University of Florida/IFAS Extension Director for Nassau County, Rebecca Jordi, answers questions about landscaping and gardening in northeast Florida.
QUESTION: Can I plant sod right now? SL
JORDI: After these extremely cold temperatures, my recommendation would be to wait until later in the early spring when the plant will have time to put down roots. It will not make new roots when the temperatures are in the low 30’s and high 20’s. If you decide to sod it anyway, you may see all the grass blades turn brown if we get any other freezing temperatures. I would hate for you to invest the amount of money required to sod a normal size lawn only to replace it in the spring anyway.
Consider removing all the weeds right now and over-seed the area with annual rye. We do not recommend putting down perennial rye as it will later become a weed pest for you. Annual rye will give you the pretty green carpet you want, prevent erosion until you can put down sod in the spring. Early March should do it for you. Be sure to have your soil tested to be sure you make the appropriate St. Augustinegrass cultivar selection. How smart of you to contact your local Extension office for sound advice!
QUESTION: Do I need to aerate my St. Augustine grass lawn every year? SH
JORDI: The University of Florida currently doesn’t have a lot to say about aeration on St. Augustinegrass lawns as this type of warm-season grass generally doesn’t require aeration if properly maintained.
How To Maintain St. Augustinegrass
— Proper maintenance is using 15-0-15 in small increments spring and fall.
— Never scalp or cut any of the grass blades too short. Removing too much of the grass blade directly affects the growth of the roots and reduces the nutrients available to the plant.
— Watering ½ inch to ¾ in at each irrigation works best for grass in full sun. Grass grown in less than 6-8 hours of sun receive less water and less fertilizer.
At this point in time, we would not recommend aerating the grass unless there is some indication the soil below the grass is compacted. If the lawngrass needs renovation, then aeration would be a good compliment to this process. The general rule for advising aeration is if the upper few inches of the soil is compacted and/or it is combined with different layers of soil textures. The process basically removes core sections of the soil completely. This should be done in the spring when the grass will have a chance to recover and rather than the fall as your landscape company suggested.
Of course, if you live close to the coast and we have a mild winter, then a fall renovation and aeration might be beneficial. The real problem with compacted soil is the inability of water and nutrients to penetrate the top surface of the soil to the root area. This diminishes what the roots can receive and can contribute to fertilizer run-off into retention ponds. According to the University of Florida’s research, aerification does not remove excessive thatch and should complement, not substitute, for vertical mowing.
Rebecca L. Jordi
Nassau County Extension Director
UF/IFAS Environmental Horticulture
543350 U.S. Highway #1
Callahan, FL 32011