For years St. Augustine has been a highly suggested turf variety by professionals in our industry. It is known for its shade tolerance and if healthy, its ability to choke out invasive weeds. When St. Augustine is planted via plugs and in the right growing conditions, it can fill in to near completion in just one growing season. Its leaf blades range from deep to lighter green and its appearance is thick and lush. It seems like there is a lot to love about this turf variety so, is it really all it’s cracked up to be or are we living in the past?
The evolution of St. Augustine in Texas
While St. Augustine is not native to Texas, we have been propagating and planting it here since the 1920’s starting with the Texas Common variety. In the early 1970’s, Florida Texas A&M designed a St. Augustine variety called Floratam that was supposedly SAD (St. Augustine Decline) and chinch bug resistant. This was very appealing because SAD and chinch bugs can cause rapid devastation in lawns and as you may know, replacing your lawn is not cheap and is quite troublesome. In the 1980’s, Floratam was brought to Texas and was planted in mass amounts in the up and coming North Dallas area.
Landscapers and turf businesses soon realized that planting Floratam here was disastrous.This variety was somewhat suitable for the coastal parts of Texas due to its milder climate but was not well suited for North Texas because of it’s lack of cold tolerance. Also considering that Floratam required 2 + more hours of sunlight than the Texas Common variety, it soon became apparent that it was not working as well in shaded areas.
Fast forward 30 years. Since Floratam has been out of the picture, Raleigh and Palmetto St. Augustine grass are on the main stage in North Texas. Raleigh is not known to be chinch bug resistant nor is it as cold tolerant as Palmetto. Therefore, Palmetto is the most recommended here in North Texas. Another attribute of Palmetto is its deep setting root system. Once established, this is beneficial in times of drought and water restrictions.
So what is really SO bad about St. Augustine?
Since the mid 2000’s we have been seeing a steady decline in St. Augustine's performance. We believe that the adaption of insects and diseases to pesticides has played a key role in the decline in St. Augustine along with the 2nd worse fungal issue in our industry- Take All Root Rot (TARR).
TARR before and after Soils Alive treatments
TARR is absolutely devastating to St. Augustine lawns. While it can affect other turfgrasses, St. Augustine is hit the hardest, by and large. Since TARR cannot be eradicated from the soil, it has to be controlled. Industry wide it is recommended to apply pete moss in conjunction with a fungicide to combat this disease. We have found that approach to be ineffective and over the years we have perfected a completely organic “kitchen sink” protocol to control TARR.
While TARR is the most prevalent disease affecting St. Augustine now, there are many others: Chinch bugs, Rhizoctonia aka Brown Patch, SAD, and Grey Leaf spot to name a few.
Damaged turf caused by Chinch Bugs
What turf variety do we recommend?
Zoysia! Zoysia! Zoysia!
Zoysia has many great qualities. One being its unlikeliness to be affected by most pest and diseases. Please know that it can contract diseases although it is not nearly as susceptible as St. Augustine. There are quite a few different varieties of Zoysia and on average it requires about 5 hours of direct sunlight. If looking to plant Zoysia in shade, we recommend one of the thicker bladed varieties like Palisade.
While Zoysia is pretty slow growing, it has a vigorous root system that comes in handy in times of drought. A plus to it being slow growing is that you don’t have to mow as often. All my guys out there say “HEY!”
Lush Zoysia Turf!
Your opinion matters!
As a friendly reminder, this is just our opinion. Some of you may think that St. Augustine is the 8th wonder of the world and if so, stick with it! Everyone has an opinion and preference when it comes to their landscape. Do what makes you happy! And don’t forget … there is no turf that will thrive in dense shade. If you are looking to grow turf in an area that gets little to no sunlight, it is recommended to modify your landscape to accommodate that environment. Otherwise you are fighting a very expensive losing battle.
First off...Happy Lawn Care Week! We’re excited for our industry pros, the National Association of Landscape Professionals, chose this week to be the focus of lawns: the benefits and how they should be cared for properly. An emerald green lawn that grows thick and lush, and is weed, disease and pest free can often draw criticism from neighbors. Why? Here are a few reasons we hear:
- How much water are they wasting?
- They must use tons of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides!
- That homeowner must care more about their perfect lawn than the environment!
- A fortune must be spent to keep up such a gorgeous lawn?
If these are remarks you’ve made about another person’s lawn, or heard them made about your own lawn, we’re here to offer up another perspective. Beautiful lawns aren’t always maintained with chemicals!
Sure, in many cases across DFW, homeowners do indeed use chemical additives to keep their lawns healthy and green. But when you focus on building healthy soil and take care of your lawn using a scheduled organic maintenance plan and products, you too can have a gorgeous green lawn - a lawn you can feel great about.
