April 28, 2008

Starting a Bahiagrass Lawn

By Jane Morse, University of Florida/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Agent

Argentine Bahiagrass
Some of the advantages of a bahiagrass lawn are drought tolerance, low fertility requirements, relatively few disease problems and only one primary insect problem (mole crickets). Disadvantages include tall seedheads that some people find unsightly, not much tolerance to shade, traffic or saltwater, and lower performance in alkaline soils.

There are four varieties of bahiagrass available for home lawns. These varieties are Common, Argentine, Pensacola and Paraquay. All of these may be established by seed or sod. Only two of these four varieties are best suited for lawns. Argentine is relatively dense with a dark green color. It has good insect and disease resistance and tolerates cold temperatures well. Pensacola has excellent drought tolerance and tolerates either hot or cold temperatures well, but it produces an abundance of seed heads.

The best time to establish bahiagrass is during the spring or early summer months. This timing allows the grass to become established before the cooler months arrive and growth is reduced.

Properly preparing the soil before planting is critical. This should be done whether you are planting a new lawn or replanting an old one, and whether you are seeding or sodding. The first step is to remove any debris, brush, large roots, rocks, weeds or old tree stumps. Rough grade the site so it is sloped at 1 to 2 % away from the house (1/2 to 1 foot fall per 50 feet). Poorly drained soil may require installation of drainage lines. If an area cannot be leveled, use ground cover plants other than turf grass. Control of perennial weeds such as Bermuda grass and torpedo grass needs to be done during site preparation. Several applications of a non selective herbicide are usually required to get rid of these tenacious weeds.

It’s always a good idea to have a soil analysis done whenever planting is undertaken. This will provide you with information about the soil including its pH (acidity or alkalinity). Depending on which soil analysis is done, it can also provide information about the fertility of the soil and pH adjustments that may be required. To obtain a soil sample, collect several small plugs from the top 6 inches of the soil in the area to be planted. Throw all the samples together, mix them up, then take at least a cup’s worth to be analyzed. Analysis can be provided by Pinellas County Extension. (For detailed information on collecting a soil sample: Extension can also provide the mailing materials for a more in depth analysis done by the University of Florida

Next, install irrigation equipment if desired. Add any desired soil amendments. Just make sure that all organic soil amendment materials are sterilized to prevent the introduction of weed seeds. Rototill to loosen compacted soil and improve the speed and depth of rooting. If soil amendments, lime or fertilizer have been added, till the soil deeply down to about 6 or 8 inches.

Finally, do a final grading just prior to planting to provide a smooth planting bed. The site can be hand-raked and dragged with a hand-pulled drag. Large areas can be smoothed by tractor-drawn equipment with a tiller rake or grading box and then hand-finished. Irrigation can be used to settle the soil before planting. Hand-rake to break up a crusty surface prior to seeding.

Seeding or sodding are the next step and these will be covered in my next article. Can’t wait. . . see this publication: or Google “Establishing Your Florida Lawn IFAS.”

Information for this article came from University of Florida IFAS publications:
Bahiagrass for Florida Lawns:
Preparing to Plant a Florida Lawn:

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