Can you add Bahai grass seeds to St. Augustine Lawns?

newbiegardner(Z10 S. Florida)March 2, 2009


My lawn guy says my lawn is dying and if I don't re-sod it soon, I'll have no lawn left. Re-sodding will be $700 (YIKES!) as I was told I will need seven (7) pallets of sod at $100/each.

In this economy, I can't spend $700 on grass. What are my options? Can I plant seeds? One advantage of seeds (other than cost) is that I won't have an unlevel lawn....or have to spend a ton of time/$$$ removing dirt. I imagine you can't just plop sod down on top of have to dig away some dirt so the final lawn is all at one level.

I looked everywhere for St. Augustine grass seeds...and was told you CAN'T GROW St. Augustine from seed? OK, so I found Bahai Grass. It is not a perfect match but better than a batch of plain dirt, no?

Are there downsides to planting Bahai seeds on a St. Augustine Lawn? Any advice for doing so?

Finally, what guarantee do I have that if I do spend $700 on re-sodding, that there won't be bald spots again in 6 months?

Possible Reasons Grass is Dying:

  1. I thought maybe the grass is dying because of a sprinkler problem but checked them and they seem fine.

2) Grass doesn't grow well on slopes (most of the dead grass is on a sloped section)

3) The lawn guy's mower is killing it (I see some tire tracks...but don't know if the tires cause the grass to turn to mud..or the mud is there and therefore the tire marks show...a "what came first the chicken or the egg type situation here!)

4) My lawn is getting overgrown with weeds....but when I spread WEED & FEED, it kills the weeds and I get bald does the WEED part of the job but perhaps is not doing the FEED part. ARGH!

See pics below and any advice will be I can't afford to re-sod right now.:

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manature(9B Sanford, FL)

Perhaps identifying the problem would be a good idea before trying to fix it. It might make a difference to which solution would work best. Your last picture seems to have a LOT of weeds in it in a solid patch. Could the bald spots be areas that were mostly weed and were killed by the Feed n Weed? If so, couldn't you "sprig" those areas with new grass, rather than sod? I believe you can get "plugs" of St. Augustine, can't you? (Anyone?)

And the my other thought is, slopes are very difficult to maintain grass on, for several reasons, not the least of which is how hard they are to mow properly. How about putting in a ground cover in those areas, or even a rock garden? With hardier plants that need less care and might do better on a slope? (Slopes tend to be dry, as the water is running down to the bottom). It just looks to me like it might be a good place for something other than grass of any kind, so that's one option.

And if you do decide to seed, remember that bahia grass looks very different from St. Augustine. It gets much taller, is a different color, has a different texture, and sends up 2' tall seed heads every week during the summer. It is a better grass for Florida than St. Augustine in that it is much tougher and more drought tolerant, but I don't know if you would like how it looks just in certain spots.

Me, I'm still thinking ground cover. But then I hate lawns, in general, anyway. It will be interesting to see what others think. Tricky slope solutions, folks??


    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 8:37AM
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fagopher(zone 5)

I do have an slope and I do have problems with my grass... I am interested in knowing what others are doing in those cases.

I have been thinking on changing the grass for plants but I have not really got any good idea yet, so I am wondering if you could share your ideas on this or maybe share some pictures it would really help..


    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 10:12AM
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jonnys(9 Orlando Fl)

In the second picture it really looks like your lawn man has killed it. Being a former 'lawn man', I understand that you cannot drive these heavy mowers over slopes like that, especially on soft sand, it just shreds the grass right out form under the tires. It appears in that photo you can clearly see two tire tracks going around the corner. That slope should really only be trimmed using a string trimmer, weedwacker.

As for what to do, I like Marcia's ideas as to replacing with a ground cover or rock garden, something that will solve the problem indefinitely. I am afraid that even with bahai it will still come out as long as a mower is driven over it as it looks like it has been done.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 10:46AM
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Here's my two and a half cents on the situation:

Bahia seed is extremely difficuly to sow. The birds eat it, and by the time it sprouts and grows the weeds will have taken over again, plus it looks different than St. Augustine and your yard guy would end up killing it too. I would forget the Bahia idea altogether. I speak from a hard-learned lesson here LOL!

Yes, the slopes are a challenge. I agree with Marcia, I would seriously consider terracing the slopes and planting a mixture of groundcover/rock garden and some accent plants and forget trying to grow grass in those areas. The slopes look really sandy, you will probably want to amend the soil for planting, it still should cost less than the high price of sod.

