If you live in the southern sections of the United States, you probably have a warm-season lawn. Some examples of warm-season grass are Bermuda, buffalo, carpet, centipede, Bahia, St. Augustine, and Zoysia.
Warm-season grasses grow best when the temperature exceeds 80ºF. During the winter when the temperature drops, these grasses will go dormant and turn brown. Many southern gardeners will “overseed” their lawns during the winter by seeding their existing lawns with a ryegrass each fall to ensure their lawn stays green throughout the winter.
Warm-season grasses are trickier to maintain than cool-season grasses. Therefore, it is important to choose the best type of grass for your soil type. Otherwise, your lawn will quickly be overrun with weeds or unwanted grass varieties. On the up side, warm-season grasses are more durable and require less watering than their cool-season siblings. Typically, watering will only need to be done during the winter if the season is extremely dry.
To reduce the necessary maintenance level for your lawn, it is important that you start out with good soil and maintain the ideal growing conditions for your grass type. Generally, this starts with having your soil tested. Testing the soil will ensure that you are fertilizing correctly and help you understand which grass is best for your area.
Warm-season grasses should be planted in the late spring and should not be planted in the late summer or early fall. Planting them too late in the season does not give them enough time to develop before going dormant.
Fertilizing should begin in May and continue about once a month until September. If you fertilize too early, the grass will still be dormant and the only benefits will be for the weeds. If you fertilize after September 1, you could delay the natural dormancy of the grass. Fertilizing in May should be done with a product that contains thirty to fifty percent of the nitrogen in a slow-release form.
In February, plan on using a good pre-emergence herbicide to help control weeds. This will ensure that the herbicide has a chance to kill the weeds before they have a chance to germinate and establish. In March, you will need to remove any excessive thatch that has developed and can be a problem for warm-season grasses.
Mowing for most warm-season grasses should begin when it is about 1-1/2 inches high. Buffalo grass should not be cut until it is longer, at least 3 inches high. They will also need constant trimming and edging, as many warm-season grasses have the tendency to creep.