While Saint Augustine grass does do a very good job at standing up to wear and tear, it can still become damaged due to overuse for long periods of time, or through neglect of good lawn care practices over the life of the lawn.
Regardless of how the damage occurred, whether through neglect or from wear and tear, we want to repair our damaged Saint Augustine grass and bring it back to good health again, so the purpose of this article will be to repair a damaged Saint Augustine lawn and get it growing to fill in and repair any dead or bare patches.
Stop Using The Lawn
The lawn should be off bounds during repair, This means no cars, no bikes, no playing etc on the turf during its repair stage. Because as the lawn is repairing and creating new green growth, these young shoots will be fragile and easily damaged, and thus will be easily damaged by any wear and tear on the lawn at this time.
First Lawn Fertilizer Application
Measure up the lawn and apply a good quality lawn fertilizer with trace elements at manufacturers recommendations. Being careful not to over-fertilize which can damage the turf, nor under-fertilize which provides little benefit. Be sure to water the fertilizer into the lawn immediately after application.
Ongoing Fertilizer Applications During Repair
We can apply fertilizer a little more frequently during repair but at much lower rates.
Instead of waiting two or three months until the next application of fertilizer, we can apply the fertilizer once a month during the repair phase for the turf.
Using this method we use a quarter to a third of the amount of fertilizer we would normally use on our lawn. Giving the lawn an ongoing and much reduced source of nutrients. Feeding the lawn more often but with less food.
Never fertilize this regularly while using the same amount of fertilizer for a normal application, as this could severely damage and sicken the lawn - use much less fertilizer when fertilizing frequently.
Once the lawn is back to full health, we return to our standard fertilizing program.
Soil Wetting Agents
Soil wetting agents won't do a great deal on their own to repair a damaged Saint Augustine lawn, but they are a minor element in the entire picture towards good lawn health. Wetting agents will aid in dispersing water properly and effectively throughout the soil profile, and as such will help the lawn to receive the most benefit from its watering regimen. So it’s a good idea to apply these at the same time as the fertilizer. However, if your own lawn soil is of high quality and is free draining, then soil wetting agents will likely be unnecessary.
We must ensure our Saint Augustine lawn is receiving adequate water during repair. Irrigation should be checked to ensure it is functioning properly and repaired if necessary. Be mindful of the seasons, watering more in hotter weather and less in cooler weather, and sometimes even stopping watering throughout winter if necessary.
Controlling Lawn Weeds
One week after the application of fertilizer is the best time to spray for any lawn weeds. Saint Augustine is actually very good at outcompeting weeds but will develop weeds very quickly once it becomes damaged or when the turf thins out.
Purchase a general broadleaf weed herbicide designed for use on Saint Augustine lawns, and dilute as per manufacturers recommendations in a large spraying bottle, and apply to the turf in recommended quantities (measure the lawn to be safe). A broadleaf weed spray will control the majority of weed types in Saint Augustine grass. If other weed sprays are necessary, then look at these once the lawn is returned to good health.
Be sure to use a weed spray labelled SAFE for SAINT AUGUSTINE GRASS. Using the wrong weed spray on Saint Augustine lawns could severely damage the grass.
Be sure not to spray for weeds one week before or one week after lawn mowing, as doing so could severely damage the grass.
Making Progress To Repair The Lawn
So far we have added nutrients to the Saint Augustine turf in the form of fertilizers, we have stopped using the area for any type of wear and tear during the repair phase, we have ensured the lawn is getting watered properly, and receives the most benefit from that watering by applying wetting agents, and sprayed for any heavy weed infestations.
Within a few weeks we should be seeing some improvements to our Saint Augustine lawn.
Now its time to adjust our lawn mowing practices.
Lawn mowing should be continued as normal during the lawn repair phase for any areas of the lawn which are still in fairly decent health.
Regular lawn mowing will aid the lawn in repair by encouraging it to grow more laterally and to repair itself faster.
Raise the height of the lawn mower slightly if you believe the lawn was previously being mowed too low in height. Remember that Saint Augustine grass likes to be kept at about 1 - 4 inches in height, and will retain its best health when kept at these heights.
Semi bare areas, or Saint Augustine grass which is very thin on the ground should be mowed without a catcher so to return these nutrients from the clippings back to the soil. Unless the lawn was recently sprayed for weeds - then the catcher would need to be used and the clippings disposed of in the trash for the first 2 to 3 mowings after spraying.
Areas of lawn which are bare, should be excluded from mowing until the area is once again covered with new Saint Augustine lawn growth which is strong and healthy.
Organic Lawn Products
Organic lawn products can also be applied to the lawn during repair. These products are usually based on seaweed, blood and bone or pelletised manure products. All these things are fine in moderation.
Choose one product to use and stick with that one product, there’s no need to put a big mix of products onto the lawn, we would only be complicating everything and possibly adding too many of the wrong nutrients all at the same time, and wasting a lot of money in the process, for no better return.
Instead, fertilize properly with a quality lawn fertilizer as already recommended.
And apply an organic product once or twice during the three month period allowed for repair. Keeping things simple and small in application and quantities. And only if you feel like doing so. These organic products can be very beneficial to lawns and soils in ways that regular fertilizers are not, but they will not replace the benefits obtained from real lawn fertilizers.
These are the basics for repairing a damaged Saint Augustine lawn. All based on solid lawn care practices, with everything in moderation, and nothing done in the extreme.
We've stopped further damage being done to the lawn, especially to the new and fragile growth by no longer using the lawn during repair.
Lawn mowing frequency stays the same as for all good lawn mowing frequencies, with only an adjustment in mowing height if necessary, while avoiding mowing any bare patches.
Soil wetting agents are simple and good lawn care practices which should be done at least once or twice a year for all lawns growing in problem soils.
Weed spraying is simple and done for all lawns when needed.
We have begun a proper lawn fertilization program by using good quality lawn fertilizers, and we are applying the next few applications at reduced rates but a little more frequently during the repair process.
Depending on the season, as long as the lawn is still actively growing - we should see major improvements in the quality of our Saint Augustine lawns as each month passes by, until the Saint Augustine lawn is eventually in full health once again, and is fully repaired.