Planting Grass in Florida

I just moved to Florida from Pennsylvania. In PA - we used to till the ground - rake it out - and plant grass seed. Down here everyone seems to use sod. When I asked folks about it - they say grass seed does not grow here. I have lots of land. I have a rototiller. I would like to till the ground and plant something to prevent erosion. Any advice - the land is mostly shaded.
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Harry Everhart wrote:

Welcome to Florida. We don't have grass here. We have vines that creep over the ground and occasionally up the hedges. St. Augustine is the most commonly used lawn grass here in W central Fl, but has it's limits in shady areas. If you have dense shade consider ground covers and azaleas. This link is to a great website - everything you will ever want to know about what grows or crawls in Florida. Best bet is to take some photos of the lot to your county extension horticulturist; by email, of course. Doing an entire lot in St. Augustine is done by sod. Filling small areas is by plugs, which spread quickly.
Lots of land? An acre? 100? North? South? Extension service can give you tips on native plants, xeriscaping, etc. Good luck.
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/TOPIC_Lawns_and_Landscapes
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Our lot is 100 feet about 400 feet - shaped funny like a dog leg. It extends from a main street on a corner with a side street - then turns inward - and finally goes down a small hill to some lake frontage - lake is about 4 football fields in area. I have lots of live oak trees - a few palms - many tall pine trees - some open sunny areas - some wood areas - no wet lands. Wife has planted lots of impatiens. We have some azlaea bushes - a few other flowering plants.
Thanks for the luck. Harry
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Harry Everhart wrote:

How much of the area do you really, really want to be covered by lawn grass? Taking out any trees? Sounds like a losing proposition as to planting the whole thing in lawn grass, because:
Florida winters tend to be very dry. Have to irrigate. Tree roots, especially pines, above surface, making mowing/tilling tough. A lot of work in mowing, fertilizing.
I assume you have sandy soil, which has little in the way of nutrients. Love the trees. Don't plant any northern "house plants", as many are invasive species here. Some are really nasty, like asparagus fern, wandering jew, bamboo, etc.
Pine needles make a mess.
Impatients are great. Azaleas can be tough to grow near salt water, but can be done. Gardenias are heavenly. Mulch azaleas and gard. with some of those oak leaves.
There are more shade tolerant species of St. Augustine grass, but all need some sun. Requires thinning tree limbs sometimes. I would really take some photos to extension service along with a tentative plan. I, personally, would not want lawn grass without irrigation system. Irrigation system doesn't go well with tree roots. You may be able to get freebies from extension service if you want to plant xeriscaping or native plants. They should have some good booklets and EDIS website has lots of info. I lived in a not-very-dense subdivision, with wooded lots on both sides. Wildlife was really great - possums, racoons, owls, gopher tortoise, fox, hawks. I have never seen a poisonous snake, even in much hiking in woods, but they are around. A friend found a coral snake in her house (near water) after very heavy rainfall. Pygmy rattlers common, even in the city. Enjoy.
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Most southern grasses like centipede or zoysia grow very slowly from seed. That is why everyone uses sod. The seed will probably get washed away before it has a chance to do anything. To save money you might consider sprigging it but you will have erosion problems untils the sprigs spread out. Sod should be relatively cheap there. Have you priced it?

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Harry,
There are a lot of lazy people around. Yes, grass seed will grow in the South just as well but we might have some types of grass that wouldn't grow up North. I would suggest you go to Lowes or Home Depot and see what is available. You won't get instant results like with sod but it will turn out just fine.
Harry Everhart wrote:

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Regardless of what some other responders have written, the most common grass in Fl is St. Augustine grass in one of its varieties. St. Augustine grass does NOT grow from seed and the only way to have a St. Augustine lawn is with sod. The most common varieties are Floratam and Bitter Blue. Neither is very shade tolerant.
From seed you can grow Bahia grass, which is not as dense as St. Augustine.and goes dormant (and brown) in the winter. (By the way, the requirements for % weed seeds in Bahia grass seed were recently lowered severely, so a lot of the product had to be taken off the market until the next crop, and it's very highly pricd right now. Best to wai until the fall when it's more affordable. This is the wrong time to be putting in a lawn, anyway.) There are other options, as well, but many eventually take a different approach -- Fl weather is not conducive to good lawns without a lot of expense and attention -- and lawn requirements are harmful to the citrus that many like to grow on their property. Many long-time Fl residents don't see any particular value in a well-trimmed or manicured lawn since there is so little payback for such a lot of work. Especially with a shaded lot you may want to go with more native plants and stay away from the excessive pesticides, weed-and-feed, and high nitrogen fertilizers, which are damaging to the Florida canals and water resources.
You'll find big differences between Fl and Pa. If you're serious about learning about sub-tropical horticulture, suggest you sign up for a Master Gardener program at your local extension service. You'll learn a lot, and save yourself a lot of aggravation trying to grow plants that don't fit the environment. A neighbor tried planting dogwood and a few roses -- the dogwood didn't survive the first three months, and the roses look pretty spindly for all the care and chemicals that have been thrown at them to try and get them to survive. Better to get some of the tropical or subtropical plants that do so well in the state.
At the very least, get the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods booklet and follow the FY&N recommendations, which include recommendations for fertilization and for pest control. The FY&N handbook is available from the extension service or can be downloaded from www.hort.ufl.edu. (although the site was down when I tried it to write this response.)

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World Traveler wrote:

Sprigs or plugs.
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Since you joined us out here on the big beach called Florida, you might want to take a listen to the Garden Rebel on the Radio...You can google to find your local affiliate...He is our gardener guru....maybe you could call him on his weekend radio show and pose your question... St. Augustine is the way to go and I would sod it...good luck...Ross
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Harry Everhart wrote:

Two words. FORGET IT! Enjoy your shade. Spend your time and money on better things like renting a charter fishing boat. If you must persist, do a search using the keywords "Florida turfgrass"
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If all you want is to limit erosion, what's wrong with what's growing there now?
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