We're all concerned with our environmental footprint these days, and a fair bit of criticism has been put onto our lawns as somehow not being very environmentally friendly, when in fact - our lawns are wonderfully friendly environmental assets, and which clean more pollution from our cities than all other plant life. Lawns are the lungs of our cities, and they cool our homes considerably, lowering air conditioning costs and carbon emissions.
Having said that, most of us can do much more to reduce the impact of our Saint Augustine lawns by reducing maintenance levels, pesticide usage, excess fertilizer runoff etc. So with this article we'll be discussing how to have the most environmentally friendly Saint Augustine lawn possible.
Choose The Right Saint Augustine Grass
The single most important thing we must do is to choose the most environmentally friendly Saint Augustine grass variety. Such a grass will need to have a slow growth rate, and low levels of thatching. As both these valuable traits will reduce lawn mowing and de-thatching requirements for the turf. We also want to choose the best Saint Augustine which can withstand and repair itself after drought conditions or under heavy water restrictions.
Based on recent Australian studies, the most environmentally friendly St Augustine grass in that country seemed to be Palmetto. However, having said that, some of the more popular brands of Saint Augustine grass being grown and sold in the U.S. were not represented in these trials at all. So with this, we can say that Palmetto is very low maintenance, but there may be other Saint Augustine grasses that may still out-compete Palmetto in the U.S. Unfortunately, the Australian studies weren’t highly representative of too many North American Saint Augustine varieties, and so they are of limited use for the North American Saint Augustine lawn owner.
Notes For Saint Augustine Grass Growing In Shade
Be aware that the most environmentally friendly Saint Augustine grass for low shade and sun, may not necessarily be the lowest maintenance Saint Augustine in heavier shade. In heavier shade conditions, the lawn owner will need to look at the best Saint Augustine grass for shade, as this will create the most beautiful lawn with the least effort possible, making it the most environmentally friendly Saint Augustine overall in shaded conditions.
Water Deep - Water Less Often
We want to reduce water usage to our Saint Augustine lawns as much as possible, as well as making the turf far more drought tolerant. We do this by watering the lawn less often, and more deeply, and by switching off all automatic sprinkler irrigation systems that use timers.
We must only ever water our Saint Augustine lawn once it shows signs of wilting of the leaves. This will be us allowing our lawn to tell us when it needs a drink instead of us telling the lawn when it needs water by using some type of automatic watering schedule.
When we water, we must then water deeply, using more water than what we normally would. While we're using more water, we're watering less often so we're actually reducing our overall water usage for our lawns.
This form of watering encourages our lawn to send its roots far deeper into the soil, making the lawn far more drought tolerant, and it will need less and less water as the years pass by and the roots of the St Augustine lawn go deeper into the soil profile and far below the evaporation level of the topsoil.
Fertilize Those Saint Augustine Lawns
An environmentally friendly Saint Augustine lawn should be fertilized with a year round fertilizing program. Now while the overuse of fertilizer does cause environmental damage, good fertilizing practices will actually be highly beneficial to the lawn and to the environment.
If we fertilize properly, and at the correct times of year, using correct amounts of fertilizer - and no more, there will be little or no fertilizer runoff from the lawn at all, the lawn will use all of the fertilizer we give to it.
A good year round fertilizing program will help keep our lawn in the best health possible, and allow it to fight off and recover quickly from many different lawn diseases, pests, and the lawn will outcompete many different types of weeds. All this means our use of weed sprays and other pesticides will then be greatly reduced.
Be careful not to over-fertilize, as this can encourage the lawn to grow too fast, meaning more lawn mowing, will cause fertilizer runoff into the environment, and can weaken the Saint Augustine turf so that it becomes more prone to weeds, pests and diseases.
Good St Augustine Lawn Mowing Practices
Soft Saint Augustine grasses need to be mowed higher than other warm season grass types such as Bermuda. 2 to 4+ inches is optimum for sun and low shade, and 3 to 5 inches height is best for more shaded conditions. Mowing at these heights will ensure the best possible Saint Augustine lawn health.
