St Augustine - divit holes, matted mounds and dead areas

Baby G (Z10, 300?CH, SoCal-LA)(10)March 19, 2014

We have St Augustine grass that has a few problems to fix.

The grass went all yellow in the winter months -- which here is just a little colder, it's not cold. There are trianglular spots where the grass didn't come back, and I think I've figured out that the water misses it entirely in those places. Ooops. When we bought this house 1.5 years ago the sprinklers were set to go off every day. It is HOT here in the summer but that seems crazy.

2nd problem: uneven/unsure footing. There are big long divits. Actually more like potholes, hidden by the grass. Some are pretty deep, and I think the dog who left here before us dug them. Can we just fill them in with dirt? In other places I can feel the matted old grass beneath the new grass. It's thick like matted hair and I'm afraid I will turn my ankle on it.

I've read a couple of the St A posts. It sounds like mowing at the highest setting, watering only once per 1 or 2 weeks and feeding it once per year with corn or soybean meal is the right thing to do for maintenance, but what do I do about the unevenness? Should I dig up the dead spots? The matted parts? Just throw dirt in the big holes?

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

You've done some homework. Thank you.

Where do you live? The zones don't mean a thing as far as established lawns. Need to know your climate as well as soil situation.

The matted grass is probably because of the daily watering. If you simply spray the area with molasses (3 ounces per 1,000 square feet of lawn) that should kick start the bacteria and fungi which decompose the grass. Do not run a dethatcher over St Augustine. That will completely shred it and usually kills it.

Watering should be done deep (1 inch) and infrequently. Use this as a guide:

Temps in the 70s: every 3 weeks
Temps in the 80s: every 2 weeks
Temps in the 90s: every week
Temps above 100: every 5 days

Yes, you can simply use soil to fill in the low spots. I've used soil, sand, and zeolite with success. Zeolite is what the make "clay" kitty litter out of. If you can find it be sure it has no baking soda or any chemicals in it. I would not try to fill it all at one time. Sprinkle a little filler in every week or so until you are happy with it.

The reason the grass died in the triangular spots is likely because of the daily watering...and sprinklers not hitting the area. You might find that once you start watering much longer, the water will move under the grass to the triangular areas. Just to be sure, though, you might have a pro look at it. You don't need a pro if you're good with DIY sprinkler projects. Once you get water on the area, the surrounding grass should spread back to fill in.

Once per year with organic fertilizer is not often enough if you want to have it green all year long. I fertilize 5x per year. I use the federal holidays as a guide. Since it is fairly warm in the early months in San Antonio I start on Washington's Birthday. Second is Memorial Day, then 4th of July, Labor Day, and last is Thanksgiving.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 7:22PM
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Baby G (Z10, 300?CH, SoCal-LA)(10)

Oh wow. THANK YOU!!!!

We live in Southern California. On top of a small "mountain" in L.A., inland from the ocean about 20 miles. Our lawn is roughly 350 sf. USDA 10

Those temps are really helpful. What about lower temps? 50 or 60 degrees?

And should I dillute the molasses and spray it with a spray bottle?

This post was edited by babyg on Thu, Mar 20, 14 at 12:47

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 11:21PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Awww, jeeze! On top of what mountain 20 miles inland? Southern Calif is the bane of my existence. For 25 years I lived in Riverside, Pomona, Downey, Hawthorne, Indio, Stanton, and Palm Desert. So I know enough to know that your mountain is not the same as anyone else's mountain. You'll need to name the community. It even makes a difference which side of the top of the mountain you are on.

At temps lower than 60s the soil should be watered monthly just to keep the microbes happy. Most are not that active below 50 degrees, but some are only active below 50 degrees, so they need food and water, too.

I don't dilute molasses. I use an ortho hose end sprayer and remove the screen from the bottom of the down tube inside the bottle. The suction from the water blowing through the nozzle sucks the molasses up just fine. But if you want to dilute it, go for it.

What are your watering restrictions like?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 7:58PM
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