Resodding Your Lawn with St. Augustine Grass

The following information is provided as suggestions to help facilitate the resodding process.

Chances are that if you are planning on doing a partial or full resod of your lawn you are doing so because you have experienced decline of your once healthy lawn and now it's nothing but weeds. There are many reasons why your St. Augustine went into decline or died and sometimes there were multiple problems.
  • Insect damage - Common insect damage in St. Augustine grass includes chinch bugs, grubs and sod webworms. Most of these insect problems are preventable by taking preventative measures typically through the use of insecticides available at home improvement stores, chemical distributors or by using a monthly lawn service. There are a number of varieties of St. Augustine grass and all have their pro's and con's but some varieties have more chinch bug resistance (ex. Floratam) than other others.
  • Fungus damage - There are several common types of fungus which can cause severe damage or kill a St. Augustine lawn depending on weather conditions and bad lawn maintenance practices such as over watering, over fertilization, and poor mowing practices to name a few. Fungus issues can be minimized with proper watering practices and by preventatively applying an appropriate lawn fungicide.
  • Weed encroachment - When a St. Augustine lawn is maintained at its highest level it is uncommon for weed encroachment to be the cause of a lawn going into decline or dying. Typically, weeds make their way into your lawn in areas which have already gone into decline usually yielding bare areas allowing for the weeds to take hold due to lack of competition from the St. Augustine turf. In some instances, crabgrass may get into a St. Augustine lawn and bloom very quickly outward into large areas under wet conditions. Crabgrass is one of the few competitive weeds which will crowd out even healthy St. Augustine grass; another one being nutsedge. Crabgrass pre-emergent applied at the right time(s) of year can usually eliminate crabgrass problems. Nutsedge can be controlled with post-emergent selective herbicide.
  • Pest damage - It is not common for pest such as moles, armadillos or possums to completely destroy a lawn in a short period of time although they can be a nuisance which can eventually lead to unsightly areas in the lawn. Chances are you are not resodding due to to pest damage. Moles may leave you with pushed up sod due to their tunneling while going after grubs and earthworms. Abundance of grubs, causing damage to St. Augustine root systems, can be eliminated with insecticides and with the grubs gone you can expect to see less mole activity.
  • Lack of water - St. Augustine grass likes two things a lot ... water and hot sunshine, which tend to be ample during the Central Florida thunderstorm season running from approximately the third week of May through the third week of October. During times of the year when rainfall does not occur on a regular basis it is important to provide supplemental watering usually with an irrigation system. St. Augustine grass is not very forgiving when it comes to lack of water as it does not go into a dormant state like cool weather grasses and when it dies homeowners should expect weeds to fill in quickly. Further, it should be noted that during warm or hot weather when St. Augustine grass can stress due to lack of water it creates a welcome target for chinch bugs to take advantage of the situation. Sometimes the problem is only in one area of the yard where either the coverage by irrigation sprinklers is not appropriate, sprinklers are damaged, sprinkler are block by St. Augustine runners from popping up or there is a general problem with the irrigation zone.
  • Too much water - It is not common for St. Augustine grass to go into decline because of too much water. This is true even if flooding waters soak St. Augustine turf a couple of days. St. Augustine grass is very forgiving of over watering and flooding given that the ground drains reasonably well. However, too much constant watering will create situations where fungus can thrive then cause decline or complete failure of the St. Augustine turf either because of fungus damage to leaves or rotting of the root system.
  • Lack of sunlight - All green plants require a sufficient amount of sunlight for photosynthesis which is a process used by plants to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the grass' activities. There are a number of varieties of St. Augustine grass and all have their pro's and con's. Some varieties require more sunlight that others (ex. Floratam) where as some varieties (ex. Seville, Palmetto) are much more shade tolerant and can survive with significantly lower sunlight requirements. It is important to select the right variety for your sunlight conditions and oftentimes it is appropriate to use two different varieties on your property.
  • Lack of proper nutrition - Generally, St. Augustine does not go into decline very quickly when it does not have proper nutrition. However, under nourished St. Augustine is more susceptible to damage by insects and disease and when those problems exist St. Augustine can go into decline allowing for encroachment of weeds.
  • Improper pH - Soil pH for St. Augustine grass should typically be in the 6.5 for optimal growth; 7.0 is neutral and 6.5 slightly acidic. Improper soil pH can lead to lethargic growth, fungus problems and other issues. Because of leaf decay the soil pH levels under trees can quickly become too acidic for grass. Soil located near walls, driveways or buildings can become too alkaline because of leaching of concrete products. Soil should tested for proper pH as well as other considerations such as micronutrients, etc. and adjusted accordingly. Soil pH can be tested by the Seminole County Agricultural Extension but a more comprehensive soil test is recommended such as provided by Agro Services International. For a $25 service fee Agro Services will perform a complete soil analysis and provide recommendations on soil amendments including pH adjustment. An example of a soil analysis report from a homeowner in our community can be reviewed HERE. Note that in addition to an unacceptable pH of 4.7 the report show 8 other deficiencies but includes recommendations to properly amend the soil. As a general rule, 2 to 3 pounds of dolomitic limestone (dolomite) per 100 square feet will raise the pH one point; never apply more than 50lbs per 1,000 sq-ft in one application; it can take 1 to 2 years to adjust pH.
