Caring for St. Augustine grass means taking a few special steps. This handsome, shade-tolerant grass is a nitrogen-lover and responds well to organic manures as well as chemical fertilizers. In parts of Florida, manures are a poor choice; to protect the aquifer, nitrogen-containing fertilizers can be bought only in time-release form. In other southern states, sheep manure is one of several excellent organic choices for this handsome grass. Learn the techniques that enhance the performance of sheep manure on St. Augustine grass.
St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass is a southern favorite because of two seemingly paradoxical characteristics: heat-tolerance and shade-tolerance. Although it performs best in full sun, it can do well with dappled or solid shade. Its blade is wider and its roots are longer than other warm-weather turf grasses, which has a bearing on how you fertilize it.
Like all manures from grazing animals, sheep manure is an excellent source of nitrogen. These manures have a tendency to burn grass blades in their fresh form. Composting and aging sheep manure with straw or other organic material reduces the chance of burning and also, by absorbing more nitrogen than grass can use, makes the manure good sustenance for grass. Composting sheep manure, for example, can reduce a balance of (fresh) .70 Nitrogen .30 Phosphorus and .90 Potash to a much more evenly distributed ratio of nutrients (composted), most typically offered commercially as 17-17-17.
Applying Sheep Manure
Consider both manure and grass qualities when applying fertilizer. Soil testing done by your county extension service can help determine the exact balance of nutrients needed. The extension can also provide a formula for amounts of fertilizer for your area, which is usually based on pounds of nitrogen available, but this also needs to be based on soil condition and season.
St. Augustine grass typically does better and stays greener when cut less severely than other grasses. While Bermuda grass might be cut to 2 1/2 inches, St. Augustine, especially when being fertilized, should be cut to an optimal length of 3 1/2 inches. Long stolons (above-ground stems) are susceptible to burning, either by sun or by fertilizer. When you leave the blades longer than those of most cut grass, it shades the stolons from damage, and the broad leaves can diffuse chemicals quickly.
St. Augustine grass is also characterized by long, depth-seeking roots as well as long stems. This virtue, which can keep St. Augustine grass healthy when other fine-bladed grasses dry out, must be respected in watering. At all times, and especially when fertilizing, St. Augustine grass needs deep watering. Some experts suggest a water-gauge, to be certain the grass receives at least 1 inch of water a week. Deep watering will both help fertilizer take effect quickly and evenly and also prevent thirsty roots from growing more abundantly toward the surface. Deep and thorough watering will assure the beautiful lawn St. Augustine's grass can provide.