If you're not an expert on lawn care, don't listen to your cousins from up north. Their lawn care methods are different than what you need to do to take care of your lawn in the south.
For example, they may advise you to plant grass seeds in the fall. But it would help if you planted your warm-season grass seed in late spring or early summer. Whether growing a new lawn or maintaining an established one, our guide to increasing warm-season grasses will help you achieve beautiful, healthy turf.
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What is Warm-Season Grass?
Warm-season grasses prefer the warm conditions of the southern United States. They do well in areas where the summers are long, and the winters are mild. When temperatures warm up in spring, these grasses turn green. And when temperatures drop in autumn, they go into dormancy.
Cool-season grasses do well in the cool temperatures found in the northern United States. They stay green during the mild summers and long winters. When temperatures are still cool in early spring, they will start to grow. When it starts to get too cold in the winter, they will go into a dormant state.
States that are in between the North and South have a changing climate. In the summer, it is very hot, and it is icy in the winter. It means that both cool-season and warm-season grasses can grow here.
Types of Warm-Season Grass
- Zoysiagrass is a type of grass that creates a dense, carpet-like lawn. It is very tolerant of drought, foot traffic, and cold temperatures.
- Bermudagrass is a good choice for areas where many people walk or run. This type of grass grows quickly and can heal rapidly too.
- St. Augustinegrass is a coarse-textured turf with broad, thick leaves. A St. Augustine lawn can be grown from plugs or sod rather than grass seed. The grass does not produce a sufficient number of viable seeds to be commercially available.
- Centipedegrass is a low-maintenance type of grass. It is suitable for low-traffic lawns and has a yellow-green lawn. It can also tolerate infertile soils.
- Buffalograss is a type of grass that can tolerate drought well. There are newer varieties with a dark green, dense, and short-growing turf.
- Bahiagrass is a light-colored grass with a coarse texture. It often grows in pastures and helps control erosion.
- Carpetgrass is turfgrass that is greenish-yellow and has a rough surface. It can tolerate partial shade and moist, sandy soils.
Get to Know Your Soil First
Before growing your warm-season grass, it is essential to learn about your soil. The health of your soil impacts the health of your turf.
Soil tests can tell you a lot about the properties of your soil. You can learn about things like:
- Fertility rates
- percentage of organic matter
- The surface texture (relative proportions of sand, silt, and clay)
Although at-home soil testing is available, it will not provide you with the same level of detail as a laboratory soil test.
A soil test lets you know how fertile your soil is. A soil test in a lab will also tell you what you can do to improve the fertility of your soil.
Your local cooperative extension can test your soil for you. Visit the website or contact the staff to learn more about how to prepare and mail a soil sample.
How to Grow Warm-Season Grass
There are three ways to establish a lawn from scratch: grass seed, sod, or hydroseed. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.
Before you put down your grass seed or sod, you must ensure that the soil is healthy by collecting and testing a soil sample. Based on the test results, you may need to add things to the soil, like lime to increase pH levels or compost to increase organic matter.
Planting Grass Seed
During Warm-season should be planting grass seeds between late spring and early summer. The best time to grow it is when the daytime temperature is 80 degrees or higher and the soil temperature is at least 70 degrees.
Growing your grass from seed can be a cheap way to get a lawn. But it will take longer than using sod. You might not have an instant lawn, but you will have more money to spend on other things.
Grass seeds can take up to 30 days to germinate. It will be ready for its first cut about two months after seeding. However, it will take one to two years for the lawn to reach full maturity.
Grass seed lawns can often get patches where the wind and rain have disturbed the seeds. Cover your grass seed with net burlap or cheesecloth to hold it in place, especially on slopes.
When you lay sod, it is a layer of grass and soil that has been taken from the ground and moved to another place. It usually comes in long rolls or small square pieces that you or someone else can put on the ground. Sod gives you an instant lawn (it looks like one right away) and is ready to use in two weeks.
Unlike grass seed, sod can be installed at any time of year. The ground needs to be not frozen, covered in snow, or soaking wet.
During the Warm-season sod should be laid in mid to late spring if you want it to have the best chance for success.
