As I look back over some 28 years of writing Blooming Issues, I realize that my articles about turf grass have decreased in conjunction with the decrease in our lot size. As new homeowners back in 1985, we purchased a home on .43 acres; most of the landscape was turf grass. Over the 17 years of living in that location, we increased the number of garden beds to enhance the design and reduce the lawn maintenance. In a move in 2001, we bought .28 acres, built a new home, and limited the turf grass to the front yard. In 2015, we bought .17 acres, built another new home, and eliminated all turf grass. Why the lack of turf grass surrounding our home? Because 35 years of island living has proven that all that time and effort spent on mowing, blowing, aerating, fertilizing, spraying for insect and weed control, and irrigation rarely gave us that perfect carpet of green. And from just looking around, very few lawns actually look that great here unless top-notch professional lawn care people are hired to do the work for you.
However, that doesn’t prevent most homeowners from trying! Along the coast, Mother Nature brings sandy soils, high humidity, and steamy temperatures. Under these conditions, it is difficult to grow turf grass well year-round. The choices are limited to warm season grasses including St. Augustine, Bermuda, Zoysia, Bahiagrass and Centipede. Let’s look at each variety. I’ve compiled as much information as I can into the chart below.
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We have had both St. Augustine and Centipede as our turf grass. Our first homesite had more shade and three active young children running about; the second had more sun and very little traffic since our girls were off to college by then. By far, the most temperamental was the St. Augustine. We never tried the other grass varieties but have seen other homesites with them in the coastal area.
Because most of the warm season grasses go dormant when temperatures drop, many homeowners will overseed the lawn with perennial ryegrass in autumn. This variety will grow as an annual grass in zone 9, will be green during the winter months and eventually die out when temperatures become too high. The ryegrass will require watering and mowing and as a horticulturist, I am not a proponent of placing another grass on top of an existing grass which may or may not be struggling under its growing conditions. As a low-maintenance gardener, I wouldn’t want to mow 12 months out of the year! Heck, if you want year-round low-maintenance green, there are some very realistic artificial turfs available today.
I hope this info proves helpful. I may be wrong in some areas as I never have been a turf expert but I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.