Guide to Summer Lawn Care in TampaBY JAY KEATON | JULY 31ST, 2019 | FLORIDA, LAWN CARE, TAMPA
There’s no getting around it: Summertime in Tampa is hot, with average daytime temperatures in the 90s during June, July and August. Whether you care for yard grass yourself or hire a lawn service, it would be a mistake to neglect it, that is, unless you really want an invasion of weeds, thatch and insects.
Yard Grass for Tampa
Warm-season grasses grow best in Tampa’s tropical climate, and chances are that your yard has one of several types:
St. Augustine is popular for Tampa with its greenish-blue turf that adapts well to most Florida soils. It thickens quickly when planted as sprigs, plugs or sod. St. Augustine tolerates shade well, but it does become brown during cold weather. When mowing St. Augustine, set the cutter blade to 2½ inches for the dwarf varieties (such as Captiva, Delmar, and Sapphire) but to about 3 to 4 inches for standard cultivars including Palmetto, Floratam, and Classic.
Mow once a week or as needed; too often or infrequently can encourage weed growth and thatch buildup. Leave grass clippings on the lawn for natural mulching. Water when necessary — about a half-inch per application. Soil testing is recommended before applying any kind of chemical fertilizer.
Bermudagrass, with its finely textured blades, is mostly found on athletic fields, golf courses and upscale landscapes, but if you have it planted around your home, you know how hardy it is. Bermudagrass is drought- and salt-tolerant.
Cut bermudagrass 1 to 2 inches, once or twice a week — no more than a third of the total leaf blade. Grass clippings don’t contribute to thatch, but they do provide nutrients to the soil. Remove overly clumpy grass from the turf. Water as needed but note that grass will enter dormancy and turn brown during periods of drought. Apply a half-inch of water when the leaf blades begin to wilt and fold; thirsty bermudagrass turns bluish-gray. Organic pesticides are recommended for bermudagrass, especially in Tampa’s summer heat.
Bahiagrass is a low-maintenance turf that doesn’t need a lot of water or fertilizer. It has a deep root system but when rainfall is scarce, your lawn will enter dormancy and turn brown. Bahia does not easily thicken into thatch, however, if you don’t keep it trim, the grass will regenerate from its own seed heads and form unattractive stalks — especially during the dog days of a Florida summer. In fact, bahiagrass is rather tough on mowers so you must sharpen the cutting blades frequently. Bahiagrass varieties such as Pensacola, Common, and Argentine, thrive in full sunlight but don’t like shade, foot traffic or salt water. Bahiagrass should be cut every week to two weeks at a height of 3 to 4 inches. Water as needed.
Fertilizing bahiagrass will keep weeds, disease and insects at bay. Soil testing determines the type of synthetic or natural fertilizer to use, but in Tampa’s west coast Florida region, there are often fertilizer restrictions in place during the summer.
Zoysia is a challenge if you do not keep it maintained. Cultivars such as Emerald, Diamond, Empire, and JaMur need a steady dose of fertilizer, water, and pesticides as well as constant trimming. Mow Zoysia every week at 2 to 2½ inches with a rotary cutter; thinner grass blades should be below 1 inch because they need trimming more often. Zoysia has coarse grass blades that can be rather difficult to cut.
Zoysia will enter dormancy somewhat quickly if it’s not getting enough water, but the lawn will come back with the rainfall. Keep your eye on the sky because if there’s no rain in the forecast, you will want to flip on the sprinklers; about ½ to ¾ inch of water per application.
Centipedegrass is a low-maintenance type that is able to do well in highly acidic (pH 4.5-6.5) soils that would kill other grasses. It also tolerates infertile soils. It grows rather shallowly, is a lighter color green than other varieties, and is cold-tolerant. Cultivars such as Covington, Common, and TifBlair are only a few types available in Tampa landscapes. Centipede grows slowly and is susceptible to nematodes and other tiny insects that attack root systems. The yard grass responds negatively when overfertilized — too much nitrogen will make it turn a dark green — and that brings the probability of thatch, insects and disease.
Mow centipedegrass every seven to 14 days at 1½ to 2½ inches to help root systems better withstand drought and bugs. Leave the grass clippings on the ground to mulch into the soil. Water as needed -— ½ to ¾ inch per application -— especially if leaf blades begin to wilt, fold up or turn bluish-gray.
Before you turn on sprinklers in your Tampa yard, be sure to check out the city’s watering restrictions.
Want to find out more about lawn care in our part of Florida? Check out our Tampa Lawn Care page.
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