New home or building site should be rough graded. Rocks, roots and other debris should be removed. On existing sites unwanted vegetation should be removed by a nonselective herbicide such as glyphosate (roundup). A soil test should be taken in the area to determine the pH and the need for plant nutrients. These nutrients need to be applied before planting, and tilled in if the soil is bare. Next, install an irrigation system or repair/upgrade the old irrigation system. Before laying sod, the area should be final graded and thoroughly moistened to encourage the establishment process.
Mow Bahia at a height of 3 inches. Cutting the grass lower than this invites weeds, can injure the crowns of the grass and will reduce new green growth. To remove the dead growth in the spring mow once at 2 inches and collect the clippings then raise the mowing height back to 3 inches for regular mowing.
Sodding with Bitter Blue St. Augustine grass will provide you with an instant lawn. Sod should be laid over bare, moist soil, with pieces laid in a staggered, brick-like pattern with the edges fitted tightly together to avoid cracks. Often sod is placed over existing turf. This generally produces a lower quality turf and should be avoided. Fill any cracks between strips with soil to prevent open spaces. This will help to prevent weed encroachment. Rolling and thorough watering will ensure good contact with the soil for fast rooting. Newly sodded areas should be watered at least twice daily with 1/4 inch of water until the sod is held fast to soil by its roots. After the establishment period, water on an as needed basis.
Proper mowing practices are important in maintaining an attractive lawn. Under moderate or low levels of management, Bitter Blue should be cut at a height of 3 to 4 inches. To maintain this height with most home rotary mowers, the highest wheel height setting should be used. This height will help the grass developed a deep root system and give a better appearance. Mowing frequency should be adjusted to the amount of growth. No more than one-third the height of the leaf blade should be removed with any mowing.
Mowing to infrequently and improper watering can cause a thatch buildup. The secret to growing healthy Bitter Blue is to water the lawn only when there are signs of moisture stress. This will keep growth to a minimum and reduce the accumulation of thatch.
Mowing too low can also cause problems with turf quality. Constant low mowing reduces the density and vigor of Bitter Blue. Weed problems in Bitter Blue lawns can usually be attributed to a low height cut and improper watering.
Either a rotary or reel mower can be used on Bitter Blue St. Augustine. It is important to keep the blade sharp and well-adjusted to get a clean cut. Dull blades will give the lawn a brownish cast, because a ragged cut shreds the leaf blades rather than cutting them. During the growing season the blades should be sharpened on a monthly basis.
Grass clippings can be left on a lawn that is mowed at the proper height and frequency. Under these conditions, clippings do not contribute to the thatch layer. Remove clippings if the amount is excessive or clumping occurs.
The best way to irrigate an established lawn is on an as needed basis. Grass blades will begin to wilt, fold, turn grayish green and will nor recover from traffic or foot printing as the moisture begins to deplete in the soil. If 30 to 50 percent of the lawn shows signs of slight wilting, it is time to irrigate with 3/4 of an inch of water. Turf usually recovers within 24-hours. The turf should not be watered until it shows signs of wilting. This irrigation schedule works for any soil type and environmental condition.
Proper watering practices will help maintain a lawn that requires less mowing and has little thatch buildup. Proper watering will also help develop a deep root system and encourages plants which are less susceptible to damage by pest and environmental stresses. If the diseases brown patch or gray leaf spot are a continuous problem, over watering and excessive nitrogen fertilization may be responsible. Certain weeds such as pennywort and nutsedge thrive in wet soil. Regulate these management practices closely to reduce disease and weed severity.
Maintaining a good quality lawn requires a properly planned fertility program. An acceptable quality Bitter Blue St. Augustine grass lawn can be grown with a low to high level fertility, depending on what the lawn owner wants. Decide how much time and effort you are willing to spend on lawn maintenance. A Low fertility lawn is best for those with little time to spend on lawn care. A high fertility lawn may be better suited for those who find a low fertility lawn St. Augustine lawn unattractive, and have more time for lawn care.
A low maintenance Bitter Blue grass lawn should be fertilized twice a year, once in the spring and again in the late summer while grass is actively growing. Apply a complete fertilizer such as 16-4-8, 10-10-10 or 6-6-6 with micronutrients at the rate of 1 pound per 1000 square feet per application. It is best to leave the clippings on the lawn to recycle the nutrients.
At the optimum maintenance level, a Bitter Blue St. Augustine grass lawn should receive 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year. Apply fertilizer four times per year, in March, May, July and September, at the rate of 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Never apply more than 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet at any one time. A complete fertilizer can be used at every fertilization, although two applications per year are sufficient. A slow release, nitrogen-only fertilizer may be applied in between complete fertilization applications. This fertility level, combined with the proper watering practices, will result in a good quality lawn with minimal thatch buildup.
Heavy fertilization rates will produce a faster buildup of thatch than lower rates. High rates of fertilizing can also encourage insect damage to the turf. Additionally, the necessary amount of mowing and watering increase with the amount of fertilizer. Careful planning is necessary to grow the desired type of lawn.
Several pest can effect Bitter Blue St. Augustine grass Diagnosis and recommendations for treatment of pest problems are available from your County Cooperative Extension Service.
Chinch bugs, webworms, armyworms, grasshoppers and mole crickets can cause damage to Bitter Blue St. Augustine grass. High levels of nitrogen fertilizer encourage insect problems.
Brown Patch and gray leaf spot are the two major diseases that affect Bitter Blue St. Augustine grass. Brown patch occurs in warm, humid weather and is encouraged by excessive nitrogen. Brown patch is generally most noticeable during the spring and fall months. Gray leaf spot occurs during the summer rainy season and is primarily a problem on new growth. Both diseases can be controlled with fungicides.
Several types of nematodes infest Bitter Blue St. Augustine grass lawns. Nematodes cause yellowing and general thinning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Services for more information on nematodes and controlling them.
Weed problems in a lawn indicates that the turf has been weakened by improper management practices or damage from pest. Proper management practices can eliminate most weed problems. If weeds are a persistent problem, herbicides labeled specifically for St. Augustine grass should be used. Many commercial weed and feed formulations will provide control, but they should not be used every time the lawn is fertilized.