After the Frost – What To Do for Cold Damaged St Augustine Lawns


By Rick Orr 02/07/2022
Frost damage on St Augustine Lawn
St Augustine is a Semi-Tropical Plant that will go dormant when exposed to cold temperatures

St Augustine is a Semi-Tropical Plant

St Augustine is a semi-tropical grass – it does not like cold weather. The escape mechanism to avoid death from the cold is to go dormant. When dormant, St Augustine leaves turn brown which makes the lawn look dead – it is not. Below the brown leaves are the stems, roots, and soil that are still full of life.

The brown leaves create an insulating blanket above the stems, roots, and soil protecting them from cold weather and more damage. Then as temperatures rise in the spring, the stems and roots will start producing new leaves. The older dormant brown leaves, fall off and are recycled (composted) into plant food. Soon the once brown lawn is now a lush green lawn again.

What To Do for a Dormant Lawn

Keep it tall. It may look lifeless, but just below the brown leaves are the stems, roots, and soil – all full of life. If you remove the brown leaves by scalping and bagging, the stems, roots, and soil will be exposed to the sun, dehydrate, and die. If you leave the brown leaves, they will protect the stems, roots, and soil, and your lawn will green up faster and become a lush green lawn again.

Keep it wet. Water is the fuel that sustains the life of the stems, roots, and soil. Water will promote microbial activity in the soil which will warm the soil. As the soil warms, it will reduce future cold-weather damage and encourage spring growth.

What Not To Do for a Dormant Lawn

Do not mow, rake, dethatch or aerate your lawn. If you must mow, mow at 4” or taller. Limit traffic from pets, kids, and equipment on a dormant lawn. Traffic will compact the brown leaves and reduce the insulating qualities for the dormant leaves and expose stems, roots, and soil.

Rick Orr Owner-Operator APL Pest Control/Creator of ILOVETURF.COM
APL Pest Control

Rick Orr is the creator of, Owner/Operator of APL Pest Control, and a graduate of VA Tech in Agronomy (Turf Ecology).  

Since 1980, Rick worked in the green industry, mostly with golf courses, resorts, and large communities. Rick has obtained certifications for arboriculture, landscape contractor, irrigation contractor, and taught Environmental Horticulture at St Petersburg College.  

Rick lives and works in Pinellas County.

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Speaking Engagements - Does it seem like you are only hearing one side of water restrictions, fertilizer bans, plant restrictions, and many other urban landscape hot topics? Rick Orr is available for speaking engagements for your HOA, Community or Professional Association, or Garden Club about a variety of subjects. Feel free to contact Rick Orr at [email protected] for more information.