The Sunshine state is truly the ideal place to live and work. With the sun shining year round, your yard is the perfect place to host a BBQ, watch the kids play, lounge by the pool or even take a nap under the shade of a tree.
Having a healthy and beautiful lawn in Florida is important when it comes to maintaining the aesthetics of your home, but all of that sunshine and Florida’s humid climate can put a lot stress on your lawn. Our year round tropical climate makes keeping your lawn healthy and beautiful a year-round task. Florida is susceptible to grass and plant funguses and other pathogens, salt intrusion and poor water retention, providing the perfect conditions for invading insects and weeds to thrive. Considering the multiple types of grass found in Florida, in combination with the different types of common pests that are known to destroy the aesthetic value of Florida Lawns, all Florida homeowners can benefit from a brief Florida Lawn 101.
Types of Grasses Found in Florida
Florida is home to certain types of grass that flourish well in warm, humid climates. While many lawns consist of a mixture of grass varieties, let’s take a closer look at some of the specific types commonly found in the Sunshine state:
- Augustine grass/Floratam
This dark green, course grass is probably the most common grass found in warmer climates. With a broad blade and rounded tip, St. Augustine grass (also known as Floratam) requires a lot of moisture in order to survive. In summer month’s it grows quickly, requiring weekly mowing. During the winter, spring and fall months the grass can generally be cut every five weeks.
- Bahia grass
This soft, deep green grass tends to do well in sandy soil and warmer conditions. Similar to the St. Augustine blade, Bahia grass grows quickly in the summer month’s but slows during the other seasons. Unlike St. Augustine grass, Bahia grass has a pointed tip instead of a rounded one. Even though the blade itself grows slowly, the seed stalks tend to grow rapidly.
- Bermuda grass
With a deep green color and a sharply pointed blade, Bermuda grass can most often be spotted on the rolling hills of the golf courses in Florida. Chosen for its dense quality, this grass requires consistent watering and fertilizing.
- Centipede grass
Centipede grass prefers more humid, warm areas and does not require as much fertilizer as other grasses. The blades themselves tend to be pointier, and grow very low, almost horizontally to the ground.
- Zoysia grass
This dark green, turf type grass tends to have a softer blade, and is the most susceptible to damage due to lack of moisture. Homeowners like this grass because of its ability to stand up to foot traffic, as well as provide an attractive choice for lawn cover.
Common Lawn Pests found in Florida
Due to Florida’s environmental conditions and warm weather, many pests tend to thrive in both the Northern and Southern parts of the state, causing headaches for many homeowners as their lawns become susceptible to damage. Actively seeking on-going pest management and lawn maintenance is essential to identifying the culprit at hand early on, saving homeowners’ money in the long run, as well as unnecessary additional damage to the lawn.
Some of the pests that might be causing damage to your lawn include:
- Chinch Bugs
If you’ve noticed areas in your lawn turning yellow, and then a reddish color before dying, chances are Chinch bugs are around. Partial to the St. Augustine grass, Chinch bugs extract the liquid found in grass through their needle like beaks, depleting the grass of its nutrients, often feasting in large groups. Since Chinch bugs like the sunny areas of the grass, you may notice patches on your lawn, especially in well exposed areas.
- Mole Crickets
Preferring the warm coastline of the southeastern United States, Mole Crickets can be particularly destructive to your lawn if left untreated. Feeding on the roots of mostly Bermuda grass and Bahia grass, Mole crickets, tunnel through the soil causing the roots of the grass to loosen eventually drying out the grass and killing it. Though hard to spot, you’ll notice evidence of mole crickets by dry patches of grass on your lawn and signs of tunneling in the soil.
- Sod Webworms
Adult sod webworms are in fact a small brown moth that lives in turf grasses. Though the adults do not actually consume the grass, their offspring are the main cause of lawn destruction. After the female sod webworms lay their eggs, these eggs hatch and the small caterpillars that emerge begin feeding on the top growths of the grass where they have hatched, usually in the spring time.
- Army Worms
St. Augustine grass and Bermuda grass are often times the feeding choice for Army worms. Growing up to 2” in length with gray/yellow stripes going down its body, army worms feed mostly at night on the blades of these warm weather grasses. Since these insects love chewing on grass, you’ll notice brown areas on the blades that indicate where an army worm has chewed.
White grubs in particular, are the most damaging turf insect pest. Feeding on the roots of grass plants, they tend to be most active in mid to late summer. Just under an inch in length and shaped like a “C”, these bugs can go undetected for a long time before evidence, such as irregular sections of brown grass, appears. Since they have been busy eating away at the roots of the grass, the damaged turf can be easily detached from the soil.
As their name implies, Spittlebugs produce a white, ‘spit’ like protective barrier that can appear as a frothy substance on plants and grass. Adult spittlebugs do not produce this foam, but rather the nymphs that have hatched in early spring who then adhere themselves to plants and begin feeding. In particular, the Two-lined spittlebug damages grasses such as St. Augustine and Bermuda grass by causing patches of turf to turn yellow and eventually, brown. Proper fertilization techniques can aid in discouraging the development of Spittlebugs in your garden.
The Grass is Always Greener
Tips for Ornamental Care
Ornamental plants generally require little care and can provide interesting textures and colors to any garden. The benefit of ornamental plants is that they can flourish in diverse soil conditions. Unlike lawn grasses that require specific care and treatment, ornamental plants can be considered a bit hardier, despite their often delicate appearance.
Some ways to keep your ornamental plants happy among the rest of your garden:
- Maintain regular fertilizer, pruning and pest control.
- Add compost to the soil when transplanting ornamental plants.
- Proper drainage and irrigation are important despite moisture retentive plants.
- Periodically trim your ornamental plants, preferably in the spring as new growth occurs.
- Allow enough space for your plants to grow.
Tips for Grass care, Fertilization & Weed Control
In addition to active pest management control, proper fertilization and weed control techniques should be used to help maintain healthy, vibrant grass. With year round tropical conditions, applying best practices to lawn care can extend the life of your lawn and provide a beautiful landscape for you to enjoy.
- For thin grass, consider seeding it during the spring. If overseeding, it can sometimes be helpful to choose a different grass variety that has been grown for natural insect resistance.
- Paying special attention to the type of grass ensures that the appropriate amount is cut. For example, Floritam grass should be cut at 4”, while Zoysi grass is typically cut between 2 -3 inches.
- Watering your lawn less frequently, but with more water helps ensure that the roots are receiving adequate moisture, which will encourage them to grow deeper.
- Fertilization applications are best done in spring and late summer.
- Proper mowing techniques can also ensure that fertilization treatments have had time to work. Ideally, waiting a day before and after your lawn has been fertilized makes for the optimal time for mowing.
- Weed control is best applied when the weeds have grown a bit to allow the solution to adhere from the top right down to the root
With Truly’s Lawn Care program, an initial analysis can help determine current problems pertaining to pests and overall health of your lawn. Taking into consideration everything from grass type, nutrition, watering, fertilization and more, Truly’s Lawn Care experts can identify areas that are prone to weed or insects and provide tips on how you can maintain a beautiful lawn. Contact Truly Nolen today to see how we can develop a customized lawn care plan that will keep you and your toes happy all year round!