Should You Replace Your St. Augustine Lawn With Bahiagrass?

With climate change causing drought conditions and lawn watering restrictions in many areas of the U.S., some homeowners are looking to replace their thirsty St. Augustine lawns with something more environmentally friendly. If you prefer a lawn to rocks and groundcover, bahiagrass may be a solution.

Advantages of Bahiagrass vs. St. Augustine Grass

Bahiagrass is a deep-rooted extremely drought resistant grass that is often used on highway right-of-ways and pastures. Although sodding is the most popular method of installation, unlike St. Augustine, it can be started from seed. This also means you can overseed dead or damaged areas instead of having to repair them with expensive plugs or sod. 

Disadvantages of Bahiagrass

The main homeowner complaint is the tall, unsightly seed heads. If a perfectly manicured lawn is important to you, this requires more frequent mowing. Bahiagrass does not fill in as rapidly as St. Augustine, leaving gaps that can make room for weeds. It is also not as soft and cushiony on bare feet as St. Augustine. Proper feeding and winter overseeding to help thicken the turf can eventually eliminate these problems.

Pests and Diseases of Bahiagrass vs. St. Augustine

The two main insect pests of St. Augustine grass are chinch bugs and white grubs, both of which can devastate your lawn rather quickly. Certain worms, such as cutworms, sod webworms and army worms, also like to attack St. Augustine and can be a major problem if there is a heavy infestation. Subterranean scale insects called ground pearls feed on the grass's roots.

Due somewhat to the fact that it must be watered so often, St. Augustine is susceptible to many fungal diseases, with the two most serious being brownpatch and gray leaf spot fungi. St. Augustine Decline (SAD) is an incurable viral disease that can also attack St. Augustine.  

Bahiagrass is susceptible to many fewer pests and diseases than St. Augustine, with the two following exceptions:

  • Mole crickets can do serious damage to roots. They can be controlled with bait-type insecticides.

  • Dollar spot fungus leaves dead spots scattered across the lawn. Applying 1/2 pound of nitrogen per 1000 sq. feet of lawn will help bahiagrass outgrow dollar spot.

With all things considered, bahiagrass will not only save on water usage, but it will also save you money on treating pest and disease problems. Although it has its disadvantages, when faced with a drought situation and major water restrictions, it should be a serious contender for a replacement to your St. Augustine lawn.  Talk to a landcaper, like Foothills  Grounds Maint, for more help.