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The cycle of life for a North Florida lawn

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Right behind the cooler night temperatures of March and April, comes May. May is usually a dry, warm month. The limiting factors for lawns now become lack of sufficient water and hot temperatures, both of which do not result in our already weak lawns making a quick comeback.

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I’ll be the first to admit that North Florida lawns are frustrating.

The two genetic factors that cause a lawn to resume growth approaching springtime involve day length and temperature.

Day length is a given – the very minute of sunset and sunrise is known. Sometime during March the day length is right to trigger our lawns to begin to come out of winter dormancy. This is when our lawns first begin to green up. But the optimal temperature for our lawns lags behind. We usually get at least one killing frost or freeze sometime after our lawns put out tender green growth as a result of the correct day length.

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This is when many yards get fried. They go from being uniformly green to a mottled frost burned look. And, if they get zapped a couple more times from a subsequent frost or freeze, which happened this year, the lawns now are very weak with larger brown cold injured areas. This is how many of our lawns begin their new growing season.

During the transition between winter and spring, night temperatures continue to drop down in the 30’s and 40’s. This is not conducive for recovery, root growth or nutrient uptake for our warm season lawn grasses. Our lawns prefer and do better with warmer temps. Patience goes along ways – waiting for consistently warmer nights to allow those weakened lawns to slowly make a comeback.

This is when many people, not having patience, attempt to “jumpstart” their lawns. They pour the fertilizers, pesticides and water to their lawns attempting to “force” their lawns to green up. But this can do more damage than good. We just need to wait for the soil in the root area to become warmer and this only happens with consistently warmer temperatures.

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Right behind the cooler night temperatures of March and April, comes May. May is usually a dry, warm month. The limiting factors for lawns now become lack of sufficient water and hot temperatures, both of which do not result in our already weak lawns making a quick comeback.

Then we move into the hot, humid, rainy season of summer. This favors lawn diseases and insects.

Most years, it’s not until October that everything comes together to allow our lawns to do well. But in November the shorter days and cooler temperatures cause our lawns to slowdown and prepare for winter. Not much time to enjoy that nice lawn.

We need to realize that our lawn grasses are foreign to this country, have patience and learn how to correctly maintain a Florida lawn. The UF/IFAS Extension website, Your Florida Lawn, can help. http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn

Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email lwilliams@myokaloosa.com

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