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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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Friday - October 05, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Buffalograss (Bouteloua dactyloides) and buffalo grass mixes
Answered by: Steve Windhager and Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Austin, TX and have visited the Wildflower Center in the past and enjoyed the display of native grass mixes. Can you tell me about the variations of buffalograss mixes... which ones are most successful? What is the ratio of grasses? The durability of the turf? Methods of application and season, if any? ie. Would hydromulching be an option? What is the benefit of using a buffalograss mix as compared to pure buffalograss seed? And also any suppliers of native grass mixes that you know of in the region? Thank you very much for your time!!!!!

ANSWER:

Unfortunately our study on the buffalo grass mixes has only just begun, so we do not have any answers yet. It looks like the polycultural mix is working best, but most of the species are not commercially available. Of the ones that are available, they are Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama), and curly mesquite (Hilaria berlangeri) (although we could not find a Texas source for this last one). The grasses went out in equal numbers of seeds per square foot.

Hydromulching is a bad idea. The tactifier in hydromulch is actually hydrophobic (repels water) when it gets dry. As a result, most native seeds die when they are applied with hydromulch. Native American Seed has spread seed by hand and then sprayed on a "clean" hydromulch mix (no seed) for erosion control and they say that they have had good results. We are now recommending pneumatically applied compost for seed applications that would have formerly used hydromulch. It works GREAT, although you may have some leaching of nutrients (nitrate and phosphate) out of the compost with any run off, so you don't want to do this near a creek or river at this point.

The benefits of using a buffalograss mix compared to pure buffalograss are faster establishment, greater ability to adjust to weather changes and stressors in your yard, and less niche space for weeds—at least that is the theory at this point.

Currently, Native American Seed is the only seed company selling a mix of buffalo and blue grama. Hopefully we will get the others in commercial production in the future after the study is complete. Walmart is interested in selling the seed mixture.

 

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