Congratulations on your newly installed St. Augustine lawn! St. Augustine grass is one of the most visually appealing grasses if you like the tropical, thicker-bladed look in turfgrass. St. Augustine is a warm season variety of turfgrass that can be found along the eastern coast of the United States, from the Carolinas to Florida, and towards the west, along the Gulf Coast to Texas and in Southern and Central California.
St. Augustine is coarse-textured with a very thick grass blade that rounds at the top and becomes more compacted towards the soil. Generally speaking, it has a dark green color with broad, flat blades that forms a dense layer of grass.
You can check out our Sod Sales tool below and enter your address to get started with finding the best grass for your needs. This particular article, however, goes into further detail about the establishment process for St. Augustine that takes place after installation.
About St. Augustine Establishment
Your new grass’s establishment period takes place after installation and lasts for the next 30 days. Once these 30 days are up, you can begin to transition your St. Augustine to a regular maintenance schedule. Refer to our St. Augustine Homeowner Maintenance Guide for more details on regular maintenance.
St. Augustine can be installed in the form of sod, plugs or stolons. There are a few dwarf and variegated types of St. Augustinegrass seed, but these strains are more for ornamental and novelty use instead of turfgrass used for lawns. When it comes to home lawns, there’s no such thing as St. Augustine grass seed because St. Augustine grasses do not produce enough viable seed for commercialization. Seed is not produced for lawn propagation use and it is therefore not available for sale at your local garden center.
Sod is the most popular option for St. Augustine installation projects. Sod installation tends to be the more expensive of choices—but it is the fastest in terms of establishment. Installation with grass plugs is significantly cheaper, but it takes several seasons to grow in fully. For more information, read When to Use Sod, Plugs or Seed.
Pictured above: A pallet of CitraBlue St. Augustine sod.
When to Fertilize Newly Sodded St. Augustine
Fertilizing any type of grass that is currently undergoing establishment is of extreme importance because you want to promote healthy growth, rooting and the connection of sod pieces as much as possible. For St. Augustine grass, Sod University recommends the Lawnifi® New Lawn Starter Box, which is a great St. Augustine fertilizer that contains the proper balance of nutrients designed for new sod.
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Powered by Catalyst TechnologyTM, Lawnifi is a fertilizer program that nano-sizes its nutrients to use less product with better results. The New Lawn Starter Box contains three bottles of fertilizer each designed to help your new lawn establish thick, healthy grass. You can learn more about Lawnifi in Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?.
When to Water Newly Sodded St. Augustine
Overall, grass needs three things to survive: 1) soil, 2) sunlight and 3) water. For the first nine days of establishment, you will need to water your St. Augustine twice a day—once in the morning and again in the evening for about 20 minutes each. Starting on day 10, you can reduce your watering schedule to once per day. This can be further reduced to once every other day on day 13 and again on day 16 to one inch of water per week. Make sure that each area of your lawn receives the proper amount of water from your sprinkler system.
Based on where your irrigation or sprinkler heads are placed, some areas of your lawn may receive more water than others—this should be avoided. You don’t want to put your sod through drought, but you also don’t want to overwater your grass and promote disease. Disease can be especially harmful to your new sod that’s trying to establish. You want to promote growth; not hinder it. Conduct an irrigation audit to see the exact amount of water the different areas of your lawn are receiving. If you’re concerned about disease outbreaks or suspect that one might be present, read How to Detect and Treat Fungus in Newly Laid Sod.
During each “watering session,” be sure to water for a long enough time to allow it to seep deep into the soil to be available to the root zone. This usually takes about 20 minutes for most irrigation systems. Make sure you don’t water as much if your area received rainfall.
Another helpful tip for making sure your St. Augustine absorbs enough water is by simply monitoring it. You can do this by checking the edges of each piece as well as the overall perimeter of your lawn. The edges of your lawn and the edges of each individual sod pieces are most susceptible to drying out. If you notice this, don’t turn your sprinkler system back on and water your lawn again—this can lead to overwatering or disease. Provide targeted hand-watering with a garden hose to the areas that appear dried out.
Pictured above from left to right: An irrigation system watering St. Augustine grass and a piece of EMPIRE Zoysia sod that’s drying out along the edges.
When to Mow Newly Sodded St. Augustine
The first mow for your St. Augustine lawn should take place around 13–15 days after installation has taken place. This is a rough estimate because it greatly depends on if your new sod has started to put down roots or not. You need to wait for your sod to put down roots because you don’t want your lawn mower pulling up any pieces.
Before mowing your St. Augustine, check it by slightly pulling at the edges of different sod pieces throughout your yard. If the pieces of sod stick to the ground, they’ve started putting down roots. If they don’t stick, you should probably wait a little longer before mowing and continue to check it every few days.
When you mow, be sure to set your mower to the highest setting so that you are only removing the tops of the leaf blades. If you start mowing and the pieces of sod start to come up, your mower is either set too low or your sod hasn’t put down sufficient roots.
Pictured above from left to right: A lawn mower cutting St. Augustine grass and a piece of sod producing prolific white roots that are beginning to establish into the ground.
To recap, use a fertilizer specifically made for new lawns such as Lawnifi’s New Lawn Starter Box to quickly establish healthy roots. You can begin a regular Lawnifi fertilization schedule a month after installation with Lawnifi’s liquid fertilizer program or with Lawnifi Foundation.
Water twice a day for the first nine days, reduce watering to once per day on day 10, further reduce watering to once every other day on day 13 and then transition to around one inch per week as your lawn needs it on day 16. Monitor your lawn to ensure that it is not drying up, paying close attention to the edges as these are the most susceptible.
Lastly, mow your lawn when it is ready. During the growing season, wait 14 days or so and then mow at the highest setting on your mower. To refer to a generic establishment schedule for the first 30 days, visit Establishing a Newly Installed Lawn. Once the first 30 days of establishment are up, refer to our St. Augustine Homeowner Maintenance Guide for seasonal tips on St. Augustine lawns.
Popular St. Augustine Grass Varieties
If you’re still researching how much maintenance and care goes into St. Augustine grass before completing an installation project, be sure to take a look at our blog on Popular St. Augustine Grass Varieties. This blog spends time discussing St. Augustine grasses like Palmetto®, CitraBlue®, Raleigh, Floratam and others. If you find that you’re not 100 percent on board with St. Augustine grass and want to learn about other varieties available, our blog on How to Choose the Right Type of Sod might help you.
Pictured above from left to right: Palmetto, CitraBlue, Raleigh and Floratam St. Augustine.