Sod is a quick way to get a beautiful lawn. Still, it is expensive—labor and materials for professionally placed sod range from $0.87 to $1.76 per square foot. The cost of sodding a 2,500-square-foot yard can range from $2,175 to $4,400.
Hydroseeding is the process of spreading grass seeds in a slurry. The slurry is made up of mulch, grass seeds, fertilizer, binding agents, water, and changes to the soil. The slurry consists of mulch, grass seeds, fertilizer, binding agents, water, and soil additions. The mixture is often tinted with green dye to make it easy to see.
The mulch and binding chemicals in the slurry shield the seeds from the wind, and rain prevents erosion. You won't have to use mesh burlap or cheesecloth like you would with traditional seeding.
Hydroseeding is a way to quickly and cheaply seed a large area. A professional will use a hydroseeder, a hose-like machine that sprays the slurry, to do the seeding.
The fertilizer in the slurry helps lawns to grow quickly. It takes about 5-7 days for them to germinate, and after 30 days, they are ready to be mowed for the first time. However, a seeded hydro lawn can take up to a year to establish fully.
The best time to hydroseed a warm-season grass is in the spring.
Mowing your lawn is a chore, but it's essential to do. Allowing your grass to grow too tall provides an ideal environment for bugs and diseases to thrive.
Mowing your lawn often will help it stay healthy. Here are some pointers to remember when mowing your lawn:
Sharpen the Blades
If you use dull mower blades to cut your lawn, you will not do a good job. The blades will not cut the grass cleanly, and it will not look good.
Using a dull blade on your lawnmower will rip the grass. It can be stressful for your turf and make your lawn look untidy. The more you stress your grass, the more likely it will become infested with pests or illnesses.
Follow the Rule of One-Third
At a time, only cut off one-third of the grass blade's length. Otherwise, you'll damage your lawn. If your grass is 3 inches tall, don't chop off more than 1 inch.
Time the Last Mow
Remember to give your lawn one last mow before winter arrives. It will help it stay healthy and grow strong through the cold season.
Some other guides might suggest you mow lower than usual on the last mow to avoid snow molds. But this isn't always necessary. Sometimes, if you mow too low, it can stress your turf.
You can cut your lawn to its usual height on the last mow before winter. Your turf should be safe from snow molds if you do this, and don't let the yard become too tall in the winter.
Don’t Mow Too Low
It's critical to mow your lawn at the proper height. You can "scalp" your grass if you trim it too short. Scalping removes a lot of the grass blade, making it hard for the grass to photosynthesize.
Keep your mower blade at a height higher than the recommended height for the grass to encourage a healthy lawn.
If you want a healthy lawn, you need to water it the right way. Here are some tips to help you water your lawn:
- Your lawn requires 1 to 1.5 inches of water every week. By placing a few tuna cans within the water's reach, you can determine how much water your lawn has received. Measure the water depth within the cans once you've completed watering. The average depth of all the cans indicates how much water your yard has gotten.
- Suppose you want to have a healthy lawn and water it less often for more extended periods. Watering it frequently and for short periods will not make your lawn healthy. You are better off watering your lawn deeply once a week.
- Water your lawn in the morning to absorb the water before it evaporates in the afternoon sun.
- Avoid watering your lawn in the evening. Even though the sun will be set for several hours, your lawn will still require sunlight to dry. Watering it at night will make it wetter, which will attract pests and diseases.
- If you see that your lawn is starting to turn a grayish-blue color, Alternatively, It's time to water your lawn if you can see your footprints when you walk on it.
- You should only water the lawn when the temperature is above 40 degrees. In winter, the wind can blow tiny water droplets, and they will freeze to the grass. If this happens for more than a month, it can suffocate the turf.
It may be tempting to apply nitrogen to your lawn to make it green as the early bloomers reveal the first signs of spring. But you'll want to avoid doing this.
The warm-season grass should be fertilized from the middle of spring until the end of summer. It is after the dormant lawn has turned green again. If you fertilize your grass before it turns green, the turf will grow leaves at the expense of healthy roots.