Now, when you grow your lawn organically, there are a few things you’ll need to get used to - like a few weeds here and there now and then. A perfect monoculture lawn (only one species) can be very challenging to create without the use of chemical pesticides. But a healthy lawn that is maintained organically and grown in bio-diverse healthy soil will be better able to choke out weeds naturally. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see a few now and then. Best thing to do is yank them as soon as you see them to keep them going to seed.
As your soil gets healthier, your lawn will develop deeper, stronger roots, use less water and be better able to stand up to common pests and diseases. Which means it will also look better. Feed the soil and it will do a better job of feeding your lawn without toxins.
A Green Lawn is more than just a Pretty Place to Play
While lawns can seem like a waste of resources, you might be surprised to learn some of the ways your lawn can also be an essential part of a healthy ecosystem.
- Lawns clean the air. They capture dust and other pollutants.
- Lawns reduce water runoff and soil erosion. ‘
- They provide oxygen (enough said!).
- Lawns bring communities together. A soft green lawn free of disease and pests makes a great place for neighbors and families to gather and relax.
- Lawns absorb carbon dioxide then break it down into carbon & oxygen!
- Did you know...a 50’x50’ patch of lawn produces enough oxygen for a family of four.
- Without a lawn, where would your children or pets play, while the adults relax?
- Want to know more soil facts? Visit this fun post HERE.
No lawns? No good.
We do understand that in some parts of the country, including here in North Texas, lawns can be considered controversial. But often, it’s the lack of understanding of the benefits lawns can bring to urban environments that fuels the controversy. The lawn itself isn’t the culprit - it’s how it’s maintained and what types of toxins or pollutants are used to keep it looking good that should draw a critical eye.
The truth is, if we banished lawns from our urban environment, this would be a true danger to our environment and Ecosystem.
Healthy Soil = Healthy Lawn.
While we love and admire strong green grass, we know that focusing on soil health is truly the only way area lawns will thrive long term. While our soils in North Texas are full of nutrients they are mostly bound up in the the tough clay texture. Our Soil Building Plan uses amendments such as our homemade compost extract, earthworm castings, humic acid and dry fertilizer so your soil is able to feed the plants and microorganisms growing in it. The end result will be a robust, gorgeous lawn that you, kids, pets and friends can roll around on without the concern of toxic chemicals.
So if you aren’t up to speed on your lawn facts, Lawn Care Week is a great time to get caught up! If you have questions about how to transition your lawn to an organic care plan, or are more interested in our services and how we do what we do, our website and blog is full of information so stick around a bit and read up.
With the New Year right around the corner, it’s time to start making that list of resolutions. If you are thinking of improving the health of your family by eating more organic foods, spending more time outdoors, or just making a commitment to refreshing your outdoor space, why add your home environment to the list? Landscapes maintained using synthetic chemicals can expose your family to a host of hazards. By choosing organic lawn care, you can resolve to build a healthier family and healthier soil.
Go organic for the kids!
Just as a solid foundation is necessary for your home, healthy soil is the building block of a beautiful lawn. If you’ve been maintaining your lawn with synthetics, know that your soil could take some time to recover. Building up the natural populations of beneficial microbes and improving texture won’t happen overnight. But if you stick with a systematic program of healthy soil building, you’ll start to see the difference in your lawn and landscape plants as the soil becomes more bioactive. Our Soil Building Program helps rebuilds your soil.
What makes organic lawn care worth the time?
- Healthy soil reduces water waste so you use water more efficiently.
- Healthy soil reduces water runoff, and helps water drain properly.
- Lawns will require less fertilization when growing in healthy, nutrient rich soil.
- Healthy lawns are better able to resist pests and diseases than weak plants.
- Healthy lawns that are vigorous are better able to choke out weeds naturally.
- Weeds love bad soil...boost your soil and fewer weeds will take hold.
- Healthy lawns growing in healthy soil help reduce soil erosion.
We know soil may not be a sexy topic...but healthy topsoil is crucial to the health of the environment and us.
Growing your family?
Whether you are adopting a new puppy or expecting a child, you want to make sure their environment is safe. Kids and pets play in the backyard, roll around in the grass and sometimes they’ll even eat the soil. Maintaining your lawn organically will cut down on exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Reducing the chemicals in your home environment can have many health benefits.
Are you a DIY’er? Bookmark our blog and resources page to keep up to date on your organic landscape’s seasonal needs, pests to look out for and which fungal diseases are lurking in your lawn. Looking to gain back some precious time in 2017? We can help!