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Mr. Smarty Plants - Buffalo grass and other native grass for lawn in Central Texas

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Monday - March 17, 2008

From: Cedar Park, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Groundcovers, Turf, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Buffalo grass and other native grass for lawn in Central Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi, I live in Cedar Park, TX - recently moved to into a newly built house. I wanted to put some native grass (like buffalo) in the back yard. - My back yard has slope (away from house) and front yard has slope towards the house. Water from the front yard (and neighbors yards) will run from the sides to the rear fence and then along the rear fence to the water retention area (100 yards away). My front yard and neighbors yards have Bermuda grass (Tifway 419). - The soil in the backyard is clay. Very little good soil that too near to the foundation. - We have green belt, which has some tall grass. Not sure what it is though. Here are my questions: 1. Is Buffalo Grass suitable for my area and the conditions I have? 2. Does buffalo grass need 6" of good soil to grow as told to me by a landscaping contractor (I was taking a quote)? 3. How do I prepare the soil? What all should I do put native grass? 4. Since the backyard has slope, one corner is almost always wet - either because of rain or because of neighbors lawn watering. 5. Will buffalo grass survive water coming from the Bermuda grass lawns? If it is high maintainence, then what are the other alternatives? Finally, where can I go and look at different types of lawns and compare (to convince my wife to go with native lawn :-)? I've visited Lady Bird center, but I remember seeing only the native plants. Thanks.

ANSWER:

First of all, let me recommend that you read Native Lawns from our "How to Articles". It gives the rationale for creating native lawns and helpful information for getting started and maintaining a buffalo grass lawn.

Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) does well in the sun with little water, once established, reaches a height of 5-8 inches and requires little mowing and no fertilizer. It will even tolerate some partial shade. Native American Seed has a Native Sun Turfgrass seed mix that contains 66% buffalo grass and 34% Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) and they have instructions for preparing your lawn and Planting Tips for Native Grasses.

You can come to visit the Wildflower Center's Turffalo (a variety of buffalo grass developed at Texas Tech University) plot. The Turffalo grass plot is in the formal Homeowner Inspiration Gardens, to the left and above as you enter the Theme Gardens. Please see the answer to a question about this plot of turffalo that came in recently. Turffalo is sold by plugs or by pads. On the Turffalo webpage they have a thorough discussion about preparation of the lawn and maintenance. There are also plots of other buffalo grass varieties in the middle Home Inspiration Garden and the lawn area around the Children's Little House.

Buffalo grass will grow on poor soils that are heavy and compact like your clay. It will have a lusher growth, however, if it has better soil; so, If it is possible, add some organic material to your soil (compost or loam) and work it into the clay before planting your plugs or sowing your seeds.

Buffalo grass is not going to like your areas that remain wet. For those areas your best bet is to plant some others grasses or ground cover that do like wet areas. For instance, Andropogon glomeratus (bushy bluestem) and Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) are two attractive taller grasses that tolerate moist soils and would look nice at the edge of your lawn. Sedges, such as Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge), Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge), Carex perdentata (sand sedge) and Carex texensis (Texas sedge), are shorter and do well in moist soils. Another plant that can tolerate moist soils but will also do well in dry soil and grows only to about 6 inches high is Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle frogfruit).


Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Andropogon glomeratus

Chasmanthium latifolium

Carex blanda

Carex cherokeensis

Carex perdentata

Carex texensis

Phyla nodiflora

 

 

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