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
This month marks the start of our Annual Lawn Program applications. February's application will consist of a custom blended slow-release fertilizer for this particular time of year and a pre and post emergence herbicide for the control of weeds.
In December and January we received numerous calls about brown spots in lawns. Some were concerned that they had insect or disease issues when in actuality their lawns were in their natural state of dormancy. If you are new to the area you may not realize that St. Augustine grass is semi-tropical which means it is NOT meant to be green year round. Additionally, we have had several freezes, two being "hard", which resulted in some having winter damage to their turf. If you are indeed new to this area, you may not also know that NE Florida winters typically consist of cold days and nights with intermittant warm days and warm to cool nights. Our spring growing season, when our turf slowly comes out of dormancy and begins growing, all depends upon when we begin receiving consistent warm weather. It may be mid to late March, or even April, depending on what our weather holds for us each year. Once we are fully into the growing season, with those consistent warm days and nights, you may wonder whether the damage to your turf, and/or ornamentals, is permanent. Here are a few things to remember…
Turfgrasses: Turfgrasses can be damaged by frost and freezes, particularly so if it hasn’t gone fully dormant and had time to adapt to the cold weather. In NE Florida our lawns enter dormancy anywhere from late fall to early winter which results in a brownish lawn throughout much of the season. So how do you know what is dormant and what is damage? Only time will tell. Until we fully enter our spring growing season with consistent warm weather it will be hard to tell which it is because both dormant and damaged areas will remain brown until that time. With the help of our springtime slow-release fertilizer application, and the correct cultural practices by you (the proper watering and correct mowing height and frequency), you may be shocked to find what you thought was damaged and/or dead was actually dormant.
You may get an advanced case of spring fever and decide to mow your lawn too low to rid it of the brown grass. We cannot stress enough how detrimental that is for your lawn. Remember that the shorter you mow, the more shallow the root system of your grass will be, which in turn will lead to more winter damage. St. Augustine grass should always be maintained at 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 any future cold weather. Additionally, 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).
Going into this spring, if not already, you may be noticing 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 which means that while your lawn is dormant the weeds will thrive. Secondly, while your lawn is dormant there is more than likely more exposed soil than usual, allowing the perfect place for them to grow. Under normal conditions a healthy St. Augustine grass lawn will crowd out any would be weeds. Lastly, weed seeds are carried in the wind from neighboring yards. This usually means that if your neighbor has a weed problem, you more than likely will end up with that same problem. The answer to the ever frustrating weed issue this time of year is patience.
Annual Color and Succulents: Herbaceous plants are very susceptible to freeze damage and covering them may not fully protect these plants when temperature dip into the low 20’s or stay below freezing for long times. 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.
Shrubs and Trees: 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 be exhibiting frost and freeze damage, which is characterized by the blackening of leaf tissue immediately following a freeze. The leaves will quickly dry out and turn brown. Part of the plant may remain green, so wait to see the extent of damage before pruning out 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 freeze damage. You should wait to prune any damaged material that still has green tissue under the bark until the until the risk of frost/freeze is gone.
Palms: Freezing temperatures can produce immediate damage to flowers and leaves on some palms and it may 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. Do not prune any damaged fronds from palms if they still contain green tissue.