I would plug the dead areas on the flat part of the yard with St. Augustine, you can buy one pallet and cut into chucks as needed, might be cheaper than buying a few pieces at a garden center. Make sure you hand water it to get it established.

Good luck, I hope you'll post pictures of the end result!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 12:12PM
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goldenpond((Vero.Beach FL 9b))

I think Bahai on slopes would hold better than anything,IF you used the sod. I prefer Bahai anyday!It is used around ponds and things because it forms those denses mats of roots that don't budge.
My DH and I argued for a year about what kind of sod to put in finally splitting the yard,he did St A in front I have Bahai around ponds and in the backyard.
Somedays I can't help but point out how good my Bahai looks compared to the fussy ST A. We can tell where the Bahai starts and st A ends but so what?
I can only dream that it will take over his ST A.
Weeds , We have then in both grasses because we hate poison.
I might add that he now is on my side and would do Bahai all over if we did it again.
BUT, every property is different mine is so spread out and mostly country casual.If you are in a Wisteria Lane type subdivision you may have to put in St A to impress the neighbors.
IF NOT,,,,,How about wildflowers. please check out the Florida wildflower site.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 2:14PM
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I have a sloped back yard around my pool, which is much more steep than your slope in the pictures, covered in St. Augustine. I too detest lawns, but I have no money right now, so my St. Augustine is here to stay. I water my St. Augustine with an irrigation system on my allotted days and once yearly treat with weed/feed. Yes, my St. Aug is great on bare feet and very healthy looking. I have no problems with maintaining it on the slope. I'm not bragging, I'm just trying to explain that I have personal experience with this situation.

I think your first problem is with the underlying sand. My underlying soil is a thick layer of decayed organic material, on top of a thin layer of sand, on top of a thick layer of loose clay. It's clear from your photos that the mower tires are disturbing the St. Aug's growth. That is very easy to do regardless of the underlying soil, but especially easy in sand such as you have.

I think your second problem is with your lawn guy. Seriously. And, I mean absolutely no offense. Your lawn is covered in weeds. It didn't happen overnight, although sometimes it might seem that way. Your lawn guy should know (1) how to mow on a slope without destroying the roots, (2) how to point out a weed problem before it becomes a massive weed problem like you have. How convenient for him that you need sod replacement?!?! Isn't his job routine lawn care, not routine lawn destroying and replacement?

That being said, I have a cheap temporary solution for you. I see in the first picture, to the left of the hose/brick path, you have a bush/tree surrounded by a small circle of mulch. And, in the second picture, you have another tree just down slope from the pool, surrounded by another small circle of mulch. I would take a sharp straight-edged shovel and cut away shovel sized squares of sod in a circular pattern around those trees. Making much, much larger circles around the trees. Take a section of the sandy/weedy area, cover thickly in newspaper, wet newspaper, then lay your homemade sod squares on top of the wet paper. Water daily until they take root and can survive on their own. Go back and extend the mulched area around the two trees, so your weed problem doesn't extend under the trees. This should really be done in stages, because the sod squares that you cut out and move need to be kept wet during the moving process.

I say my solution is cheap, because you can buy mulch for $1.68 at the big box stores these days, and you would probably need 10 bags. Less than $20. Of course you will have a little extra water expense from having to water daily to establish the newly sodded sections. It is a little bit back breaking, but I'm sure you can either do it or find someone to help.

I say my solution is temporary because, ideally, you could eventually plant some sort of hearty, Florida friendly ground cover over that entire area. In the long run it will not require as much water or care as St. Augustine, and you can get rid of the expensive lawn guy!

Things to remember:
Don't put any weed and feed down on the newly sodded sections either immediately before or after laying the sod.

Don't forget to water daily until the new sections have taken hold. Especially during this, our driest time of year.

If you choose to use RoundUp on the weedy areas before moving the grass squares, don't lay the grass squares directly on the area treated with RoundUp unless you put in a layer of newspaper or cardboard first.

If you can get your hands on some liriope, you could make a border along the brick walk (at the top of the slope), to help hold it all together. Their roots tend to spread out rather than down, so it will keep slope erosion in better check.

Lastly, don't let that man with the mower anywhere near the new section. Weed-whacker only until it's established. You probably won't need to mow this area for the next 6 weeks anyway.

