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Starting out with a new lawn in West Florida  RSS feed

 
Steve Page
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I have bot my house late last summer. Summers in FL are hot an tropical. I have a grass in the front I want to kill and replant. I also have a bush area where nut weed grows in the mulch area. The area is about 25' x 60' and another area about 25' x 25'.

Not sure how to do it without using round up which I want to avoid. The nutweed I can use another chemical I know but want to avoid this as well.

The area of concern above is in full sun and I have well water system. I will go to FL Ext Svc to obtain a soil sample soon to help me with what to do next after I remove the crabgrass sorta some type of thin centipede grass that grows when your St.Augustine dyes do to neglect and disapears. I want to replant St. Augustine in this area to match the other areas which are shaded.

I also have in other areas 4 huge oak trees which makes it hard for the St. Augustine to cover the complete area due to not enough sun. I live in one of those deed restricted commuities where almost everyone does the St. Augustine look. I don't mind being different but not sure what to do in the Shade areas that are near the house where the trees shade it as well. Some bare areas are between the the trees branches of the trees vertually touching and where lack of sun seems to be the problem as well. Soon the weeds will start to want to grow in these areas I think.

Help from anyone is welcome please.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1422
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Steve,
First the nutgrass or nutweed: yes that stuff is painful. There are several plants that answer to that name but they all just need to be pulled up. Stick them in a black plastic garbage bag in the sun and they will be great compost in the fall.

Second, grass under the trees and the deed restricted area:
Growing grass in the area that you describe will probably be an ongoing problem. What about shaped beds of dichondra and/or ajuga? Surely the neighbors wouldn’t object to that instead of grass – all of the serious ornamental gardeners plant stuff like that. I am including a link to both plants. They are both shade lovers so should do well under trees.

http://www.floridata.com/ref/a/ajug_rep.cfm
http://www.floridaplants.com/land_lawns.htm

I have dichondra growing in my own yard and it NEVER needs mowing. Also, by planting a mix of dichondra and ajuga you can avoid the problems of monocropping. Add a few hosta plants and you should have a beautiful garden under the trees.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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I'm a couple hours est of you. If you have the same soil as me, sugar sand, the soil test will show next to nothing for nutrients, little organic material, and a strong acid pH. Changing the nature of your soil will be a long slow process. The heat and humidity promote microbial activity. This will consume organic material in your soil at an astounding rate. Fertilizers leach through the sand with each rainfall. Compost can be raked in, but it breaks down rapidly, and is gone without a trace in a summer. Incredible drainage, combined with the sun directly overhead dry the soil instantly. For grasses, not many species will perform for the long term. Bahia, centipede, and St Augustine are the main choices. The oak trees shed their leaves in the spring, covering the soil and grass with slow to break down leaves having a pH of about 5.7 right at a time when the grass needs to be established coming out of winter dormancy. I feel your pain. I'm trying to grow vegetables in this stuff.

Nut Grass
Also known as nut sedge. Try sugar. Sprinkle it over your lawn, water it in. The sugar promotes those microbes to eat and breed. About a pound for every 250 sqft. Repeat every 3-4 weeks, works best in the spring. The microbes are able to reproduce in such numbers that they go after the root nodules, killing off the nut grass. Other grasses are not affected. This will leave bare spots of sand when the microbe population crashes, but so will herbicides. The sugar won't poison your kids for the next few years.

Oak Leaves
Gather these up. Grass has a hard time establishing in soil covered by leaves. They are a resource. Make leaf mold and compost. When ready, these can be applied to your soil. In the meantime, the acidic soil could surely use some lime added. Adding lime will need to be done every year or two, but removing the oak leaves will help slow the acid creation.

Mulch
Rake it out from the shrubbery, tear out the nut grass, then mulch anew, good and deep. You can reuse the old mulch. Top it with more. Oak leaves make a fine mulch.

Mow
Gather those clippings, add them to the oak leaf compost.

Well water is much better than city water. At least you are not building up salts in your topsoil.
 
David Hall
Posts: 10
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I'm not sure I understand all that's going on. Nutgrass is a swamp grass that only really thrives in continually moist soil. Kyllinga looks like nutgrass and will thrive in dry soil. Either way they are both hard to control. True nutgrass usually goes away for me especially in areas where I withhold water for a week or so to let the soil dry out.

St Augustine will thrive in the deep shade of your oaks - unless your oak limbs touch the ground. All that is lacking is water and fertilizer. Some of my best St Aug is under deep shade.

I suspect a general lack of good care. Water should be done once a week at about an inch at a time unless the grass dries out earlier. Then go for 1.5 inches at a time. Mulch mow every week at the mower's highest setting. There is never a time when St Aug should be mowed lower than the highest setting. Fertilize at least three times per year with a chemical fert or do what I do. I fertilize with organic fertilizers 5x per year. In FL you can use organics 12x per year if you like. It really (REALLY) improves the appearance.

 
Steve Page
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Update on the lawn. I appreciate the input from Jeanine, Ken & David thank you.

1) Seems the nut weed problem has been resolved.

2) The thin centipede grass needs to go. I am thinking of plugging for reasons of budget. I thought of buying a 1/2 pallet of St. Augustine and cut out my own plugs. Not sure how to cut the little flat of grass 12' x 8 " pieces you buy that come off the pallet. Then cut them into plugs to save some monies. Not sure what to use to cut them into plugs any ideas?

