No homeowner wants a thin lawn, it’s not very pleasing to the eye. If you’ve planted a new lawn and you’re growing tired of waiting for your lawn to grow, you need some tips that will help you make your St. Augustine grass grow at a faster rate so you can have a thick, lush lawn.
St. Augustine naturally has dense growth and has the propensity to spread relatively quickly, but there are ways you can help it spread faster and grow thicker. You can grow St. Augustine grass during the summer and make sure you lay the plugs on well-aerated soil, then apply phosphorous fertilizer and come up with a good watering schedule that will encourage quicker root and foliage development.
Tips to help you make St. Augustine Grass spread faster
If you do prefer sodding as the best method of establishing your St. Augustine lawn grass, you might wait a bit longer before the plugs can get established and fill in your lawn.
However, there are some things you can do to help create a dense, lush lawn quicker.
- Use the right type of soil
Before you plant your St. Augustine lawn on your lawn, make sure the soil is free draining preferably sandy soil with a pH range of 5.0 to 8.5 and it shouldn’t contain a lot of clay.
This type of soil will best support the growth and spread of this lawn grass. Avoid adding too much compost to the soil.
If there are bare spots and uneven grounds on your lawn, you might need to add some topsoil with sandy loam soil only or clean free-flowing sand with very little organic matter to help reduce pooling and encourage the runners to spread faster.
- Apply a rich phosphorous fertilizer
Phosphorous-rich fertilizers are great at stimulating quick root growth that encourages the grass to spread during the first few months after planting.
Once your grass has reached your desired spread and covered all the bare patches, you can then switch to a normal nitrogen fertilizer to continue encouraging healthy, green growth.
Remember to only fertilize during the growing season. If there are bare patches on your lawn, try applying slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to help boost the spread of your grass and also deepen the color of your lawn.
- Proper watering
You should water your lawn grass multiple times daily for the first few weeks after installing the plugs/sod.
During the second week, make sure you water your grass up to at least ½ inch of water but scale back your watering frequency by the sixth week and only water when it’s necessary.
- Plant your lawn in summer
Since St. Augustine is a warm-season grass you should plant your new lawn in the summer so that you give it the best growing conditions to allow it to spread faster.
Make sure you water the grass regularly, especially when it’s hot and dry and it can be several times a day during the first week after you first plant the plugs.
Once your lawn is well established, you don’t need to water is so often. It usually goes dormant during winter and fall, so it doesn’t need much maintenance during these seasons.
- Control weeds effectively
Weeds will compete for the water and nutrients with your grass which will hinder the growth and spread of your St. Augustine grass, so the best option is to remove them as soon as they appear on your lawn.
You can either pull them out by hand or spray a broadleaf herbicide that won’t damage your grass.
The most common weeds you’ll find invading St. Augustine lawn and slow down its growth include crabgrass, dallisgrass, and most of the broadleaf weeds.
- Proper mowing
When mowing your lawn, you need to make sure your lawnmower blades are properly sharpened so that they only cut a third of the grass height.
Also, remove the grass catcher and let the grass clippings fall back on your lawn to slowly break down and provide nutrients your grass needs to grow.
However, don’t overwhelm your lawn with a lot of clippings. This can contribute to a buildup of thatch that can hinder your St. Augustine grass from spreading faster since the stolons need enough room to breathe and spread above the soil.
Factors that slow down the growth of St. Augustine Grass
If you’ve done everything right from regular watering, proper fertilization, and proper mowing but still your St. Augustine grass isn’t spreading as it should, other factors could be responsible.
Weeds on your lawn will not only make your lawn look ugly, they will also cause a decline in its growth. Bare spots on your lawn will allow invasive weeds and grasses to take over your lawn.
That’s why you need to fill all the bare spots on your lawn quickly so that the weeds don’t get any room to grow.
To avoid having weed issues, use a selective pre-emergent that will only target the weeds on your lawn.
Grassy weeds like dallisgrass and crabgrass can hinder the spread of your St. Augustine grass and it can take several seasons to get rid of the weeds entirely.
The main pests found in St. Augustine lawns are chinch bugs.
These tiny insects have needle-like piercers that suck out all the grass juices and they have toxic saliva that will cause brown patches on your lawn.
They mostly appear when the temperatures start to rise in spring and the damage they cause may look like your grass is experiencing drought conditions.
The best way to stop the chinch bugs from invading your lawn is through proper lawn care by preventing thatch buildup so that the pests don’t have an ideal home.
You can avoid thatch buildup by ensuring you don’t overwhelm your lawn with clippings, water less frequently, and don’t over-fertilize.
If you have a problem with thatching, you can aerate the soil and mow, but be careful not to damage your grassroots.
- St. Augustine decline
This is a virus that affects the spread and growth of your lawn grass. It’s commonly found in Texas and the surrounding states.
This virus makes your lawn more vulnerable to drought with a very slow recovery. The grass will also have light spots and discoloration on the leaves. This virus can kill your grass within 3 years if you don’t remedy the situation.
