Hope for Holes and Bare Spots in Panhandle Lawns
L. Scott Jackson
Agriculture and Natural Resources, Extension Agent
For the second consecutive year, North Florida has suffered extensive damage to centipedegrass lawns as reported from Gainesville through the Panhandle. So don’t feel alone if you have recently seen poor performing centipedegrass, with large areas of weeds or bare spots in your lawn in the past year.
Bare spots in soil are can be the result of diseases or environmental condtions, including freezing weather. This lawn is a good candidate for re-growing existing turfgrass since it has several healthy grass plants scattered throughout the bare area. Photo Credits: L. Scott Jackson
Grass will soon come out of dormancy in the next few months. Once grass growth resumes, you can evaluate the potential to re-grow damaged areas. If existing turf has least 2 to 3 grass plants per square foot then you can slowly grow grass to repair your lawn. Otherwise, you will want to re-establish grass plants with seeds, sprigs, or sod. Patch mixes often seen in retail stores are not be a long term solution. These products often include grass seeds that are adapted to cooler climates. Fescues and ryegrasses are winter grasses in Florida and will not last long in our prolonged warm growing season. Read the label carefully before applying these types of seed mixtures. Bahiagrass, bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass, and centipedegrass are more common grasses for our area. To ensure a uniform lawn, make sure that you use seed that matches the grass you have in your lawn. If you intend to spread seed, make sure that you do not apply weed-and-feed or crabgrass preventer products.
Once grass is growing this spring, you can begin to identify and remove any dead grass or thatch that has accumulated. Opening these areas up will allow for grass runners and roots to spread. If you have only a few grass plants remaining or you don’t want to wait for the grass to re-grow over a long period of time, then complete renovation is your next best option. A pH test is great place to start. Soil pH says a lot about the soil’s properties and can be measured easily either with an in home test purchased from a retailer or by our IFAS Soils Lab. In addition to knowing your pH, you should also investigate how much sunlight your lawn receives, and consider how much foot traffic your new lawn will experience. Armed with this information, you can select the best turfgrass that fits your needs and level of desired maintenance. Our Extension offices have homeowner articles to help with the turfgrass selection and establishment.
Proper fertilization, irrigation, and mowing are also key in establishing and maintaining your lawn. Over fertilization can result in problems such as insect infestations and even a reduction in the growth of grass. Proper turfgrass nutrition is important in growing healthy turf. Over- or under-fertilization will result in grasses that are less capable of tolerating the stresses (cold, heat, drought, insect, etc.) that come along. Recommendations for the amount of fertilizer depend on the type of grass you are trying to grow and soil conditions. Applying fertilizer too early (prior to April 15) can also leave tender young shoots of grass susceptible to freeze damage. Last year, North Florida experienced late season damaging freezes in April.
You don’t have to guess, just ask us to help. Our Extension Agents and Master Gardeners are always ready to assist homeowner. Thanks to UF-IFAS Extension Turfgrass Specialist J. Bryan Unruh who contributed information to this article.