Florida Lawns – 3 Common Challenges

Living in Florida has so many benefits, we can’t even enumerate them. But all of the warm weather and year-round sunshine comes with challenges, as well – especially for homeowners trying to keep their lawn green and lush throughout the year. Florida lawns enduring scorching sunlight, heavy downpours, insect infestation and even periodic frosts – so what is a Venice or Sarasota resident to do?

Don’t worry – Florida lawns require a bit of work, but can be kept beautiful if you know how to address the challenges.  Here are just a few tips from the experts at Big Earth Landscape Supply.

How to Care for Florida Lawns

First, we need to clarify. This blog is being written primarily from the standpoint of South Florida lawn requirements. Florida is a large state with many different climates – for instance, the Panhandle region sometimes sees snow, something Tampa rarely experiences.

For the sake of our local clientele, we are speaking of caring for warm weather grasses in semi-tropical climates. These grass varieties typically include St. Augustine, Zoysia, Bahia and Bermuda grasses, which are heat tolerant and best suited for South Florida climates. If you have any questions regarding any other type of grass or plants, consult with your local landscape supply professional.

  • Watering: Florida lawns experience a life of extremes. In the summer, there are torrential rainstorms nearly every day. During the winter months, we can go for weeks at a time without any rainfall – often resulting in drought conditions. Therefore making sure that your lawn is properly watered is critical to its health. While everyone assumes too little water can kill a lawn, many do not realize that too much water will also cause significant issues. During the rainy season, may homeowners turn off their sprinklers altogether ,relying on rainfall to keep their lawn hydrated. Keep an eye out for fungus, which can manifest as “greasy” looking patches which never seem to dry, and areas of your lawn which are shaded or at the bottom of a slope. In drought season, you’ll want to water early in the day before the sun gets too high. Setting your sprinklers on a timer is the best way to ensure regular watering. A sure sign that your lawn needs a drink is if you leave a footprint as you walk over the grass.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: People often assume brown patches in the winter mean that the grass needs water, but it may need fertilization. The best way to combat a lack of nutrients is to fertilize in the spring and fall, which will help to protect the health of the lawn year-round. Experts recommend a high nitrogen fertilizer (time release is best) such as 15-0-15 or 15-2-15. Spread fertilizer on dry grass and water immediately. You may need to supplement with an iron spray if the soil pH is greater than 7.0 (highly acidic) – although Florida soils tend to average around 6.1 pH, making them just slightly acidic. Read about testing your soil here.
  • Hungry Insects: Chinch bugs can cause significant damage to South Florida lawns, resulting in yellowing, browning and eventually dead spots across your property. These insects are often undetected for too long, allowing their infestation to spread. This is due to the fact that many people do not immediately associate a yellow spot on the lawn with the bugs, but instead try to water or fertilize.  A common way to check for a chinch bug problem is to cut both ends off of a metal coffee can, and push the cylinder halfway into the ground. (do this at the edge of the suspected infested area.) Fill the cylinder with water and wait five minutes. If present, the beetle-like chinch bugs will float up to the surface of the water. Treat chinch bug infestations with repeated applications of insecticide. (Shop all insecticides, herbicides and fungicides here.)

Your lawn can be the nicest one in your neighborhood, with a little work, and a little help from the professionals. Stop by one of Big Earth Landscape Supply‘s 4 area locations if you need advice or assistance.