Applying an iron-rich fertilizer can your grass recover although not immediately.
- Grey leaf spot
This is one of the diseases that attack St. Augustine grass and one of the reasons why your lawn grass isn’t spreading and growing.
Grey leaf spot is most common in hot and moist areas and the fact that this disease is a fungus that spreads by spores, it thrives in moist areas. You can identify it by its small grey spots on the grass leaf blades that eventually cover the entire blade.
To prevent this disease from attacking your St. Augustine grass, avoid overwatering your lawn.
Regularly water your lawn with the right amount of water to help your grass spread and grow quickly.
How long does it take for St. Augustine to spread?
Normally it takes about 7-14 days for the newly planted St. Augustine plugs to begin to spread once the roots are firmly established in the soil.
However, how long it takes to fill the bare spots will mostly depend on how you’ve spaced the plugs. There are different plug installation spacing methods that will determine how fast your lawn grass spreads.
- High-density plug installation
This installation needs 6-11 inch spacing from one to the other spring to provide enough space to promote healthy root growth.
The roots can get enough nutrients from the soil and you have a higher chance of getting a filled, thick, lush, beautiful green lawn within one year if the conditions are perfect.
- Typical density plug installation
This density requires a spacing of about 12-18 inches from each other which means the St. Augustine plugs will spread much slower and you’ll have to wait longer to fill the bare spots on your lawn.
However, this is a more cost-effective method than the high-density method because you don’t have to use so many springs for your lawn.
- Low-density plug installation
This method requires a spacing of 13-24 inches from each other and this is ideal for lawns with little foot traffic because it will take a while for your St. Augustine grass to fully spread and cover your entire lawn because of the wide spacing.
This can take over one year to fill a regular-sized lawn.
What is St. Augustine grass?
St. Augustine is a popular lawn grass that is salt tolerant and best suited for areas that are warm and humid.
This warm-season grass has blue-green leaf blades that grow well on different types of soils that are well-drained.
It forms a dense, thick turf that establishes easily and quickly and can tolerate salt which makes it ideal for growing in coastal areas.
St. Augustine is also tolerant to extremely high temperatures and low moisture and it can retain its green color longer than other warm-season grasses when exposed to the cold.
Its individual grass blades are broad and flat and spread through runners above ground that give your lawn a nice dense layer that can withstand heavy foot traffic.
St. Augustine is usually planted using sods or plugs that’s why most people ask how you can make it spread faster.
This dense and robust perennial grass is very easy to take care of and unlike Zoysia and Bermuda, it doesn’t go dormant immediately during the winter.
Types of St. Augustine grass
There are many different types of St. Augustine lawn that you can plant on your lawn.
Although it doesn’t produce its own seeds, you can plant the plugs which is the common method of planting St. Augustine grass.
St. Augustine grass variety
Dwarf cultivars can tolerate shade, drought, salt, and all pH ranges from acidic to alkaline, high color retention even during winter
Low maintenance after roots get established and very little water to thrive
Semi-dwarf grass with a lush appearance, stays green for the longest time, superior tolerance to cold or frost, shade, salt, drought, and a variety of soil types, deep and massive root system
Requires infrequent watering, proper maintenance, and weed control
Thrives in direct sun, long thick blades with a coarse texture, highly resistant to drought and disease, retains color well even in extreme weather
Low maintenance, more frequent mowing, watered only when it’s wilting
Drought and shade tolerant grows roots through stolons in a rhizomatic way, withstand moderate traffic, maintains its blue-green color even in low temperatures
Infrequent mowing, weed control, infrequent watering
Fine blades, soft texture, good recovery from wear, extremely fast lateral growth, tolerant to drought and heat
Requires less fertilization, frequent fungus control, re-sod yearly
Denser, finer, resistant to cold, drought, salt, moderate foot traffic, grows slowly,
Requires high lawn care, pest control, water weekly, mowing frequency depends on the amount of growth
Emerald green color, medium-coarse texture, fair shade, disease, and wear resistance, moderate drought tolerant
Low maintenance once roots get established
St. Augustine grass is a great lawn grass that will spread faster to give you a thick, lush, green lawn that can tolerate heavy foot traffic and is resistant to both heat and shade.
However, you can still improve this rate of spreading, but you first need to consider a few factors like the soil, watering, fertilization, mowing, and pest and disease control.
Before you plant your new lawn, make sure the soil drains well and plant it during summer to promote faster growth and ensure your water regularly for the first few weeks.
Follow this up with a good maintenance schedule that will ensure you enjoy a thick beautiful lawn all summer.
How long does it take St. Augustine sod to root?
It takes about 2 weeks for the shallow roots and about 6 weeks to establish deep root growth. With the right preparation and care, your sod will look healthy and beautiful from the start.
Can I put St. Augustine over an existing grass?
If you want your lawn to have a healthy root system, you need to first remove your old lawn before laying the new sod.
References and source
St. Augustinegrass for Florida Lawns – University of Florida IFAS Extension
St. Augustine grass– Britanica