St. Augustine grass is a popular choice for many Florida lawns
Nothing says the suburb quite like the American lawn. When you hear the word lawn, what thoughts come to your mind? My brain transports me to backyard barbecues, kids playing in the summer with water balls and kiddie pools, and family Thanksgiving football where the rules don’t apply and no one really knows where to go. find the goal posts.
We have high expectations for our lawns because they are a place where memories are made and we hope they will remain green and lush all year round. The plants we choose for such demanding, high-impact locations need to be attractive, tough, and able to withstand light foot traffic.
More from the extension:Keep health and safety in mind during summer travel
Preparing pets for natural disasters:Hurricane Preparedness for Pets, Livestock Owners
St. Augustine grass may be the first plant that comes to mind when residents consider a Florida lawn, and for good reason – it’s planted statewide. When planted in the right location, it is relatively drought tolerant, can tolerate a wide range of soil pH, and can withstand reasonable wear and tear.
This turf faces a tall order as it is often maintained with poor watering practices, suffering from both excessively dry and excessively wet conditions. Owners and landscape professionals who manage it according to UF / IFAS recommendations will benefit from the best performance in the long term.
One type of St. Augustine herb hitting the market and hopefully widely available soon is “CitraBlue”. Be on the lookout for this grass with deep bluish green foliage with reduced irrigation and mowing needs. In University of Florida trials, this cultivar demonstrated better disease resistance and shade tolerance than the herb Floratam St. Augustine. The name “CitraBlue” is a nod to its color and also represents the UF / IFAS Plant Research and Science Unit located in Citra.
One lawn concept that is gaining interest is lawns mixed with wildflowers and low-growing legumes. If used recreationally, these mixes must be able to tolerate mowing, display wear tolerance, and thrive on reduced watering needs. Much research is underway in this area to assess sun and shade tolerance, as well as watering and mowing requirements. The plants envisaged must also be produced at low cost so that they can be sold to consumers at low cost.
The mixed lawns of the UF / IFAS extension office in Lake County show an increase in visitation and pollinator diversity and an increased diversity of terrestrial insects that feed on the plants. We can think of feeding plants as a negative trait, but growing a food source for insects is good, and not just for our six-legged friends, but for the birds and other animals that feed on them.
In our study of mixed lawns, the percentage of green cover of mixed lawns was higher than that of Bahia grass in summer, but in winter the mixtures were more sparse. These research plots were watered only three times in the year following establishment. More research needs to be done to determine how to care for these wildflower mixed lawns and to see if they are an economically viable option for homeowners.
Through UF / IFAS research, we can find ways to reduce water consumption, reduce maintenance, attract pollinators, and maintain the iconic American lawn. It’s always exciting to see where science can take us, in our own backyard.
Extension programs are open to all people regardless of race, color, sex, age, disability, religion or national origin.
Brooke Moffis is the FL Friendly Commercial Horticultural and Landscaping Officer for UF County / IFAS Extension Lake. Email him at [email protected]