Proper care is always a requirement to keep your lawn healthy and looking good and following our lawn maintenance tips will help to avoid a situation which requires resodding. If you find that you need to resod we offer the following tips:
  1. It should be understood that proper preparation for resodding a lawn requires a minimum of two to three weeks. This is because the proper technique for installing new sod is to first kill off the entire area to be resodded with a non-selective herbicide such as Glyphosate (aka Roundup, et al.). This is the only way to ensure invasive weeds and grasses are removed and do not poke through your newly laid sod. There are certain invasive grasses such as common Bermuda grass which can be difficult to kill and it is typical to have to spray the Bermuda grass several times over the course of several weeks. It is best to follow the directions on your Glyphosate of choice and begin by spraying the entire area to be resodded and those areas (even your flower beds) which contain undesirable weeds. Again, Glyphosate is non-selective meaning that most anything sprayed with it will likely die off. Wait about 10 days and respray those weeds which appear to be resistant to the Glyphosate. Typically, you will observe common Bermuda grass unfazed by the spray or only marginally yellow. It is important to retreat the Bermuda grass as, if it is not killed off, you should expect it to reappear in your newly sodded lawn. After 14 to 20 days from the first spraying retreat the resistant weeds including the Bermuda grass one last time. Usually, a third treatment should kill off the most resistant of weeds. It is best to wait several days from your last spraying before resodding.
  2. The perfect time to add or adjust irrigation piping and spray heads is prior to resodding. While you are waiting for the Glyphosate to do its job you can modify your irrigation system. Sometimes it is appropriate to move irrigation zones or add depending on changes you are making to your landscaping. Consideration should be given to how the landscape has changed over the years included trees which have grown up and changed the amount of sunlight available.
  3. The perfect time to address issues of topology or elevation is prior to resodding. Low areas can be filled in with topsoil and graded as appropriate. You might find that certain areas of your property, commonly driveways and pathways, flood easily during minimal to moderate rain conditions. The drainage slopes and elevations can be modified to assist with stormwater drainage. 
  4. To maintain proper topology with surrounding areas it is common practice to “cut out” dead areas to avoid “stepping” which can lead to tripping hazards, maintenance problems or unsightliness. It is typical to "cut out" or dig out approximately 1.5" to 2" of the surface layer such that the newly laid sod will fit within the existing sod and/or landscaping. While throwing new sod on top of ground works well in many situations it can create a problem when butting up against existing sod, or next to walkways, driveway and the road where the added 2" of elevation can create a draining issue or maintenance problem for mower equipment.
  5. The type of sod to be used is your choice but St. Augustine is recommended to blend in with the rest of the community and because, for shady areas, there are shade tolerant varieties of St. Augustine available (ex. Palmetto, Seville, etc). Three common varieties are available: Floratam (full sun only), Palmetto (filtered or partial sunlight), and Seville (high shade tolerance). Generally, the Floratam variety is appropriate for full sun areas. However, the shade tolerant varieties also perform well in full sun and can be considered depending on the appearance you are seeking as every variety has certain aesthetic characteristics and other attributes which are categorized as pro's and con's. Research the St. Augustine varieties to determine which best fits your requirement and preferences. For sodding in shady areas take a looks at our lawn tips for shady areas.
  6. Although not required, sometimes it can be helpful to apply a fertilizer, such as Milorganite, prior to laying down the sod. There are also other pre-sodding treatments that can be done such as applying a moisture retention chemical to the ground which is supposed to help your lawn more efficiently utilize the water available in the soil.
  7. It is helpful on hot days to pre-soak the ground prior to laying down sod. This helps prevent stress, damage or burning of the tender sod roots and assists with the process of getting your new sod to take root.
  8. St. Augustine sod generally comes on pallets of either 400 to 500 square feet therefore measure the area to be resodded and calculate your pallet requirements appropriately. If you find that your calculations require slightly more than what whole pallets provide consider purchasing the remaining square feet as individual pieces which are available locally at a sod distributor such as A1A Quality Sod in Longwood. Individual pieces of sod generally measure 24" x 16" (2.6 sq-ft).
  9. Pre-marking irrigation heads with flags helps to avoid accidentally covering them up when resodding.
  10. When laying sod it is best to sod large or straight areas first. Lay the sod down in large rows and working from points closest to your house and working back to minimize walking on top of newly laid sod. Sod laid in one row versus the next row should be staggered such as the pattern typically used in brick work. Sod should be laid as closed as possible to adjoining pieces without overlapping.
  11. Left over pieces of sod are best used to fill in irregular or curves areas. Fitting in pieces requires cutting the sod and use of a hatchet ax, machete or shovel is the best way to cut.
  12. St. Augustine grass, once established, will fill in any gaps and while not necessary it can help in the early stages of establishment to fill in minor gaps between pieces of sod with top soil.
  13. In the early stages of establishing your new St. Augustine sod it is important to water more often than an established lawn as the root system of fresh cut sod is very shallow. Depending on weather conditions it may be necessary to water your lawn up to 3 times a day for 10 or 15 minutes intervals and this may be necessary for several days in a row. The best practice is to observe the grass blades and when the grass blades appear to fold this is an indication that more water is required. Try to avoid watering towards the end of the day or at night as moist grass blades area a target for fungus.
  14. Newly sodded St. Augustine lawns will benefit from an immediate application of granular fungicide such as Bayer Advanced or Scott's lawn fungicides. Because new sod typically requires daily watering the leaf blades are wet for long periods which promotes fungus growth. Apply the fungicide on top of the new sod the same day as installation at the "curative rate" listed in the directions. This will minimize chances that fungus becomes a problem the first few weeks. After 3 to 4 weeks consider applying fungicide again.
  15. Moving forward with your newly establish lawn follow our lawn maintenance tips.