NORTHWEST FLORIDA LAWNS ARE FRUSTRATING

grassby Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

Why are lawns so difficult or frustrating here? The answer involves a combination of factors.

We are not far enough north to benefit from the better soils, even though the extreme northern portion of Northwest Florida, bordering Alabama, does have richer soils with better water and nutrient holding capacities. These better soils result in a ore favorable root environment, with roots being more competitive and resilient.

Something else happens in more northern areas. The heavier soils and colder temperatures (sometimes resulting in the soil freezing) are natural means of inhibiting and/or controlling certain soil dwelling pests.

For example, nematodes are not nearly the concern in northern lawns that they are here. Many people who move to our area have never heard of these microscopic roundworms that play havoc in our warm, sandy soils. After a lawn has been in place for a number of years, allowing the nematode population to reach a threshold, the lawn begins to decline.

Other soil dwelling pests that northerners don’t have to deal with include ground pearls, small scale-like insects. Mole crickets are not a pest much north of Central Alabama. Years ago a representative with the company that manufactured the once popular mole cricket insecticide Oftanol told me that in the absence of the state of Florida, they would not sell enough Oftanol to keep it on the market.

We are not far enough north to use the more trouble free northern grasses to create a permanent lawn. These include bluegrases, fescues, and ryegrasses. At best, these grasses can be used to overseed our lawns during the cooler fall and winter months to create a temporary winter lawn. But they will not survive our hot, wet summers.

We are not far enough south to benefit from the lack of freezing temperatures during winter. Late freezes can injure our lawns. A late freeze that occurred on April 8 in Crestview a number of years ago resulted in lawns taking a 70-percent loss. This typically doe snot happen in central and South Florida.

We deal with saltwater issues, high humidity, tropical storms, an array of lawn insects and diseases, extremes in rainfall and temperature, etc.

It’s no wonder most people become frustrated with their lawns.

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