Bahiagrass for your Florida lawn

Wayne Hobbs
Posted 3/22/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – As a horticulture agent, I get the privilege of helping people troubleshoot their landscape problems throughout Clay County and in my time here, it seems the one component of …

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Bahiagrass for your Florida lawn

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – As a horticulture agent, I get the privilege of helping people troubleshoot their landscape problems throughout Clay County and in my time here, it seems the one component of the property that everyone wants to know more about and how to care for is turfgrass. In our county, turf has become a quintessential part of the yard, offering a place for recreation but usually requiring heavy maintenance to keep it looking its best. However, if the proper planning is used by selecting the proper turfgrass variety for your site, maintenance time and quality issues can be minimized.

In Clay County, our sites are generally sandy, dry and low in organic matter, which makes bahiagrass the best adapted to our area.

Some of the best attributes of bahiagrass come from its deep root system, allowing it to survive with little water and fertilizer input as well as making it more resistant to nematode damage. Oftentimes, if you do not have irrigation, own a larger than average piece of property, or want a turfgrass that you do not need to manage intensively, this is the option for you. Also, mole crickets are about the only major pest issue in this turf and the only disease that is somewhat likely to appear is dollar spot.

Negatives of this turf is that it is not shade tolerant, produces seed heads during the summer that some may find ugly and can be hard on lawnmower blades, and its growth habit is more open than other varieties. This leads to possible issues with encroaching weeds in bare spots and the grass does not normally form a dense, carpet-like appearance many seek from turf. Additionally, if under a long-term drought, it can go dormant, turning brown until rain returns.

If choosing bahiagrass, plant ‘Argentine’ or ‘Pensacola’ varieties from seed. Sod is not readily available and, when found, it is often the ‘Common’ variety which is more of a utility or pasture grass. Normal timing for seeding is spring to early summer to allow the grass to get fully established before fall. Growth may be slow with bahiagrass compared to other varieties.

In terms of nutrition, bahiagrass does not normally need heavy fertilization but a soil test should be performed to determine what is available on site. Also, bahiagrass requires an acidic soil to grow properly so this may need to be adjusted before planting or yellowing may occur from iron deficiency.

It is recommended to mow bahiagrass every 7-14 days during the growing season to a height of 3-4 inches. Oftentimes, due to its naturally lower growing height, bahia is mowed based on the number of seed heads present. Leave grass clippings on the lawn to naturally compost. Irrigation can be conducted as needed when grass begins to wilt or turn blue gray in color but this turf will bounce back quickly from drought as soon as rain returns as long as it is not stressed by excessive fertilizer, pesticides or mowing it too short.

It should also be noted that bahiagrass does have some different weed management guidelines than other turf varieties. For example, Atrazine and Metsulfuron, which are commonly found in grass control herbicides for other varieties, will kill bahiagrass. Further information about bahiagrass can be found at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh006.

If you have any questions about turfgrass, the Master Gardener program, landscape and garden topics, or need plant or pest materials identified, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Office online at http://www.clay.ifas.ufl.edu, follow us on Facebook, or call by phone at (904) 284-6355.

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