St. Augustine is a popular warm season grass known for its deep green color, thick lush blades, and ability to tolerate heat, humidity, and salt. This versatile turfgrass thrives throughout the southern United States. While St. Augustine seed is not available, the grass is easily established through sod, sprigs, or plugs. Follow these tips for planting and growing a beautiful St. Augustine lawn.
Choose the Right Variety
There are several cultivars of St. Augustine grass, each with slightly different characteristics. Select one well-suited to your climate and needs:
‘Bitterblue’ – freeze tolerant, less fungus prone
‘Captiva’ – traffic/salt tolerant, fast growing
‘Delmar’ – darker green color, finer blades
‘Floratam’ – resistant to insects, robust growth
‘Palmetto’ – more shade tolerance, softer leaves
Consider disease resistance if fungus is an issue in your area. Talk to your local nursery to decide which variety will perform best.
Prepare the Planting Area
Establishing a healthy St. Augustine lawn starts with good soil preparation:
Conduct a soil test to determine any needed amendments
Work in 2-4 inches of compost to enrich the soil
Adjust pH to between 5.5-7.0
Remove existing weeds, sod, rocks and debris
Level the ground and improve drainage issues
Proper planting bed preparation provides the basis for vigorous grass growth.
Determine Your Planting Method
St. Augustine grass can be established through:
Sod : Pre-grown grass strips containing the roots and soil they were grown in. Provides instant lawn coverage.
Sprigs : Sections of stems and stolons containing nodes. Sprigs root and spread to form a lawn over time.
Plugs : Small pieces of sod transplanted from remnants or existing lawns. Fill in coverage somewhat quicker than sprigs.
When to Plant
Spring and summer are ideal times to plant St. Augustine grass. Follow these planting guidelines by season:
Spring – after the last frost when soils warm above 70°F
Summer – establish new lawns or fill in bare spots through early fall
Fall – plant 8 weeks before first expected frost
Avoid winter planting when grass is dormant
Planting Grass Sod
Laying sod is the quickest way to establish a St. Augustine lawn:
- Lightly water soil before laying sod
- Stagger strips tightly with no gaps between them
- Stagger joints like brickwork; do not align seams
- Use a roller or hand tamp to flatten sod into contact with soil
- Water sod thoroughly until soil below is wet
- Keep sod moist for 2-3 weeks until rooted
Proper sod care leads to rapid greening and growth.
Planting Grass Sprigs
Sprigs require more patience to fill in but reduce material costs:
- Mow planting area short and rake smooth
- Mix in 1-2 inches of compost if needed
- Broadcast sprigs evenly over soil, using 8-10 bushels per 1000 sq ft
- Gently tamp sprigs into soil with a roller
- Water frequently to keep moist until established
- First mowing once 2-3 inches tall
- Plan on sprigs taking 2-3 months to fully cover the ground.
Caring for Newly Planted Grass
Proper follow-up care ensures newly planted St. Augustine thrives:
- Water grass daily until roots grow deeply
- Allow soil to dry between waterings once established
- Do not mow until grass is 3 inches tall
- Fertilize 4-6 weeks after planting and regularly thereafter
- Reduce traffic until the lawn has thickened
- Replant bare or thin patches to maintain coverage
In summary, proper St. Augustine turf installation requires careful preparation, and the work can result in better turf. The key to success is to ensure that the turf is properly watered during the initial establishment phase and to avoid over- or under-watering once the roots are established.