Winter Tips for Gainesville Lawns

The next 12-18 weeks will determine how your lawn does in 2019, so we hope these tips are helpful to you in making sure you have a lawn you love in 2019. During the winter months in Gainesville, Florida lawns, the grass is semi-dormant – growing but at a slower pace and almost barely growing at all. The soil microbes are still busy though, doing what soil microbes do – enzymatic digestion of organic matter – aka composting.

So don’t be fooled into thinking the soil and turf grass doesn’t need food and water in the winter – the turf and the soil microbes are living, sending out roots, and need nutrients to stay healthy. Without an active and healthy turf and soil microbe population in winter, the St Augustine or Zoysia turf grass lawn will lag in the spring, losing valuable time during the prime growing season.

5 THINGS TO DO IN THE WINTER FOR ST AUGUSTINE LAWNS

Water Your Lawn with proper irrigation (1x week is recommended)
Feed Your Lawn (nutrients such as Potassium and organic supplements like Sea Kelp and Humic/Fulvic soil stimulants)
Mow Infrequently but as High as the Mower will Go
Weed Control
Be Patient, Spring is coming!

Master these five activities during the winter and you’ll be rewarded with a healthy Gainesville lawn this spring and well into the summer months.

1. WATER YOUR LAWN

One persistent myth is that St Augustine needs less water in the winter. This is false. Although the St Augustine turf is semi-dormant, it is still living and growing and needs food and water to do so. The soil is teeming with soil microbes that need a moist soil to compost organic matter into plant food. Let the lawn dry out and you kill the soil microbes, starve the turf and turn your lawn into a weed patch. You can irrigate less due to having lower amounts of evaporation with cooler weather - but don't turn your Gainesville sprinklers off by any means!

So remember, the #1 determining factor for the health of your Gainesville turf and soil microbes is water – and about 90% of the water your lawn requires will come from irrigation. Therefore, the irrigation system must run, cover the entire lawn and put out enough water to “fill” the soil. If it doesn’t – then fix and repair until it does.

How Much Water?

Your lawn needs just as much water in winter as the rest of the year. The amount of water needed is not determined by temperature but by our soils. Our soils need the same amount of water whether it is hot or cold. On average our sandy soils in Pinellas County will require watering 3 times per week – even in the winter. Learn more here: How to Set Up Your Irrigation System to Keep a St Augustine Lawn Alive with 2x Week Watering Restrictions

2. FERTILIZE YOUR LAWN

The main goal of feeding a lawn is not feeding the turf, it is for feeding the soil microbes so that they can compost. Nitrogen, potassium, sulphur and iron are not readily available in our sandy soils and need to be replenished on a regular basis. – even in the winter.

My winter feeding program focuses on potassium and micronutrients - especially sulfur and iron – but I don’t neglect the nitrogen. I limit nitrogen to 0.5 pounds per 1000 square feet of lawn during the winter. One good granular application of a 16 -0-8 with a good micronutrient package is sufficient until spring.

3. MOW INFREQUENTLY BUT AS HIGH AS THE MOWER WILL GO

Winter is not the time to mow low – mowing low does more harm than good in the winter. When you mow low it opens up the canopy, exposing the soil and tender roots and stems to drying sun and winter winds. A dry soil and sun parched stems and roots does not make for a healthy lawn. These winter months are a perfect time to skip a few mowings, allowing the canopy to become even higher and reduce wear and tear.

4. WEED CONTROL IS EFFECTIVE AND SAFER

Winter is the best time for weed control. Focus on the persistent perennial weeds like Dollar Weed, sedges, and Day Flower. There are other annual weeds that pop up - but they will melt away with the rising temperatures - so focus on the perennials. I suggest Manor and Basagram as good herbicides to use on a St Augustine lawn in the winter months for control of dollar weed, sedges and day flower.

Be careful with the Weed-N-Feed formulations, as they may have high nitrogen content which could cause a lawn to fail in cold temperatures.

5. BE PATIENT

This semi-dormant period is natural and very important for the health of the turf – let it do its thing. Pushing the Zoysia or St Augustine turf grass out of semi-dormancy with excess nitrogen will create a false signal to the turf that spring has sprung and cause havoc with your lawn. I have heard from many homeowners so anxious for a green lawn they over stimulated their winter lawn with nitrogen, say "My lawn was so pretty - it was the greenest lawn all winter and now it is dead." Don't be tempted to make the lawn green with a parlor trick of high nitrogen fertilizer. Be wise, be patient, and let the grass progress from semi-dormant to spring in the right way for a great lawn in 2019.

QUICK NOTE ABOUT LAWN SPRAYING

The Master's Gainesville Lawn Spraying combines year round feeding of your lawn with insect and weed control so you don’t have to experiment with different brands and formulations. We know what to do and when to do it – that is what makes lawn spraying such a good service at a good price. If you are overwhelmed by the massive amount of choices for fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides, you may want to consider hiring a professional Gainesville lawn pest service. Call us at (352) 378-5296 if we can be of service. 

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