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What is St. Augustine Grass?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2016
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St. Augustine Grass is a coarse grass native to the tropics. It is used in many tropical regions of the world as a lawn, cover crop, and erosion control tool, since it is hardy in the tropics and it requires minimal maintenance. This grass is available in the form of sod and plugs, both of which can be used to propagate a St. Augustine Grass lawn. If plugs are used, it generally takes six to eight months for the lawn to fully spread to cover the desired area.

Formally, this grass is known as Stenotaphrum secundatum. It is only hardy in regions with mild winters, preferring areas where the temperature rarely dips below freezing. St. Augustine Grass can cope with highly acidic or highly alkaline soil, and it thrives in soil close to the ocean which has been saturated with salt, making it a popular choice in coastal tropical regions. It is also reasonably drought-tolerant, and shade tolerant, making it a versatile choice of grass.

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St. Augustine Grass has large, bright green blades which create a rough texture, explaining the “coarse” classification. The plant produces runners in the spring which allow it to spread, and it will mat densely to cover an area. One advantage of St. Augustine Grass is that it grows too densely to permit weeds, making it a great choice of grass in areas where weeds are a big problem. It can be mowed at varying heights to create a dense carpet of soft grass, or a thicker, plushier lawn.

There are a few things about St. Augustine Grass to keep in mind when gardening. Although the plant is shade tolerant, it does not do well in deep shade, requiring at least some light to thrive. It is also not totally drought tolerant, and it will wither and die if left unwatered. St. Augustine Grass is also highly sensitive to herbicide sprays, including sprays designed for use on lawns, so it is better to avoid the use of such sprays, and to pull weeds by hand. It is also a creeping grass, and it will overwhelm other groundcovers and delicate plants if given a chance.

Garden stores in tropical regions often carry St. Augustine Grass, with several cultivars being available. Sod and plugs can also be special ordered. In the case of sod, the delivery should be carefully planned, to ensure that the sod can be laid quickly, so that it does not have a chance to dry out and die. In the early months of cultivation, St. Augustine sod or plugs will need more attention, to ensure that the plant establishes itself well and thrives. Planting with a fertilizer is highly recommended, and a St. Augustine Grass lawn should also be aerated and fertilized in the spring to promote healthy growth.

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