En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Native grasses for traffic area in Austin

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

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - February 11, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native grasses for traffic area in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What time of the year is best to plant grass seed in Central Texas? My lawn is in bad shape due to the drought and my dogs. I am considering replanting with tall fescue, do you have any comments or suggestions regarding this type of grass? What is the best grass and method of replanting or overseeding that can withstand the high traffic from dogs?

ANSWER:

Grass seeds germinate when the soil temperature reaches 65 deg. In Central Texas, this would be early Spring. The seeds can be planted through late Summer, but the early period is better.

Festuca arundinacea, Tall Fescue,  was introduced into the United States from Europe in the 1800's. Although it grows best in moist environments, tall fescue has good drought tolerance and will survive during dry periods in a dormant state. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are committed to the use and propagation of plants native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown. Native plants, already accustomed to the environment, will need less fertilizer, water and maintenance. 

For our area, the best native turfgrass is  Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss), seldom growing more than 6 inches tall, drought resistant and attractive. A slightly taller ornamental native grass, Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) which grows 12 to 14" tall is frequently used in conjunction with buffalograss. Both  need time to get established, and will need help the first year in keeping weeds out. We're not experts in dogs and lawns, but we can tell you any newly seeded lawn is going to need protection from foot traffic, as well as paw traffic. Buffalograss can be purchased as a sod, which would have a better chance with dogs and weeds, but we understand this is a fairly expensive proposition.  You didn't say what size area you needed to redo, perhaps there would be a way of isolating certain areas of the lawn from foot traffic for a period while that area was seeded and developed, and then move on to another area. 

We found a website, Associated Content Xeric Lawn Trial: Buffalo vs. Blue Grama Grass in which a gardener describes his own 4-year experience with these grasses. We could not find out where the testing was done, but he mentioned being in a mountain valley, so not around here. We can make no claims for the expertise in this site, only that it is a narrative on replacing lawn with native grasses. He did not mention dogs. 

Another place you can go for closer to home advice is the Travis County Master Gardeners Association,  which is part of the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension program. Also, go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type in your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and landscape and environment consultants in your general area. They have contact information and you could get more specific help on what to plant and how. 


Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Bouteloua gracilis

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Low plants to cover bank too steep to mow
June 26, 2008 - I have a bank along the road that is too steep to mow. This bank faces east and only gets 2 - 4 hours per day of sunlight. I'd like to try ground cover to prevent erosion, however visibility is a p...
view the full question and answer

Overseeding sprig planting of native grass in Kansas
September 12, 2009 - Can I overseed a Sprig planting of native grass in Kansas in the Fall?
view the full question and answer

Is Sedum recommended for a greenroof project in Houston
July 23, 2008 - Would you recommend using Sedum for a green roof project in Houston, Texas? Will the humidity effect the sedum? If sedum would be a poor choice, what would you recommend for Houston?
view the full question and answer

What is a lawn broom from Cibolo TX
February 15, 2013 - Concerning gulf muhly grass you mention using a lawn broom to get rid of the dead stalks. What is a lawn broom? What does it look like? Where can I purchase one?
view the full question and answer

Source for information on Habiturf from Utopia, TX
February 25, 2014 - During a recent Central Texas Gardener TV show, someone from the Center mentioned that your Habiturf was going to be available as sod from someone in the San Antonio area this spring. Is that true an...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center