There is a raging debate about whether it is okay to dethatch St Augustine grass. At the same time, many people believe you can dethatch any grass, including St Augustine; the others believe that you do so to the detriment of your lawn.
Before you understand why this issue is controversial, it is essential to understand what detaching means. We will also introduce you to St Augustine grass and its uniqueness.
So, without getting entangled with the debate in question, we will say that you can detach your St Augustine grass only on the condition that you do it at the right time, which is in spring, between March and May, while using the right tools.
Let’s Get To Know St Augustine
St Augustine is a prevalent grass, especially among lawn lovers and people who work with lawns like golf players who basically must have a well-maintained lawn to have a good game.
The grass is known scientifically as (Stenotaphrum secundatum). It is a robust perennial grass that is great for lawns and pastures in warm coastal areas. The grass creates a dense carpet of coarse, textured grass that makes it unique for the use it is put to.
St Augustine grows horizontally, and stolons make this peculiar growth pattern possible.
Stolons are horizontal growth shoots that grow just above the ground. Because of this horizontal growth, the grass can cover a large place in no time.
What Does A Thatch Really mean?
The layer of dead plant materials that settle on the soil’s surface is thatch. Thatch comprises clippings from dead grasses; it could also comprise pine needles, dead leaves, and the plant debris built up over time.
Many people believe thatch is harmful to the lawn, but in reality, they can be beneficial to the soil as they are less than half-inch in thickness.
They can increase water retention in the soil. When these thatch materials decompose, they add nutrients to the soil while keeping weeds away from the soil.
If you want to enjoy these benefits that thatch can add to your soil, you must ensure that it is properly maintained, healthy, warm, moist, and well aerated.
Does Detaching Hurt Your Lawn?
Thatch can build up and constitute a problem for your lawn and must be detached. Dethatching allows water, air, and nutrients to reach the soil and so must be done periodically, especially when the thatch has grown too thick that they are now harming instead of helping the lawn.
If you dethatch your lawn, you are not hurting it but making it better because detaching is important to your lawn in the following ways:
1. Because thatch grows too thick can prevent air and moisture from getting into the soil; they can cause the lawn to die and even damage the soil so that even when new grasses are plated, they will still not grow well.
2. When thatched build up in a lawn, they attract insects like mosquitoes that are vectors of diseases that come to nestle in the soil; this is why over-grown thatches must be removed from the soil.
3. Thatches can affect the aesthetics of a lawn and make it look less appealing.
When Should You Dethatch Your Lawn?
Before you detach your lawn, ensure that you figure out if that is too thick that it is after the lawn, because as we stated earlier, thatch that is less than half an inch in thickness is good for the plant and the soil.
To figure out if you have to dethatch that lawn, dig up a small amount of grass and soil and measure the thickness of the thatch; if it is more than half an inch thick, then you know it is time to dethatch.
You must ensure that the weather is suitable and conducive for the plant. The nest time to dethatch is in early spring or summer.
Is it Okay to Dethatch St Augustine Grass?
Yes, you can dethatch St Augustine grass when the thatch is very thick to the extent that the roots of the new runner can not get to the soil again, thus depriving the grasses of moisture and nutrient from the soil. For this type of lawn, you will notice pale and unhealthy.
How to Dethatch St Augustine Grass
Before you dethatch St Augustine, you must be sure that you put the following into consideration :
1. Ensure that you dethatch at the right time when the lawn has exited the dormancy, is green and lush, and has grown to a reasonable height.
2. You should mow your lawn before you dethatch. The height of the grass should be about 2 inches before you dethatch so that you can reach past the grass that is alive and get to the thatch.
3. Choose the right tool that will be appropriate for dethatching St Augustine grass. A vertical mower is your best bet because it will not damage the grass. You could use other tools like rake if you don’t have the vertical mower.
Dethatching St Augustine With A Vertical Mower
The steps below should be followed in using a vertical lower to dethatch St Augustine.
