Wunderground