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How to bring back dead St. Augustine grass

by Jackson White

St. Augustine grass does a very good job of handling wear and tear, but it can get damaged from overuse or neglect. Regardless of how your lawn grass gets damaged, you can still bring it back to good health.

If your St. Augustine lawn grass has failed to thrive or is dying. However, the easiest way to revive it is to improve your lawn’s soil quality, water your lawn frequently, and take care of the diseases and pests. If you want your St. Augustine to grow and spread faster and thicker, plant it during summer in well-aerated soil. Also, apply phosphorus fertilizer and have a good watering schedule to help the roots form quickly and foliage development. It can also turn brown because it’s injured or it’s simply dormant. The timing for when your grass comes back to life will depend on the climate where you live. In warm coastal areas, St. Augustine might not turn brown and in cooler areas, it may never turn green until March or April.

Dormant period or lack of water

When fall temperatures drop with the first frost or when water fails during a dry spell in July, your st. Augustine grass will naturally turn brown. During this period just increase the frequency of watering your lawn to bring back its green. In dormancy when your lawn turns brown, you don’t need to mow the grass, but give it an inch of water every 2-3 weeks if you live in a temperate wind area or if you’ve mixed two grass seed varieties.

How to revive dead St. Augustine grass

Stop using your lawn

As you try to revive your dead lawn grass, avoid walking on the grass and keep cars, bikes, and playing off your lawn. Because as your lawn is repairing and acquiring new growth, the young shoots are fragile and can easily get damaged. Struggling St. Augustine grass is stressed and tender and any activity on it will only make things worse.

Fertilize your lawn

Measure your lawn and apply quality lawn fertilizer and other recommended trace elements. Avoid over-fertilizing your damaged grass, or under-fertilizing to a point your lawn grass doesn’t get what it needs to rejuvenate. Water your lawn immediately after applying fertilizer. You can apply fertilizer once a month during the repair period. Use a quarter or a third of the amount of fertilizer you would normally use on your lawn to feed your lawn often but with less food.

Lawn watering

During extended periods of dry and hot weather, your St. Augustine grass may start to die and the best way to bring it back is to water it at least 3 times a week. Water it deeply to achieve the amount your grass needs and St. Augustine requires about ¾ inch of water twice a week or 1 ½ inch of water every week to revive it. Deep watering will help reach the dead grassroots and help it regrow, especially if rhizomes are running underground. The grass will start turning green after 3-4 weeks, but if it’s been dead for more than 5 weeks, it might be difficult to revive your dead St. Augustine grass.

Controlling lawn weeds

A week after applying fertilizer is the best time to spray your lawn for any weeds. St. Augustine grass is very good at keeping weeds away, but it can develop weeds quickly when it gets damaged or the turf thins out. You can use a general broadleaf herbicide designed for st. Augustine grass lawns and follow the instructions on how to dilute it and apply it on your lawn as recommended. This weed herbicide will control most of the weeds that attack st. Augustine grass. Make sure you don’t spray for weeds a week before or after mowing your lawn because it could damage your grass.

Lawn mowing

You can continue mowing your lawn normally in the areas that aren’t affected. Regular lawn mowing will help in reviving your lawn as it will encourage it to grow more laterally and repair itself faster. Avoid mowing your lawn too closely or with dull mower blades because it can cause your grass to brown. St. Augustine grass likes to be kept 1-4 inches in height to retain its best health. If your grass is very thin on the ground, you should mow it without a collection bag so that you leave the grass clippings on the ground to provide nutrients to the soil, unless you recently sprayed your lawn for weeds dispose of the clippings in the trash for the first 3 mowings after spraying.

How long does it take for St. Augustine grass plugs to spread?

Newly installed St. Augustine grass plugs take about 7-14 days and they start to spread once their root has firmly established themselves in the soil. Once it starts to rapidly grow and spread, the amount of time it will take to fill the bare spots on your lawn will vary depending on how you’ve spaced the plugs.

Installing high-density plugs

For this method, there should be a spacing of 6-11 inch between the sprigs to create enough room for the development of a healthy root system. Once the roots can get enough nutrients from the soil despite the tight spacing, you’ll achieve a thick, lush, and green lawn within a year if the conditions are perfect.

Installing a typical density plug

For this density choice, you’ll need to space your st. Augustine grass plugs about 12-18 inches apart. This spacing will help your grass to spread slowly which will take a longer time to fill all the bare spots on your lawn. The upside is it’s more cost-effective than the high-density plug installation since you won’t use a lot of sprigs to cover your entire lawn.

Installing low-density plugs

This installation will require a 13-21 inch spacing which is the recommended spacing for lawns that have low-foot traffic and it will take some time for your st. Augustine grass plugs to fill your entire lawn with such wide spacing. It will take over a year for st. Augustine to spread and fully fill a regular-sized lawn.

Different types of lawn grasses

Bermuda grass
The vibrant root system of stolons and rhizomes that spread above and beneath the ground
Watered frequently, can withstand being cut very short for less mowing through summer
Zoysia grass
Grows slowly in full sun
Water less often and it turns dormant and brown during long cold spells but turns green when it’s warm again
Kentucky bluegrass
Grows strong and quickly due to a robust root system of underground rhizomes
Will quickly self-repair and can tolerate both the sun and partial shade
Centipede grass
Grows using stolons that spread horizontally across the ground to create a dense turf
Requires less frequent mowing and doesn’t thrive in extremely dry areas unless it’s watered frequently and consistently, requires less fertilizer than most warm-season grasses, and can handle acidic soil
Fine fescue grass
Grows fast through seed and commonly used in seed mixes with bluegrass and ryegrass
Can’t tolerate long periods of extreme hot and dry weather, does well in full sun and shade


St. Augustine grass is a fast-spreading turf grass that can get damaged if it’s not properly taken care of. However, you can easily bring it back to good health if it’s only been dead for 3-5 weeks. You should also examine your lawn to check if the grass is dead or in a dormant state that can be revived.

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