Winter Turf Tip: What To Do for Your St Augustine Turf Grass Lawn in Winter


By Rick Orr 01/08/2021
Applying granular fertilizer in the winter months

Introduction: Winter Lawn Biology

During the cooler winter months in Pinellas County, St Augustine turf grass lawns are semi-dormant – living and growing but at a slower pace. The soil microbes are still busy too, doing what soil microbes do – enzymatic digestion of organic matter – aka composting – just at a slower pace.

So don’t be fooled into thinking the soil and turfgrass don’t need food and water in the winter – the St Augustine turf and the soil microbes are living, growing, and need food and water to stay healthy. Without an active and healthy turf and soil microbe population in winter, the St Augustine turfgrass lawn will lag in the spring, losing valuable time during a prime growing season.

5 Things To Do in the Winter for St Augustine Lawns

  1. Water Your Lawn
  2. Feed Your Lawn
  3. Mow Infrequently but as High as the Mower will Go
  4. Weed Control
  5. Be Patient

Master these five activities during the winter and you’ll be rewarded with a healthy lawn this spring and well into the summer months.

Water Your Lawn

One persistent myth is that St Augustine needs less water in the winter. This is false. Although the St Augustine turf is semi-dormant, it is still living and growing and needs food and water to do so. The soil is teeming with soil microbes that need moist soil to compost organic matter into plant food. Let the lawn dry out and you kill the soil microbes, starve the turf and turn your lawn into a weed patch.

So remember, the number one determining factor for the health of your St Augustine turf and soil microbes is water – and about 90% of the water your lawn requires will come from irrigation. Therefore, the irrigation system must run, cover the entire lawn, and put out enough water to “fill” the soil. If it doesn’t – then fix and repair until it does.

How Much Water?

Your lawn needs just as much water in winter as the rest of the year. The amount of water needed is not determined by temperature but by our soils. Our soils need the same amount of water whether it is hot or cold. On average our sandy soils in Pinellas County will require watering 3 times per week – even in the winter. Learn more here: How to Set Up Your Irrigation System to Keep a St Augustine Lawn Alive with 2x Week Watering Restrictions

Feed Your St Augustine Turf Grass Lawn

The main goal of feeding a lawn is not feeding the turf, it is for feeding the soil microbes so that they can compost. Nitrogen, potassium, sulfur, and iron are not readily available in our sandy soils and need to be replenished on a regular basis. – even in the winter.

My winter feeding program focuses on potassium and micronutrients - especially sulfur and iron – but I don’t neglect nitrogen. I limit nitrogen to 0.5 pounds per 1000 square feet of the lawn during the winter. One good granular application of a 16 -0-8 with a good micronutrient package is sufficient until spring.

Mow Infrequently but as High as the Mower will Go

Winter is not the time to mow low – mowing low does more harm than good in the winter. When you mow low it opens up the canopy, exposing the soil and tender roots and stems to drying sun and winter winds. Dry soil and sun-parched stems and roots do not make for a healthy lawn. These winter months are a perfect time to skip a few mowings, allowing the canopy to become even higher and reduce wear and tear.

Weed Control is Effective and Safer

Winter is the best time for weed control. Focus on the persistent perennial weeds like Dollar Weed, sedges, and Day Flower. There are other annual weeds that pop up - but they will melt away with the rising temperatures - so focus on the perennials. I suggest Manor and Basagram as good herbicides to use on a St Augustine lawn in the winter months for control of dollar weed, sedges, and dayflower.

Be careful with the Weed-N-Feed formulations, as they may have high nitrogen content which could cause a lawn to fail in cold temperatures.

Be Patient

This semi-dormant period is natural and very important for the health of the turf – let it do its thing. Pushing the St Augustine turfgrass out of semi-dormancy with excess nitrogen will create a false signal to the turf that spring has sprung and cause havoc with your lawn. I have heard from many homeowners so anxious for a green lawn they overstimulated their winter lawn with nitrogen, say "My lawn was so pretty - it was the greenest lawn all winter and now it is dead." Don't be tempted to make the lawn green with a parlor trick of high nitrogen fertilizer. Be wise, be patient, and let the grass progress from semi-dormant to spring in a healthy way.

A Word about Lawn Spraying

APL Pest Control combines year-round feeding of your lawn with insect and weed control so you don’t have to experiment with different brands and formulations. We know what to do and when to do it – that is what makes lawn spraying such a good service at a good price. If you are overwhelmed by the massive amount of choices for fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides, you may want to consider hiring a professional.

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

Since 1995, Rick Orr has worked in Pinellas County providing turf management and pest control. Rick Orr is a graduate of VA Tech in Agronomy (Turf Ecology) and the creator of

Since graduating from VA Tech in 1979, Rick worked in the green industry, mostly with golf courses, resorts, and large communities. Rick has obtained certifications in arboriculture, landscape contractor, and irrigation contractor, and taught Environmental Horticulture at St Petersburg College. 

Currently, Rick is the owner and operator of APL Pest Control. APL Pest Control provides lawn care and pest control for all of Pinellas County.

To learn more about APL Pest Control CLICK HERE

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