Rapides Parish Lawn and Garden Lawns Information

Terry Washington  |  3/31/2005 10:05:20 PM

One of the most popular turfgrasses is St. Augustine. Because seeds are not available for this grass types, sprigs need to purchased.

Americans love affair with lawns is here to stay. Lawns tie most landscapes together and control soil erosion, dampen traffic noise and cool the air. But these things happen only e lawn has been installed and maintained correctly.

A lawn can be as functional as it is beautiful if planned properly. Some lawns are planted in problem soil areas or heavy traffic zones, and these require special considerations. There are two grass types. They are cool season (meaning they do better in the North) or warm season (better adapted to southern gardens).  This information will help you select varieties that will grow well in your climate and under the conditions present in your yard.

The first type of turfgrass is Bermuda.  Bermuda grass (wiregrass, couchgrass) makes a fine-textured lawn. This grass makes a tough, dense turf with some short and fine seed heads. It requires full sun, fairly high maintenance and fertility or it will thin and become weedy. It is somewhat drought and salt tolerant, especially Tifgreen 328. A Bermuda lawn should be cut with a reel mower, especially if cut below 1 inch.

Hybrid Bermudas are fine textured and make a much better turf. They must be sodded, plugged, sprigged or stolonized. For hybrids, choose Tifsport, MS Pride, MS Choice, Tifway 419 (a sturdy variety) or Tifgreen 328 (dwarf). All hybrid Bermudas are high maintenance

Bermuda types established from seed include Arizona common and improved selections of common. For an improved seeded Bermuda, choose Jackpot, Savannah, Sultan, Sun Star, Sun Devil II, Sonesta, Mirage, Sultan or the cold-tolerant Guymon. These selections
are a little better than the common type but not nearly as attractive as a hybrid.

Another type of grass is Zoysia.  Zoysia grasses are fine to medium fine in texture and make the highest quality lawns. They grow slowly and are slow to establish, but they are extremely aggressive and will invade other grass areas. The tendency of this grass to thatch (build up a dead, spongy base) is much greater than that of St. Augustine and Bermuda. The thatching problem often requires replacement of this type of grass after five to seven years because homeowners do not dethatch and maintain a low thatching culture. This is especially true for Zoysia lawns in south Louisiana. Those who grow Zoysia should not grow it in total full sun or under high fertility. It is a high maintenance turf.

Homeowners who plant Zoysia should plan on having a reel mower that will catch grass clippings and rent a vertical mower (dethatcher) once a year. This grass may be a little more practical in extreme north Louisiana where generally lower temperatures will help limit
growth. The fine-leaved Emerald hybrid and similar Matrella selection should make the best lawns. The thatch-prone Emerald does have good salt and shade tolerance. Meyer Z52
(japonica) variety is a little coarser, slightly less shade-tolerant and grows faster than the other two Zoysias. El Toro is similar to Meyer but faster spreading and more stress tolerant.

Next is Centipede grass.  Centipede grass is medium in texture. The common type is what’s normally found. AU Centennial is a dwarf selection with some alkali tolerance. All are salt sensitive and exhibit fair shade tolerance. This grass has a moderate growth and requires less maintenance except for ample irrigation during dry periods. Its sward is medium dense, and seed heads are inconspicuous. Common Centipede can be seeded, but it must be done only on a sandy soil that won’t crust. Seed is expensive and stands are often slow to start, sparse and uneven. Generally it is stripped, plugged or solid sodded. Centipede is very popular with homeowners.

One of the most popular grasses is St. Augustine grass. Although its popularity has decreased in recent years, it has the coarsest varieties of lawn grasses. The turf is medium in density, and seed heads are short, thick and inconspicuous. It is not seeded. Maintenance is moderate to high, and some varieties have problems with chinch bugs and a decline virus (SAD).
Bitter Blue, Floratine and Common are older varieties of moderate coarseness and moderate to low hardiness. Floratam is a coarser variety with poor shade tolerance, some resistance to SAD and chinch bugs but poor resistance to low temperature. This and several other cold-sensitive varieties not listed should not be planted north of New Orleans. Seville has a much finer texture with SAD resistance and chinch bug tolerance, but also has this cold limitation. A moderately coarse variety called Raleigh shows resistance to cold and SAD. The new Delmar and Palmetto varieties are improved over Raleigh and produce the best turf.

More information on site considerations, planting and establishment,  and seeding rate can be found in Publication 2230 which is made available by the LSU AgCenter.  Before you make your final decision on choosing the variety that is best suited for your location, check with your local Cooperative Extension Service.  In Rapides Parish that person is Terry Washington. He can be reached at (318) 767-3968.
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