Q. Why won't my grass grow under the tree? I have the best St. Augustine type. A. The reason for the general poor performance is a lack of, or alteration of, sunlight. The light quality is diminished because trees absorb the same light needed by grass, and since the trees get to it first, they get the most. In addition, trees affect the intensity and duration of light on the turf. Trees with a dense overhead canopy also have a denser root structure that absorbs more moisture from the soil, leaving less for the grass. Trees alter conditions by moderating temperatures, leveling out the highs and lows, decreasing wind, increasing humidity and intensifying competition for water and nutrients. As a result, turf experiences reduced shoot density, more upright growth, increased plant height, decreased root depth and thinner leaves and cell walls, causing fewer carbohydrates to develop in the cell walls, reducing photosynthesis and transpiration rates and making them more susceptible to disease. In other words, grass doesn't do too good under trees.

Q. What are some disadvantages of St. Augustine grass ? A. St. Augustine grass , like most turf grasses, has certain cultural and pest problems. It does not remain green during drought conditions without supplemental irrigation. It produces excessive thatch under moderate to high fertility and frequent irrigation. It has poor wear tolerance and some varieties are susceptible to cold damage. The coarse leaf texture is objectionable to some people.

Q. What is thatch? A. Thatch in lawns is often misunderstood; both its cause and control. Some lawns have serious thatch problems while others do not. Thatch is a layer of living and dead organic matter that occurs between the green matter and the soil surface. Excessive thatch (over 1/2" thick) creates an environment favorable for pests and disease and an unfavorable growing environment for grass roots plus can interfere
with some lawn care practices.Thatch is a building up dead roots, lawn debris and dead turf grass crowns. It accumulates as these plant parts buildup faster than they breakdown. Thatch problems are due to a combination of biological, cultural, and environmental factors. Cultural practices can have a big impact on thatch. For example, heavy nitrogen fertilizer applications or over-watering frequently contribute to thatch, because they cause the lawn to grow excessively fast. Avoid over-fertilizing and over-watering Despite popular belief, short clippings dropped on the lawn after mowing are not the cause of thatch buildup. Clippings are very high in water content and breakdown rapidly when returned to lawns after mowing, assuming lawns are mowed on a regular basis (not removing more than one-third of the leaf blade).

Homes and businesses that have well maintained grass areas extend a favorable impression to the neighborhood and the area, and the lawn increases the value of the property by up to 6%.

Climate is controlled at ground level by turf grasses as they cool temperatures appreciably, thus working as exterior "air conditioners".

Eight healthy front lawns have the cooling effect of 70 tons of air conditioning – enough for 16 average homes.

Dust and smoke particles from the atmosphere are trapped by turf which helps make the air cleaner.

Fire retardation buffer areas of well maintained lawngrasses around buildings is good insurance.

Groundwater is enhanced in two ways by a dense turf. Turfgrasses increase infiltration of water and also clean the water as it passes so that underground water supplies are recharged for use by us all.

Health of humans is enhanced by turfgrasses as they function in cushioning, cleaning air, generating oxygen and creating a serene landscape.

Lawns are estimated to occupy an area of between 25,000,000 to 30,000,000 acres in the United States (the size of the 5 New England states) and as the population increases so too will the amount of turfgrass acreage.

Noise is absorbed by grass areas which cut down on the excessive sound, a growing problem in urban areas. Grassed slopes beside lowered expressways reduce noise by 8-10 decibels.

Oxygen generation by turfgrasses has a major impact in making our environment habitable. A 50x50 lawn produces enough oxygen for a family of four.

*Courtesy of the Professional Lawn Care Association and American Honda Motor Co., Inc