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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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Monday - July 21, 2008

From: Fort Worth, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Conflict between non-native and invasive St. Augustine and Bermuda grasses
Answered by:

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, My neighbor and I have nice front lawns but his is St. Augustine and mine is Bermuda. Between our houses the two lawns meet and it is a constant battle to keep his St. Augustine out of my Bermuda lawn. I have sprayed MSMA several times, which effectively puts a big yellow divide between our yards. Since the yards slope into each other forming a sort of valley for water runoff, I have considered creating a stone bed with large smooth stone all the way down to the street. This way I could maintain the divide with chemicals and avoid the obvious yellow streak. Do you have any suggestions? My neighbor suggested just letting his yard over run my yard. He said, at least that way it could stay green that way.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants will be happy to mediate between you and your neighbor in this turf war. We can be very impartial, because we don't particularly like either grass. St. Augustine, imported many years ago from the West Indies and West Africa as a turfgrass, needs a warm climate to flourish, and is a water guzzler. Bermudagrass was imported from Africa in 1751, and is widely considered as an invasive weed. Gardeners everywhere curse it as it charges into flower beds. Because it has aboveground stolons and belowground rhizomes, getting rid of it is nearly impossible.

The goal of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to protect, propagate and educate about plants native to North America, and to urge that plants native to the area in which they are being grown be used by gardeners. This is because a plant native to an area will need less fertilizer, water and care since it is already accustomed to the conditions that are normal for that area. We realize that neither you nor your neighbor is going to dig up his lawn (and good luck with doing that!) and replace with native grasses and wildflowers. However, we really can't see the point in contention between the two groundcovers. To be honest, your Bermudagrass is more likely to take over his St. Augustine than the other way around. You can't buy St. Augustine turf without it having Bermudagrass in it. During dry seasons, if the St. Augustine is not generously irrigated, the Bermudagrass will begin to take over. And what, pray, is the point of spraying weed killer to mark the boundary between the two? All you're doing is killing something you have gone to some lengths to plant and nourish, and in the process may have let spray drift to other, more valuable plants.

For Pete's sake, just mow it. It's green.

 

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