1702 Lakeside Avenue, Suite 6 ◦ St. Augustine, FL 32084 ◦ (904) 827-1781
Weed Control, Pest Control & Fertilization for Residential & Commercial Turf
Quarterly Perimeter Pest Control for Residences
It's that time of year! Our annual lawn program commenced in late January, and will continue into February, with our applications of a custom-blended, slow release fertilizer for this particular time of year, combined with a pre and post emergence herbicide for the control of weeds.
If I had to describe this winter in one word, I would have to say, "CRAZY"! One day we are lucky to get out of the 50's and the next day it's in the high 70's or low 80's. Depending on your home’s location, you may have received frost, or a freeze, which may have resulted in damage to your turf and ornamentals. This month through March, and possibly April, we will most likely receive more winter temperatures with the potential for additional frosts/freezes. Once we are fully into spring, with consistent warm days and nights, you may question whether that damage to your turf, and/or plantings, is permanent.
Here are a few things to remember:
Turfgrasses: St. Augustine grass is a semi-tropical grass which is NOT meant to be green year round. In most parts of NE Florida, lawns enter dormancy in late fall/early winter which results in a brown, or brown’ish, lawn throughout the season. It can be damaged by frosts and freezes, particularly so if it hasn’t gone fully dormant and had time to adapt to the cold weather. How do you know what is in dormancy and what has been damaged? Time is the only way to truly tell. Until we have consistently warm weather in the spring, and have fully started the growing season, it is very difficult to differentiate between the two because both appear brown. With the help of our spring fertilizer application, and the correct cultural practices by you (proper watering and correct mowing height and frequency) you may be surprised to find what you thought was damaged, or even dead, was actually dormant.
Consequently, you may get an advanced case of spring fever and want to mow your lawn too short to rid it of the brown grass. This is a sure recipe for disaster! Remember thatthe shorter you mow, the more shallow the root system of your grass, which in turn can lead to more winter damage. St. Augustine grass should ALWAYS be maintained at least a height of 3.5 to 4.5 inches. By maintaining it at the correct height you avoid exposing the new and very tender growth to future frigid weather. Furthermore, you do not want to “dethatch” your lawn. This process tears up the runners of your St. Augustine grass, which is how it grows; FYI: Grass clippings left in the lawn do NOT constitute thatch.
Weeds: During our winter months going into spring, you may notice you have a lot of weeds in your lawn. Why do weeds grow so well this time of year? Firstly, many weed seeds germinate in cold weather, so it stands to reason that while your lawn is dormant, those weeds will thrive. While your turf is in its dormancy there is more exposed soil than usual, providing the perfect place for those weeds to grow. Under normal conditions a healthy St. Augustine grass lawn will crowd out would be weeds
Secondly, weed seeds are carried in the wind from neighboring lawns, as well as by commercial mowers (if your lawn is cared for by a lawn maintenance company). This can mean that if your neighbor has a weed problem, you are likely to end up with the same issue. Weeds at the start of the growing season are normal and is why our annual lawn program, based on the University of Florida’s recommendations, commences with weed control applications. We know it is frustrating to hear, but the key to weed control this time of year is PATIENCE.
Ornamentals: Again, depending on your location, as well as the location of your ornamentals around your home, they may have received damage from frosts/freezes. It is important to remember that premature pruning poses a risk to your plants should we receive additional frosts/freezes.
Herbaceous plants are very susceptible to frost and freeze damage and covering them may not fully protect these plants when temperature dip low or stay below freezing for long periods. Pansies, violas and snapdragons will most likely recover with time, but impatiens and other tender plants that were unprotected may not recover. Only time will tell.
Cold damage to woody plants is dependent upon species and is going to be the most severe on tropical plants that are planted north of their normal adaptation zone. Plants like ixora and hibiscus may exhibit damage which is characterized by blackened leaf tissue. Additionally, the leaves will quickly dry out and turn brown. Part of the plant may remain green, so it’s important to wait to see the extent of the damage before pruning any dead wood. Some limbs may recover and produce new leaves. If you prune too early, the green material will stimulate new growth leaving it very susceptible to later frost/freeze damage. You should always wait to prune any damaged material that still has green tissue under the bark until the risk of future frosts/freezes is gone.
Frosts/freezes can produce immediate damage to the flowers and leaves of some varieties of palms and can also deform embryonic leaves that are just forming in the bud. These deformations may not show until spring or early summer when the damaged leaves emerge. If the bud of the palm freezes, the palm may continue to grow for several months only to die in late summer. Wait to prune any damaged fronds that still have green tissue until the risk of future frosts/freezes is gone.
We know this time of year can be discouraging with our dismal, brown lawns and ornamentals, but there is a lot of research and science behind the aforementioned tips. When you exercise the correct cultural practices and follow those tips, you will promote a beautiful, and more importantly a healthy, lawn and landscape for you to enjoy during our warmer weather months.