Maybe someone else will have a better/easier solution, but this is what I did and it works.

I certainly welcome any criticism or comments on my suggestion.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 4:10PM
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"think your second problem is with your lawn guy. Seriously. And, I mean absolutely no offense. Your lawn is covered in weeds. It didn't happen overnight, although sometimes it might seem that way. ... How convenient for him that you need sod replacement?!?! "

I was thinking this same exact thing... a good lawn person would have never let that yard get to that stage. Isn't that the point of PAYING someone to care for your lawn?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 5:03PM
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Y'all must be getting more rain than I am AND have fewer watering restrictions!!! I won't consider doing any planting right now they've made it so hard for me to get water to my EXISTING plants.

Good luck all.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 5:16PM
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annafl(z9b/10a Sarasota)

If it were me, I'd take this as an opportunity to beautify the area with Florida-friendly plants in a large, attractive curving bed. I would make it at least 10-12 feet off the concrete areas and curve the outer margin. If you can, make some border for temporary erosion control until the plants have established and expanded their root systems. See the link below for how I've done this in many areas of my yard. When I started, my areas had only sand and weeds. It looked nowhere as good as yours does now. This method involves work in obtaining and gathering materials, but is mostly free. Right now there are plenty of bags of leaves others are throwing away weekly on recycling days. You could use that if you don't have access to wood chips or mulch.

Consider things that thrive in sandy soil and full sun (is this a full-sun area?), like firebush, white bird of paradise, cassias as the tall layer, tall pentas as medium-tall layer, and dune sunflower as a fast-growing, beautiful ground cover for erosion control that will give you flowers around the edge most of the year and thrive without irrigation (it won't work if you have irrigation hitting it). Other possibilities are ornamental grasses, rondeletia (blooming beautifully now and carefree).

Here is a link that might be useful: make a large, curving bed instead!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 5:28PM
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newbiegardner(Z10 S. Florida)

It NEVER occured to me to have ground-cover instead of grass. That sounds like a great solution and WAY better than putting down sod and having it go bald again.

Now, the only worry I have is the SLOPE. How do I keep mulch from sliding down the hill? Also, what do you guys feel about lava rock instead of mulch. I know it provides no organic benefits....but this area is next to my roof and I have no gutter so the water would probably wash away mulch. I had mulch to the right of my paver sidewalk (see my notes in the picture below) and everytime it rained, I had mulch all over my pavers! See my notes below:

I love the plant bed that AnnaFl posted in her link in the post above...but that is for flat ground. How can I place cardboard on a slope and expect mulch....much less lava rock to stick to it. Also, doesn't all that mulched area require lots of Round-up...or I guess the cardboard does a good job of stopping weeds.

Finally, why do I need mulch or lava rocks at all? Can't I plant something that grows so THICK that the ground doesn't even show? For example, I see the following ground cover at the entrances outside SawGrass Mall and you can't even see the ground because the plants are so thick...what can I plant that will do that (see below):

Finally, since we are on the topic of bald spots...any suggestions for the grass next to my front patio mulched area:

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 8:35PM
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Hi. I have had some success with overseeding my St. Augustine grass. The way I kept the birds off was to mix the Bahia seed with Rye seed and gently work it with a rake into the top layer of soil or simply place it over the old grass and scratch it in. The reason for the Rye seed is because it sprouts very quickly, probably takes about four or five days if kept moist, and before the birds can discover it. It protects the Bahia seed until it can sprout (takes three or four weeks and must be kept moist).

The Rye seed will not grow in hot weather so must be sown in the cooler months along with the Bahia.

Hope this helps.

Sheri :-)

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 1:00AM
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About the grass in the last picture, I would just expand the bed until it reached the walk. Eliminating narrow strips of grass here and there makes for much easier mowing and a neater look.

it is possible to establish a ground cover thick enough so that weeding is reduced, if not completely eliminated, and you can do it without mulch if you like. You just have to keep the weeds down with a hoe until the groundcover can fill in.

Those slopes look dry. You might consider trying some really tough and quick-growing. drought-tolerant natives just to see how you like the bed there. I'm not sure about the conditions of the spot, but dune sunflowers could work.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 8:28AM
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manature(9B Sanford, FL)

I'm with Bill...if I were to plant a groundcover on the sloped area, I wouldn't mulch. I'd plant something that will fill in quickly, and that is drought tolerant. Asiatic jasmine comes to mind, though some don't care for that. Even one of the low-growing mondo grasses would work. Check at your local garden centers for easy maintenance ground covers and I'm sure you will get ideas for what works in your area.

