Writer Calls for Ban on St. Augustine Grass | Environment

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Writer Calls for Ban on St. Augustine Grass
Writer Calls for Ban on St. Augustine Grass

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - The tough talk about turf is back.

Monday a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel wrote an article arguing that St. Augustine grass should be banned in Florida because of its environmental impact.

"Grass is destroying Florida," Mike Thomas wrote.

Many people think the fertilizers and pesticides needed to keep the grass alive cause too much damage to our waterways.

Multi-county Horticulture Agent for the Putnam and St. Johns County Extension Office Joe Sewards said the debate is not new. However, Sewards said a ban on the grass would be too much.  Instead, he believes landscapers and homeowners should regulate themselves with a simple rule: use the right plant in the right place.

"People are looking sometimes for a villain," explained Sewards.  "And rather than looking at a species of plant or grass, they probably need to look at their own expectations."

Sewards said homeowners need to accept the fact that their grass may not always be green or look at turf alternatives.

"If you are continually having problems with St. Augustine grass, if it's continuously being infested with chinch bugs or diseases, or you can't get enough water on it to keep it alive, etc., then it's probably not the right plant for the right place.  It's that simple," said Sewards. 

He suggested using a different groundcover like Asiatic jasmine or perennial peanut. 

Beth Sanders and her husband have removed every blade of turf grass from their yard on Anastasia Island. Over the past year, they have replaced the grass with native plants and a Key West-inspired rock garden look.

"I highly recommend if people are re-doing their yards, go this route," said Sanders.  "I mean, they'll be very pleased with it and most people compliment and say it looks like a nice yard."

Sanders said she was tired of the hassle of grass and concerned about the amount of products needed to maintain it.

"The chemicals that [it] take[s] to keep the grass green is, in my opinion, very bad," she said.

According to Sewards, there are 6 million acres of turf grass in Florida.  Of that, 70 percent is St. Augustine grass.  Sewards said the St. Augustine species is not the problem, instead it is people trying to make the grass grow in areas that are not suitable.

"Remember, right plant, right place," Sewards said.

For more information on what type of plants should grow in your yard, click here or contact your county's Extension Office.

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