staugustinegrassby Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

Many older, thinning, declining lawns need to be re-established.

Sometimes we waste time and money to rejuvenate an older, thinning, weedy lawn when the best solution is to start over.

Common causes for lawn decline include soil compaction, nutrient imbalances, tree competition, root pests and improper lawn maintenance practices. When less than 60 percent desirable cover is left in a lawn, re-establishment should be considered.

Attempt to determine why the lawn declined and correct any mismanagement practices that contributed to the lawn’s demise. It’s unwise to put time and money into renovating a lawn and continue to follow poor lawn care practices that will again result in a short-lived, declining lawn. Professional or expert assistance may be required to diagnose some lawn problems such as nutrient imbalances or nematode and disease issues.

In the process of starting over, decide where lawn grass is needed or where it serves a purpose and consider other options in areas where grass may not be needed or where grass does not grow well.

Over time, trees and large shrubs simply out compete the lawn grass. When dealing with this situation (particularly a group of large trees and/or shrubs), consider alternatives to lawn grass. Mulch or a shade tolerant groundcover may be a better choice in place of the declining lawn. A mulched bed will look better than a weedy, thinning lawn. And the tree’s roots will benefit from the mulch.

Some people blame weeds as the lawn declines. But in reality, as the lawn thins, weeds move in. As grass declines in high traffic area, consider pavement or mulch. In naturally wet areas, consider plants that do well on wet sites.

Some areas aren’t appropriate for growing lawn grass. As the grass declines in these areas, “weeds” that are better suited to the conditions out compete the grass. In such cases, consider turf alternatives and avoid the use of herbicides to control the weeds, which are only a temporary fix at best.

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