It is tempting to buy the brightest-colored fertilizer at the store, but it is essential to avoid these fertilizers. Applying the incorrect type of fertilizer to your lawn may cause more harm than good. You will want to refer to your laboratory soil test results, which will give you your lawn's ideal nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratio.
The N-P-K ratio is the proportion of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) in a fertilizer. A fertilizer package that reads 30-0-10 has a 30% nitrogen, 0% phosphorus, and 10% potassium content.
Good soil has a lot of space for the grassroots and helpful microbes to get water, food, and oxygen. When the soil becomes compact, the space for these things gets smaller. Make it difficult for grass to eat, drink, or breathe.
Aeration is making small holes in the ground to relieve soil compaction. A spading fork, spiky aerator shoes, or a motorized aerator that rips plugs of soil from the ground can all be used.
Summer is the optimum time to aerate warm-season grass because it is actively growing.
You may need to aerate your lawn once a year, especially if your soil is clay. If your soil is sandy, you might only need to aerate every three years.
Just as you would exfoliate dead skin from your body, you should remove thatch from your lawn. Between the grass blades and the soil's surface, thatch is a layer of dead and living organic matter.
A thin layer of thatch is suitable for your turf, but if it gets too thick, 1 inch or more, you need to remove it. A thick thatch layer can invite pests and diseases, making it harder for water and fertilizer to reach the grassroots.
A mechanical dethatcher is the most effective way to remove excess thatch. It is a tool that you can rent from your local home improvement store. You should dethatch your warm-season grass in late spring or early summer.
If you have spots on your lawn, don't worry. You can fix it by overseeding. It is the process of spreading grass seed over your existing lawn.
You can target patches before they appear if you overseed your lawn every year. To encourage new growth, overseed your warm-season lawn in the spring or early summer.
Overseed for Winter Green
Your warm-season lawn will turn tannish-brown and lifeless when the weather cools in the fall. It doesn't mean that your grass is dying. If you want to maintain your lawn green for a more extended period, you can overseed it with perennial ryegrass.
Perennial ryegrass is the grass that overgrows in excellent conditions. It will turn your brown lawn green again in the fall and winter, but it will stop growing when the temperatures get too cold. The perennial ryegrass will die off in the spring, and your warm-season turf will take over.
You can overseed your lawn in the fall with perennial ryegrass. The best time to do this is from mid-October to mid-November.
If you want to plant centipedegrass, remember that it doesn't do well when overseeded with winter colors.
Pests and Diseases
Many pests and diseases can invade your lawn. It is essential to identify the problem correctly to treat it properly. If you misidentify the problem, you will delay proper treatment, which could kill your grass.
Do you want to know if pests are attacking your lawn? Here are some pest and disease symptoms to be aware of:
- Individual turf blade discoloration
- Turf discoloration in patches
- Grass that is dead or dying
- Fungus, molds, or mushrooms visible on the lawn
- In the yard, there are holes or mounds of soil (caused by moles, gophers, or voles)
If you don't take care of your lawn, pests and fungi will be more likely to attack it. Pests and fungi are looking for weak areas to invade, so taking care of your lawn is best to protect it.
Weeds can be a big nuisance in your yard. They spread quickly, which makes them hard to control. Weeds also compete with your grass for sunlight, space, water, and nutrients. That makes it harder for your lawn to thrive and look nice.
If you have a problem with weeds, there are two things you can do. You can improve your lawn maintenance practices and use herbicides. The pre-emergent herbicide will stop new weeds from growing. In contrast, the post-emergent herbicide will get rid of the existing ones.
You can prevent weeds from growing in the summer by applying a pre-emergent herbicide when the soil is around 55 degrees. You can also stop weed growth in the winter by applying a pre-emergent herbicide when the soil temperature reaches 70 degrees and continues to drop.
The healthier your lawn, the less likely it will be to get weeds.
Growing a lush warm-season lawn can be difficult. It takes a lot of work, such as mowing, fertilizing, aerating, and dethatching in the sun.
If you don't have time to take care of your lawn, you can hire a professional to do it for you. Who knows how to take care of your lawn and make sure it looks good.