Now that we are moving into warmer soil temperatures, weak areas in lawns will have a better chance of making some recovery. However, this is highly dependent on whether or not correct lawn maintenance practices are followed. These practices include fertilizing, mowing and watering correctly.

Many North Florida lawns came out of winter weak and thinning this spring. In areas of the lawn where there is at least sixty percent cover of the desirable type of lawn grass, recovery is possible. But where there is less than sixty percent desirable cover, reestablishment should be considered.

Applying the correct type and amount of fertilizer will promote lawn recovery. To maintain a healthy Florida lawn, it’s critical to use a fertilizer with adequate potassium. In most cases, use a lawn fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen (first number) and potassium (third number) such as 8-0-8, 10-0-10, 15-2-15 or similar analysis. Phosphorus (second number) should be low or zero unless you have the results of a reliable soil test indicating that more phosphorus is needed. Err on the side of being light handed when applying fertilizer to the lawn. In North Florida, most lawns will do just fine with an application in spring no earlier than mid-April and a second application in summer no later than mid-September.

Follow these mowing practices for a healthy lawn.

  • Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade height at any one time.
  • Here’s the recommended mowing height in inches for each lawn grass: bahia – 3 to 4; centipede – 1.5 to 2; standard St. Augustine cultivars – 3 to 4; dwarf St. Augustine cultivars (Captiva and Seville) – 2 to 3; zoysia cultivars suitable for home lawns- 2 to 2.5; bermuda – .5 to 1.5.
  • Keep mower blades sharp.

Follow these irrigation practices for a deeper rooted and drought tolerant lawn.

  • Turn your automatic sprinkler system off and learn to operate it manually on an as-needed basis. Your lawn needs water when leaf blades start to fold in half lengthwise or when footprints remain visible in the lawn long after being made. Irrigate when at least 30% of the lawn shows these signs of water need.
  • Apply ½ – ¾ inch of water when you do irrigate. Place empty, straight-sided cans in the area being irrigated to see how long it takes to reach this amount.
  • Irrigate during early morning for more efficient water use and to minimize lawn diseases.

Here is a link to a UF/IFAS Extension publication on Best Management Practices for a Florida lawn.

Larry Williams