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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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Wednesday - June 11, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Problem with weeds in the buffalograss
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'm about to throw in the towel! My back 'lawn' of buffalo grass (609) is almost all 'weeds'! Native ruellia and lyre leaf sage have taken over and as the area has gotten shadier, the grass is struggling. It's very sparse and almost non-existent. I was told that blue grama could be over seeded and would fill in nicely. I'm also considering bermuda. I've seen some very nice lawns of a cultivar of bermuda. What do you suggest? Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants pleads with you NOT to consider bermuda grass. It is not native, is very invasive and difficult to eliminate or control.

Now, Mr. SP has some probably unwelcome news—I think you need to consider starting over with your back 'buffalograss lawn'. Since Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) does best in full sun, perhaps you should consider it for the sunny parts of the yard and alternative grasses or groundcover for the shady parts (e.g., Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge), Carex planostachys (cedar sedge), Carex texensis (Texas sedge), Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy), Dichondra carolinensis (Carolina ponysfoot)). Please see a previous discussion of buffalograss in a mixed yard area.

Rather than use exclusively buffalograss for the sunny areas, you should consider using a buffalograss mix. See the answer to a previous question for a discussion of buffalograss mixes. Here is a quote from that discussion:

"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."

Native American Seed in Junction, Texas has Native Sun Turfgrass, a mixture of 66% buffalograss and 34% Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama).

Now, how do you go about re-doing the entire yard? From spring till late summer is a good time to sow these grass seeds, but you are going to need to prepare the area (i.e., remove the weeds from the old lawn) first. Native American Seeds suggests tilling or solarization as possible means to do so and they also have other tips for preparing the area and sowing the seeds. Perhaps you have some teenagers in your neighborhood who are looking for a challenging summer job who could prepare the area for you?

You could also consider going to a complete sedge lawn. You can read about this alternative to a grass lawn in John Greenlee's Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape.

And, here's some more probably unpleasant advice on how to keep your lawn weed-free—pull them or dig them up when they appear!


Bouteloua dactyloides

Carex blanda

Carex planostachys

Carex texensis

Calyptocarpus vialis

Dichondra carolinensis

Bouteloua gracilis

 

 

 

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