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
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 is signs of moisture stress. This
will keep growth to a minimum and reduce the accumulation of
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
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% of
the lawn shows signs of slight wilting, it is time to irrigate
with 3/4 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
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 soil that is continuously wet.
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 that 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 is 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.
Insects - Chinch bugs, webworms, armyworms, grass
hoppers and mole crickets can cause damage to Bitter Blue St.
Augustine grass. High levels of nitrogen fertilizer encourage
Diseases - Brown Patch and gray leaf spot are the
two major diseases that effect 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.
Nematodes - 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.
Weeds - 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 law is fertilized.
Please read the S & K Sod