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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Saturday - June 07, 2014

From: Woodbury, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Propagation, Problem Plants, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Drought tolerant grass for small lawn from Woodbury TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Trying to establish small lawn area, needs to be drought tolerant, water wise. Have tried Turffalo with poor results. Recommendation please.

ANSWER:

From 2010, here is a  previous Mr. Plants answer on an assessment of Turffalo. It has links in it to information our newer research grass, which is proving to be far more successful, Habiturf. We suggest you read those links and follow them very carefully. Since you are in Hill County, not far from Travis County and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (home of Mr. Smarty Plants) where Habiturf was developed, we are confident it will grow there, IF (there is always an "if") you have plenty of sun (about 5 hours a day) and are willing to make the preparations necessary for success.

An article on how to prepare install and maintain this native lawn can be found here. To emphasize some of the points that are most important, we are going to quote a few statements from that article;

"Soil.
A well-textured, well-drained soil is essential for long-term lawn success. Normally, after construction, developers spread a couple of inches of imported soil over soil compacted by heavy construction machinery. A sustainable lawn needs deep roots, so rip, rotovate or disk your soil to at least 8 inches - the deeper the better. Then incorporate a ½ inch layer of living compost with a low nitrogen and low phosphorus content into the top 3 inches of your prepared soil. Ask your local plant nursery for recommendations. DO NOT use tree bark, wood shavings or mulch. Grass won't grow in this. The soil surface should be finished to a fine granular texture and free from large stones. Note: If you are on undisturbed, uncompacted native soils then till lightly and add ¼ inch compost into the top 1 inch or alternatively add a compost tea."

"Mowing.
We suggest a 3 to 4 inch cut for a great-looking, dense turf, resistant to weeds and light to moderate foot traffic. However, a 6- inch cut will produce a beautiful deeper lawn with a few seed heads if watered. Mow once every 3 to 5 weeks when growing and not at all when drought or cold dormant. Mowing shorter —2 inches or less— will damage your lawn's health. Conversely, not mowing at all through the growing season will produce a longer turf (8 inches or so high) with a lower density. This may be acceptable depending on how you use your lawn. However, allowing the grass to seed-out once a year, perhaps when you go on vacation, guarantees a good seed bank - insurance against drought, heavy foot traffic and weeds. It also provides high habitat value."

"Warning.
* If you do not prepare the soil adequately, your lawn will suffer and you will get weeds
* If you mow too often and too short, you will get weeds
* If you over-water, you will get weeds
* If you over-fertilize, you will get big weeds"

 

 

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