Easy Steps to Revive Your St. Augustine Grass

Easy Steps to Revive Your St. Augustine Grass

Lawn care can sometimes feel like you’re in the trenches of a silently raging war. You become the general and gardener, often facing off against a mysteriously yellowing landscape. Today, let’s focus on one of the stars of this verdant show, the envy of neighborhoods: St. Augustine grass. It’s known for dense, weed-smothering mats that shine with a spring-green hue. However, even the mightiest falter sometimes, and your once lush carpet of St. Augustine grass could now be mistaken for a threadbare, patchy quilt left too long in the sun. The good news is that a thin, patchy St. Augustine lawn doesn’t signal an outright defeat. Victory is within reach, with tactics ranging from core aeration, correcting your watering schedule, and dethatching to deploying sod patches.

St. Augustine grass comes in various varieties, such as Amerishade, Texas Common, DelMar, Floratam, Palmetto, Seville, and Raleigh. When pondering resurrection, we can’t ignore the culprits behind a defeated St. Augustine lawn. Your green haven may be under siege from insect pests (think lawn grubs and chinch bugs) or fungal diseases like gray leaf spots, brown patches, and the notorious take-all root rot. Overzealous fertilization or simply substandard soil could compound these silent assaults. Restoring your St. Augustine to its former verdant glory is less a matter of magic and more of informed strategy — the good news is you’re already armed for the task.

Soil amendment could be your lawn’s saving grace

man core aerating st.augustine lawn

Mr Lush Lawn/YouTube

Restoring the vigor of St. Augustine grass requires starting from the ground up (literally) by probing the underlying soil quality. There’s no need for high-tech gadgets when a home-run kit like the Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit is waiting on Amazon for just $15.90. Start by pinpointing nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium deficiency — the trifecta of turf nutrition. Then, amend the soil with the precise type of fertilizer indicated deficient by your test results. However, embark on this quest cautiously, for overfertilization is fraught with perils as grave as chemical burns on grass. And soil pH? It’s critical, given that St. Augustine’s sweet spot straddles the spectrum from 5.0 to 8.5.

Then there’s the silent killer of vibrant grass: compaction. This is where core aeration suffices. Take it as giving your soil a new lease on life, allowing it to breathe in water, nutrients, and oxygen once again. Ohuhu Aerator Shoes for Grass, available for $22.99 on Amazon, fits the bill here. Notice an armor-like layer of thatch? This turf nemesis, a layer of undead plant material, must be faced head-on when it thickens past 0.5 inches. Your ideal weapon is a vertical mower adorned with steel or spring-like tines and available for hire from garden centers, hardware stores, or lawn care companies. The perfect moment for dethatching is late summer to mid-fall, when the St. Augustine grass recovers fastest from damage (complemented by watering and fertilization).

Proper watering and sod patching

man installing st. augustine sod


Watering is an act of balance and timing for healthy St. Augustine grass. You’re on a mission to encourage those roots to reach deep into the soil in their quest for moisture, turning your seemingly defeated lawn into a verdant, drought-defying fortress. In the cooler embrace of fall and spring, one deep soak a week will suffice, but as the summer heat intensifies, your grass’s thirst does, too. But here’s the twist: Measure the moisture’s reach with a soil probe after a 30-minute trial watering session. Let the ease of tool insertion be your guide, and fine-tune the watering duration to ensure a 6-inch deep saturation. For example, if a half-hour sprinkling drenches 3 inches of soil, doubling the time to an hour should wet 6 inches.

Next, address desolate patches of St. Augustine grass. Yank out the old, sickly sections with a sod cutter or spade. Loosen the soil underneath, add some nutrient-rich compost, potting soil, or starter fertilizer, and it’s a five-star resort for fresh patches. As you lay the new pallets, the edges must meld with the existing lawn for an uninterrupted ocean of green. In the two weeks following the patchwork, your role evolves into a careful custodian, guiding these new patches through their critical phase with a regimen of frequent, gentle waterings per day. This isn’t about overindulgence but providing just enough support to help the sod establish itself to merge with the existing landscape into a unified, lush lawn.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.