There’s a lot to consider when choosing your grass

by Nelson Peterson, Master Gardener

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Lawn care! Some of us love it and some of us hate it. Whatever you decide for your home, just remember landscaping draws attention from people passing your home, and you want to present the best “curb appeal.”

The Nassau County Extension office every year receives hundreds of questions regarding lawn grasses and conducts various seminars during the year on turf grasses as well as other topics.
Some of the turf grasses that grow well in Nassau County are St. Augustine, Bermuda and Seashore Paspalum.

St. Augustine grass is a popular variety for residential and commercial lawns. It grows well in a wide range of soil acidities, is drought-tolerant, (the minimum amount of water or moisture that a turf grass requires to live) shade-tolerant, and has medium maintenance levels. By maintenance levels I mean how much time and effort you want to devote to your lawn.

Bermuda grass is mainly found on golf courses and athletic fields. Bermuda characteristics are wide range of soil acidities, good drought tolerance, good salt tolerance, excellent wear tolerance (which is why it is used on golf courses and athletic fields), and medium to high levels of maintenance.

In areas close to the ocean which receive a high concentration of salt, a Seashore Paspalum turf grass might be better. Seashore Paspalum, like St. Augustine, can grow in a wide variety of soils, has excellent salt tolerance and good drought tolerance, but poor shade tolerance. Maintenance levels are similar to St. Augustine grass.

The main “take-home” message is to avoid the common practice of doing too much. Homeowners often water too much, fertilize too much and mow too much of the grass blade. Remember that turf grass derives its food from its leaves, not from fertilizing it.

Here are some hints to help you maintain or improve your lawn’s curb appeal:
— Mow or cut no more than a third of the grass leaf at any one time.
— Mower blades must be sharp. Change them every four cuttings and resharpen.
— Water no more than two times weekly during the summer, and every 10 to 14 days during winter.
— Water long enough to put three-quarters of an inch during a watering cycle. A deeper watering of your turf grass forces the roots to follow the water as it percolates through the soil’s depth. Putting three-quarters of an inch of water dampens the soil to a depth of 12 inches in most locations. This deeper root system enhances the turf grass’s ability to handle stress caused by drought. Shallow and frequent watering can foster fungus, which will seriously weaken or kill the grass.
— Learn when to water your turf grass. Look at the grass blades — do they fold over or fold together? Do your foot prints remain in the grass after you walk through it? Is it turning blue gray? These are all indicators the turf grass is telling you, “I need water.” When your grass blades are “flat” or “open,” they are fully hydrated and do not need watering.
— Underground irrigation systems should have a rain sensor. This will prevent overwatering during or after a rainfall.
— Fertilize using a slow-release fertilizer and follow application frequency recommendations according to grass type. Avoid using nitrogen fertilizers in the summer. Instead, apply iron sulfate to help green up the lawn. Look at the label on fertilizer. By law, ingredients must be listed on the bag. If a fertilizer is slow release, it should read “Ureaform/Nitroform or sulfur-coated forms of slow release nitrogen.”

Whether you live by the ocean or inland in Nassau County, there is a turf grass that will suit your requirements. If you need help, clarification or have questions regarding your lawn, contact the Nassau County Extension office at 548-1116 or 530-6353. For more information about lawn care, including how to respond to weeds and pests, visit

brown patch

Special/Nassau County Extension Service -- Brown patch disease, a fungus disease, usually begins as small, 1-foot patches that turn yellow and then reddish-brown, brown or straw-colored as the leaves start to die. Patches can expand to several feet in diameter.



Nelson Peterson

Nelson Peterson lives on Piney Island and is an active Master Gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.