1. Before you start dethatching, set the mower’s blade to be 3 inches apart so that you don’t damage the lawn.
2. Then, make a single pass with the mower over your lawn, just as you will do a tour of the everyday mower.
3. Then rake the area, remove the thatch, dispose of it or put it onto your compost bin.
Dethatching With Manual Rake
If you have a small lawn that needs dethatching, you can resort to a dethatching rake for removing these thatches. However, you have to be careful so that you don’t remove the live grass with the thatch.
Dethatching With Power Rakes
This is almost the same as dethatching with a detaching rake, and it is best for a tiny lawn. Rake will dig into the thatch and pull it out from the soil.
You should use a power rake with care because it can easily pull out grasses from your lawn.
What To Do After Dethatching St. Augustine
Some preventive maintenance could help your St Augustine lawn heal better after a stressful dethatching exercise. This maintenance regime after dethatching should suffice:
1. Clean up the whole lawn after detaching so dirt and debris do not start building too soon.
2. When you dethatch, your lawn is being put under serious stress, and so they will need to be fertilized. A slow-releasing fertilizer should be applied to the lawn, which is rich in potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen, so that the lawn can recover very fast.
3. You should also irrigate the lawn after detaching, and this is because the lawn is prone to increased evaporation because of the exposed surface of the lawn. Hence, you need to increase the amount of water you apply on your lawn, mainly as the lawn produces new grasses and needs more water than usual.
4. Remove any weed left in the lawn because weeds are bound to take over the lawn with the thatch removed. A pre-emergent weed killer should be applied immediately after detaching to prevent any weed from germinating.
5. Mowing encourages the lawn to continue growing; by mowing every four days, new growth of the St Augustine grass is encouraged to shoot out
6. You should improve your soil after dethatching because thatch build-up compacts the soil, making it difficult for organic materials to break down and add nutrients to the soil.
You can take a soil sample for testing to ascertain what type of improvement the soil needs. You can also improve the texture of your soil by topdressing it with compost at the beginning and end of the planting season.
Will St Augustine Grass Grow Back After Dethatching?
There are times that some grasses might look dead, but they continue growing after a while. Sometimes when this happens, many people confuse it with the grasses being dead, so before you pronounce your St Augustine dead, you should ensure that the grass is dead.
With all that said, if St Augustine grasses die, they cannot grow back no matter what you do; that is why it is very paramount that you take care of it very well so that it does not die.
So your only option is to plant new seeds after you must have gotten rid of the dead grasses and properly raked the lawn.
Before you can start regrowing your dead lawn, you must determine the cause of the death so that you can prevent a reoccurrence.
Here are some things that might be responsible for the death of your St Augustine grass:
1. Too much fertilizer
When a lot of fertilizer is applied to the lawn, especially nitrogenous fertilizers, it will scorch and burn the lawn.
Sign of too much fertilizer in your lawn includes discoloration of the grasses from green to brown or yellow. The roots of the grasses get damaged too.
The disease can affect St Augustine, which can cause it to die.
Fungi mostly cause these diseases, spreading fast in hot and humid weather. Signs of disease in your lawn is that the grasses turn brown
3. Poor Soil Quality
Poor soil will prevent grasses from being healthy and Hardy, which means the plant will not get the requisite moisture and nutrients to help them thrive. A soil test will reveal the nutrient that are lacking to be supplied via fertilizers.
Several insects can attack St Augustine grass and cause it to die. The larvae of some beetles are more harmful to your lawn, especially the larvae of European Chafers and the Japanese beetles that eat grassroots which then cause the grass to die.
Other bugs like the chinch bug suck the fluid from The St Augustine grass and afterward leaves a secretion that stops water and nutrient from getting around the grass; the consequence is that the grass wilts and then dies eventually.
When your St Augustine grass gets the right amount of water, it could kill them. Too much water will cause the grass’s root to rot, while too little water will cause the grass to dry out, wilt and die.
What Does Thatch Look Like in St Augustine Grass?
Merely looking at your St Augustine grass, you might not be able to see what thatch looks like in the lawn. However, you can feel what thatch feels like in your grass by walking on the lawn.
