DALLAS — Dr. Jim McAfee has heard it time and again about St. Augustine grass this spring: “You mean my lawn’s not the only one?”
You’re not alone if your St. Augustine lawn has patches of dead grass or is gone altogether, said McAfee, a Texas Cooperative Extension turfgrass specialist.
The popular species is suffering this season under a harmful set of circumstances.
A prolonged drought and hard freezes last winter were enough by themselves to weaken St. Augustine, he said. But the weather conditions also left the grass vulnerable to take-all root rot and nigrospora, two diseases that can ravage lawns.
“We’ve seen a significant loss of St. Augustine,” McAfee said. “It’s probably the No. 1 problem with lawns right now.”
The grass is dying around Texas in dry areas where the weather gets cold, he said.
“It’s not just in Dallas and Fort Worth; it’s all over.”
St. Augustine is falling victim because it is a subtropical variety that is best suited for warmer coastal areas that get more rain. There wouldn.t have been much anyone could have done to protect their lawns, he said. Even regularly watered grass suffered from the drought.
“People think that everything should be OK because they.ve watered,” McAfee said. “But go lie on a beach in the sun all day. You can drink all the water you want, but see how you feel at the end of the day.”
Some people might not know they have a problem because weeds can fill in and turn brown patches green, he said.
The first thing to do about damaged turf is be patient, he said. As temperatures warm up, the St. Augustine might eventually spread and fill in brown or yellowing areas.
Avoid using herbicides on weeds, which could stress the grass further.
“If it’s all brown and dead go ahead and re-sod it,” he said. “If it’s still somewhat green, give it time.”
Don’t waste money on fungicides unless you know for sure what is killing the grass,” he said.
For testing, grass samples can be sent to a local lawn expert or to Texas A&M University.s Plant Diagnostic Lab, Rm. 101, L.F. Peterson Bldg., College Station, TX 77843, McAfee said.