I also agree you can just extend your mulched bed to your paved area, and perhaps put a couple of low growing plants in there for color. It would look fine. No need to have that skinny strip of grass in there that would be hard to mow.

And I'm with those who mention that your lawn guy has been falling down on the job. Unless you hire him for mowing only, he should have been keeping a better eye on the weed situation. But it is what it is, so now it's time to focus on what you can do to make it better.

Good luck!!


    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 9:43AM
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gardengrl(Northern Virginia)

I agree with a lot what everyone else said; I think it's time you hired a new lawnperson! Or even better, try to cut your lawn yourself, as many diseases and weeds are spread from lawn to lawn via your lawnperson's equipment. Save money by cutting your lawn yourself and use that savings to hire someone to treat your lawn professionally for weeds/disease/feedings. That's what we do.

You have a lot of little patches of grass here and there in some really awkward and small areas. That's a lot of work to maintain. Definitely go with a ground cover (asiatic jasmine in the pics above), and limit the areas where you cannot actually maneuver a lawnmower into. That will save you time in having to pull out other equipment for maintenance (i.e., weedwhacker) in those small areas.

Also, it looks like you have a shady area where your slopes are. Make sure you are not trying to plant plants/grass that are meant for full sun in that area. It also looks like you have a lot of moisture problems at the bottoms of those slopes (makes sense) as I see a lot of dollar weed in one of the pics. You need to address that too.

When Hubs and I bought our house 5 years ago, our main goal was to get rid of as much grass as possible. We mulched in the entire backyard & patio area and put in flower beds, stepping stones, focal plantings, etc. We bought mulch by the dumpload and had it delivered. If you have an idea to do something similar, order mulch in bulk as it is cheaper than paying for the bags at The Big Box stores.

We've had to retop/refresh the mulch this year after 4 years from the previous load and it cost us $200 for a pile about the size of a small car! We would have paid 3x that much in bagged mulch, not to mention having all that plastic left over, going to the landfill.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 10:22AM
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Newbiegardener, if you are trying to imitate AnnaFL's lasagna bed on your slope, here are some suggestions:

1. You don't need to use Roundup if you are using newspaper or cardboard to smother the weeds. Save yourself the money.

2. If you insist on using mulch or rocks in that area and you want them to not slide down the slope, use wet newspaper as the underlayment instead of cardboard (more sticky, less sliding). Start with the lava rocks (or mulch) at the bottom of the hill. Make a very thick row across the bottom of the slope, then another row above it and so on, working your way up the hill. Like the way shingles are laid on a roof. Of course mulch isn't necessary if you choose the right ground cover plant. And mulch is likely to wash away in the first hard rain storm.

I also have a variety of other comments:

If you are having an erosion problem from the rain running off the roof into your mulched area to the right of your brick path, then lava rocks are probably a very good idea for that area (no slope).

For your bald spot next to the front walkway, I would fill in that entire area with a layer of wet newspaper and then mulch to the edge of the brick pavers. If you are worried about bugs, use rocks along the edge of the house.

I'm in zone 9(9b) and my neighbor has asiatic jasmine along both sides of their driveway and walkway to their front door. Once it filled in and was well established, they didn't have to fight weeds in that area. Theirs is usually thick and lush all year, but is a mass of solid brown right now due to the recent cold snaps. You probably won't have that problem too often in zone 10.

If you use a drought tolerant groundcover, you could probably just turn off sprinkler heads on that slope to help eliminate the dollar weed problem at the base of the slope. I'm with gardengrl on that one, you will need to do something to keep the dollar weed from spreading up the slope into whatever you decide to do.

Mulch and/or rocks on the slope are going to be more expensive, and you originally mentioned that you wanted to keep expenses down. Castorp and Manature have the right long term solution, a mass of fast growing groundcover that can handle the sandy, dry area. My first post about cutting into and moving the existing grass was by no means meant to be a long term solution, just a very, very inexpensive quick fix.

I also have to ditto what bluesky7 said. My sister successfully overseeds her mostly St. Aug front yard with a mixture of bahia and rye every year. Just mentioning this in case you want to fix other patches that need to remain lawn. Not a quick fix.

Best wishes to you!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 11:47AM
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