top of page
  • Anne Yasalonis

Best Management Tips for Functional and Beautiful Central Florida Lawns



What is the best way to maintain a healthy lawn in central Florida?


There is no secret to lawncare success. Simply following the best management practices for home lawncare is the best way to support a healthy, thriving lawn.


What does that mean?


Proper mowing, watering, and following UF/ IFAS recommendations for pest management and fertilization. A properly maintained lawn is both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Healthy lawns filter runoff, reduce erosion, and mitigate heat and glare. Adhering to the best management practices recommended by UF/IFAS Extension can help achieve these benefits.


And if all that doesn’t work, look to one of the turfgrass alternatives to align with the “right plant, right place” principle that is the cornerstone of Florida-Friendly Landscaping.


1. MOW TO THE RIGHT HEIGHT


Mowing is something many people don’t think twice about but will make a big difference in the health and vigor of your lawn. Mow dry grass with sharp blades at the highest setting recommended for your type of turfgrass, never removing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade. St. Augustinegrass can be mowed at 3 ½-4 inches (with dwarf types at 2-2 ½ inches), zoysiagrass is mowed at 2 inches, and bahiagrass at 3-4 inches. These are the most common types of turfgrass found in central Florida lawns.


Mowing high is directly related to deep roots, which are important for encouraging drought-tolerance. Keeping the mower blades sharp and clean to reduce susceptibility to pests with a clean cut.


2. PROPER WATERING IS IMPORTANT!


Did you know that improper watering is the main cause of lawn damage? This means applying the correct amount of water each time you turn your sprinklers on—only ½-3/4 inch of water should be applied. Calibrating, or measuring, the water that comes out of your sprinklers will help you determine run time. Learn how to calibrate your sprinkler system here: gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu. Additionally, make sure you change your timeclock seasonally. You do not need to water routinely when the lawn is dormant in the winter, nor do you need to when the summer rains start. In fact, too much water is not a good thing when it comes to a healthy lawn. Over watering can lead to weeds, disease, and insect pests. Make sure you do not change the rate of application but change the frequency of application either manually or using your timeclock.


3. PROPER INSECT AND DISEASE MANAGEMENT


Make sure the pest is properly identified before any treatment action is taken. Brown spots in lawns can end up all looking alike, and proper identification of the problem is key to good lawn management. The UF/IFAS Extension Plant Clinic can help you identify the problem, saving you time and money. Use nonchemical methods of control first (hand pruning, beneficial insects) and then if chemical control is needed, spot-treat with least toxic chemical first. Follow the Florida-Friendly Landscaping principle of managing yard pests responsibly: ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/ about-ffl/9-principles/principle-6-manage-pests.


4. WHAT ABOUT FERTILIZER?


Just like water, too much fertilizer is not a good thing. Over-fertilization not only increases impacts to the environment, but it can also lead to excess disease and insect issues. If fertilizer is needed, applications should be made mid-April and again in early October. Timing will change depending on where you live in the state. Remember that fertilizers are used to add nutrients to your plants and encourage growth, so it is entirely possible that you do not need to apply it twice a year. If you do apply fertilizer, always select one that is formulated for lawns, contains no phosphorous, and has nitrogen in a slow-release form. Stay away from weed-and-feed products as they may harm nearby ornamental plants and trees. Additionally, weed-and-feed contains fertilizers and herbicides that need to be applied at different times of the year to be effective.


5. UNWANTED PLANTS (AKA WEEDS)


What do you think the best way to control weeds might be? Yes, proper lawn management (see a trend in this article?)


When lawns are not maintained following best management practices, areas can become weak, stressed, and may die. Voids are the perfect places for weeds to infiltrate the lawn.


Once weeds show up, you can choose either a non-chemical or chemical approach to control. For more information on controlling weeds, check out our podcast episode on weeds (Your Central Florida Yard podcast episode 9: link.chtbl.com/ YourCentralFloridaYard).


Finally, what are the options if lawn maintenance becomes overwhelming, costly, or just too time consuming? It may be that turfgrass is not the right plant for the right place in your yard. Right plant, right place means that you select plants based on the yard’s conditions—soil type, climate, water, and light. Not all sites are appropriate for growing turfgrass and there are alternatives.


· Increase mulched beds and fill with low-maintenance ornamental plants and groundcovers.


· Want that lawn aesthetic? Look to a turfgrass alternative (a low-growing groundcover). Consider perennial peanut or frogfruit.


Now that summer is here, refer to our blog post on summer lawn care at blogs.ifas.ufl.edu.


Contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/ polk. The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Give us a call or email us at polkmg@ifas.ufl.edu.


To learn more about gardening and landscaping in central Florida, listen to the Your Central Florida Yard podcast. You can find the podcast wherever you listen or find out more on our Substack: substack.com/@yourcentralfloridayard.


An Equal Opportunity Institution.

Comments


bottom of page