When you walk on your lawn, and you feel as if the ground is spongy and not firm, it might even feel bouncy, then you have thatch in your lawn.
To get a better feel of what we are talking about, walk barefooted and notice this spongy feel on your feet—the more bouncy or spongy, the thicker the thatch you have in your lawn.
Another way you could check to see how thatch feels in your St Augustine lawn is to use your hand to check for the firmness of the lawn.
Press your hand on the lawn and try and perceive if it is spongy or firm. The hand is more sensitive and will tell better how big or small the thatch problem you have in your lawn.
To better look at what thatch looks like in Your St Augustine grass them, you need to perform a turf wedge test using a trowel shovel or a spade.
All you need to do is dig a circle of turf out of the ground, ensure that you dig till you get to the soil, dig out the round turf, and examine the soil structure section carefully. You will notice a layer that looks like compost between the soil and the grasses thatch.
What Does it Mean When St. Augustine Grass Turns Yellow?
This yellowing is likely due to all of the rain—rains leach nitrogen out of the soil, which causes some yellowing.
Also, when the soil stays wet, grassroots are stressed and don’t work as well. So the roots may not be properly absorbing minerals like nitrogen from the soil.
Together these things cause yellow-looking areas in lawns. If you have not fertilized in the past couple of months, you may apply a lawn fertilizer in August to provide nitrogen. If yellow areas begin to turn brown and die, this indicates an active fungal infection.
Treat promptly with a fungicide labeled to control lawn diseases. Generally, the grass will recover on its own without taking any action when the weather gets drier.
Why is My St Augustine Grass Thinning?
There are some reasons why your very thick and fluffy St Augustine lawn is thinning out; some of them include:
1. Inadequacy Of Fertilizer
Fertilizer application is an essential practice that keeps our lawns thick, luscious, and healthy. If you notice that your lawn is beginning to think out, one of the first things is to check is your fertilizer application regime and see if it is adequate.
If it is not, then you will need to increase the frequency of your fertilizer application without over-fertilizing the lawn which will constitute another problem.
2. The Soil Is Hard Or Compact
Your soil can become hard and compacted just by simple activities like mining the grass, children playing on them, heavy equipment moving on them, and the likes; these activities can compact your soil, and the consequence is that the water penetration ability of the soil is reduced which will affect the grass and cause it thin.
3. Too Much Shade
If your lawn has lots of trees and other structures that provide shade, you will notice that your lawn will thin out, especially in that area where the sunray that is necessary for photosynthesis is a prerequisite for plants to grow.
4. Disease or Insect Issues
Pests and diseases that affect St Augustine grasses can cause them to thin out; these parasites feed on them, cause disease, and destroy the grasses, leaving the lawn looking thin.
5. Improper Mowing And Watering
Issues of over mowing and watering or under mowing and watering are very some practices that can thin out your lawn. These inadequacies stress out your lawn and cause it to be susceptible to diseases that kill your lawn and cause it to thin out too.
How Do You Revive St. Augustine Grass?
To revive your St Augustine grass, ensure that it is not a playing ground for your kids or pets because you need your lawn to be as stress-free as possible.
They can also get stressed out by inadequate water and fertilizer application. Treat your lawn as you would treat a sick person with care and attention to get the right amount of moisture, fertilizer, and attention that it needs.
Improve your soil so that its water penetration and retention become optimum. A soil test will reveal what is lacking in your soil so that you can replenish them.
Dethatch your lawn when it is more than half-inch thick so that your lawn keeps looking healthy.
What Height Should St Augustine Grass Be Cut?
Your St Augustine Lawn should cut to a height of about 3 inches, so once your lawn is getting to 4 inches, you know it is time to bring out that lawnmower.
However, you should be careful so that you don’t mow more than you should because you will be subjecting your lawn to a lot of stress.
St Augustine grass is a very common grass favored by many homeowners and those who love and use lawns like golf players.
While thatches can build up in your St Augustine lawn, you must dethatch it once the thatch is more than half an inch deep because thatch can kill your lawn if care is not taken.
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