Mowing at correct heights will also greatly aid in having a Saint Augustine lawn which can most easily outcompete and drown out any new weeds trying to take a foothold in our lawns.
Regular lawn mowing of Saint Augustine grass when needed will also encourage green leaf growth and a healthier lawn, which can in turn fight off weeds, pests and diseases far easier and with least effort from the lawn owner.
As a warning to lawn owners who mow their Saint Augustine grass lawns too low, lawns kept at such low heights will be far more prone to all weeds, pests and diseases, will require more watering, will go brown and be in poorer health more often when upkeep isn’t properly maintained, and will require far more lawn repair as a result. Saint Augustine lawns mowed too short can be environmentally unfriendly, and any possible resulting poor health can make these lawns look ugly.
Keeping On Top Of Problems Early
All weeds, pests and diseases are most easily managed, controlled and overcome during their earliest stages of infestation into our lawns. It’s far better to pull a few weeds by hand than have to spray an entire lawn with herbicides. And it’s far better to spot treat or hand pull a little Annual Bluegrass than to spray the entire lawn in a few years time when the weed has consumed all of the lawn, and the same goes with controlling lawn diseases.
The same scenario applies to lawn diseases, treat as early as possible and we'll use the least amount of fungicide and with the greatest chance of success.
Treat Saint Augustine lawn problems early, and we guarantee the best chance of success with the lowest possible environmental impact.
Wetting agents are a product which allows for far easier water penetration and water flow through our soils, and can help with many soil issues in regard to the best use of water, free flowing of water, and water distribution in the soil, regardless of whether they are sandy soils or more clay based. As a result we can expect healthier lawns which make better use of the water we give to the Saint Augustine turf.
Wetting agents have no environmental impacts and cannot damage the turf, as they are very similar in nature to detergents.
Apply wetting agents once or twice a year in regular lawn care routines if there are any water absorption problems in our lawn soils.
Natural Lawn Foods
Lawn care products based on natural sources like seaweed, manures, blood and bone and other such products can be a wonderful addition of nutrients for our lawns. We can choose to use these products in our year round fertilization program, however they can never replace a good quality lawn fertilizer for the benefits and the nutrition a quality lawn fertilizer provides.
In using these natural based lawn tonics we can look at replacing our Summer lawn fertilizing with these products, and perhaps another fertilizer application throughout the year as well.
These products are a great source of natural nutrients and many different micro-organisms which cannot always be found in traditional fertilizers, and can aid greatly in overall soil health for the lawn, which results in a better, healthier lawn.
Summary - An Environmentally Friendly Saint Augustine Lawn
In summary, what we're trying to achieve with an environmentally friendly St Augustine lawn is a reduction in all areas of turf maintenance possible, a reduction in as many new lawn problems from ever occurring, allowing the lawn to repair itself and fight off problems on its own - with its own good health, and by reducing the use of possible environmentally damaging products.
In summary - these are our goals:
- Choose the most environmentally friendly Saint Augustine grass
- Reduce Lawn Mowing
- by planting a St Augustine variety with low mowing requirements
- mow regularly, as required to keep the lawn lush, healthy and strong
- experiment in trying to reduce watering while maintaining a healthy looking lawn, which will in turn also reduce growth rates of the lawn, and the resultant lawn mowing needed
- Fertilize Properly
- apply quality fertilizer in correct quantities and at correct times of year
- do not over fertilize
- always lean towards using less fertilizer rather than more
- Treat Lawn Problems Early
- treating weeds, pests and diseases early returns the greatest results with least environmental impact and least effort on our parts
- Mow Lawns Properly
- mow lawns higher, mow regularly as required, avoid mowing lawns too short
- Water Lawns Deeply and Less Often
- creates deeper root systems, and a lawn which requires less water as time goes on
- water only when the grass tells us it needs a drink by its wilting leaves, and then water deeply