3) Oh I think I will use lime but not sure how much for the soil. Then maybe organic fertilizer. I also next winter use the leaves and create a compost area with grass clippings to make the compost take action. Then in the spring or summer I will have my own mulch.

4) My question is what are some economical organic fertilizers and where can I buy them. How do I know what to use on my lawn.

5)Watering- I think the trees are so big the root system is competing for water with the grass under the trees. I know I have not done any fertilizing so my grass is thin under the trees still. I think I will boost the watering to 1.5 inches. I don't know how to measure it. I guess I can put like pie pans out at different areas of the lawn when watering. I know certain areas I am suspicious the inches of water is not efficient because the crossover spray of the sprinklers is not there enough.

6) Cutting grass too low===Also figured out my wife and son have been cutting the grass so low during the fall, winter to pick up the leaves from the large oaks. Thus, not helping the stability of the lawn. The grass doesn't have a chance to take in what it needs above the ground. I am educating them on the process to avoid weakening the grass.

7)Bugs-- in particular is chinch bugs. I thnd to deal with them in the past. They are something that love to eat at St Augustine grass roots. Is there a natural remedy to exterminate them?
7)
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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1) good

2) A long knife will do the job. 3"x4" is a reasonable size.

3) Just a light sprinkle. Any more will simply wash out with the next rain. You've got a microbe community in the soil. A massive dose can disrupt their balance.

4) Hard to beat compost. Purchased from the big box stores in bags, you'll be hard pressed to find certified organic. Spread a thin layer, rake it in.

5) for the 2 areas you mention, 1.5" of rain is equivalent to nearly 2000 gallons. Running at 2.5 gallons/minute, it will take 13 hours-assuming the sprinklers do their job evenly. Are you using city water?

7) Big eyed bugs are a natural predator of chinch bugs


 
Steve Page
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Ken thanks for your response but maybe you can explain little further a few things as I read your comments.

3) Spreading lime. I have a spreader which I used for fertilizing is this good to use for the lime. I know it is like a powder rather than like a fertilizer with much larger grains.

4)Compost (big box stores). Do you mean like target, kmart, home depot, lowes?

5) I use well water but I don't know how much water comes out of each sprinkler head. I don't know the pressure that comes from the pump. I don't know how to determine how much will come out. I understand you can put a pressure gauge on the line to see the pressure. Then each sprinkler head when you buy it tells you how many inches of water come from them. But for the ones which oscolate (spelling?)and can be adjusted to deflect how far to shoot across the yard can make it hard to determine how much water gets to a certain area. Other heads just pop up and spray which not much adjusting there so I can probably figure it out for them easier. So I guess I am saying this seems like a lot of things to do to help determine how much water is laid out on your lawn. I don't have a pressure gauge and not sure how to put one on or where to by a correct one. Is there a simpler way?

Ken you mentioned "for the 2 areas you mention, 1.5" of rain is equivalent to nearly 2000 gallons. Running at 2.5 gallons/minute, it will take 13 hours-assuming the sprinklers do their job evenly." Are you saying 1.5" is too much. What do you think is enough water. I can only water once a week with the well water in my area. So maybe you can help me a little more and expand on this subject a little if you can.

7) "Big eye bugs are natural predators of chinch bugs." What are you meaning please? I not sure I know what your meaning. Like lady bugs or something. I don't know how to install lady bugs in a grassy area? I am wondering what you might be suggesting.
 
Steve Page
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I thought I saw using hay and just mulch mow it in is good way to add a natural fertilizer? I don't know if that cost a lot here in West Florida and if that is economical. Anyone else try this method?
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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3
A fertilizer spreader will probably do the job just fine. I have used the sack of lime and a cup. Dip the cup into the sack, scoop up some lime, then shake the lime gradually out of the cup onto the ground in a manner that deposits a dusting of lime on most of the ground.

4
Yes, those are what I refer to as big box stores.

5
Residential water pressure is usually between 40 and 55 PSI. To measure your flow rate, fully open a faucet, put a measured container under it (a 5 gallon bucket will do), measure the time it takes to fill the bucket. Arithmetic can help you calculate the gallons per minute your home puts out.
A simpler method to determine if you are applying enough water is to turn the sprinklers, let them run for a day, then check if the ground is moist at a depth of 1 inch. If it's dry, you need more water. If its making puddles, you can reduce the amount of watering.
If you want to measure how much water is reaching an area in your yard, put out a container to capture water. A 6 gallon bucket will do. Turn on the sprinkler, let it run for a while, then measure the volume of water in the bucket and the area the bucket covers.

7
Google is a search engine. Click on the link, type in 'big eye bug', then click on Google Search. You'll find numerous links about the subject. I'm suggesting that if you can find a means of encouraging a big eye bug population, they will help to control the chinch bug population via predation.


 
Steve Page
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I bought a meter which determines the ph level not sure how accurate it is but it shows the PH is about between 7 & 8. So I guess add the lime since the alkality is up.

I also bought some Milorganite which is bird poop. It is slow release of nitrogen. Now I just read this is more of activator but not so much as an protein type fertilizer. I am not wanting to do anything that affects the drain off into the water supply. So I am trying to be careful. Any thoughts.

Does a soil sample test give me more information as to what to do? I never did one before.

Help I do not want to make a mistake and have to wait because I put something down I should have considered something else.
 
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