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Mr. Smarty Plants - Replacing lawn in Taylor, Texas

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Thursday - May 28, 2009

From: Taylor, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Replacing lawn in Taylor, Texas
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Taylor, Texas, just northeast of Austin, in the Blackland Prairie region. However, I do not live on a farm, but in town on a city lot of 1/3 acre. My soil is clayey, and currently I have a LOT of grass lawn that I would like to be rid of. Currently there are a lot of what my neighbors call "roly poly" insects in that lawn. I am looking for ground covers that would eventually spread to cover the entire lawn area. I have friends in California who have successfully replaced their lawns with woolly thyme and other low ground covers, or grids of clumping fescue grasses. My question is: what is appropriate for the soils of Taylor, the blistering hot sun and potential drought of central Texas summers, and the possible low temperatures of winter? I am ready to rent a sod cutter and be rid of my lawn today, but everything that appeals to me is non-native, or incapable of withstanding the scorching sun and drought.

ANSWER:

Thymus pseudolanuginosus (woolly thyme) is native to Eurasia as is Festuca rubra (red fescue). The red fescue is considered a cool-season grass, native also to some parts of North America, but not to Texas.  At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are dedicated to the use, care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are grown. A plant already accustomed to the climate, rainfall and soils of an area will need less fertilizer, water and mantenance.

We have an answer all ready for you in our our How-To Article Native Lawns: Buffalograss. The instructions in this article are very complete and detailed, including when to plant, both seed and sod, and how to care for it. You can go to Native American Seeds, click on "Shop for Seeds", then "Grass Mixes" and find their Native Sun Turfgrass, which is a mix of 66% Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) and 34% Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama). They can give you complete instructions on how much you need for coverage, when to plant and so forth. As the How-To Article points out, you can get faster coverage if you use sod, which can be planted any time of the year, but this is, of course, more expensive. This mix actually requires full sun and tolerates dry conditions after it is established, while many ground covers need some shade and more water.

Removing the existing sod and preparing the ground for planting is definitely a good idea. Whether or not you can plant now or in the Fall will depend on whether you choose seed or sod, and whether you need to reduce the weed population (you probably will) first.


Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Bouteloua gracilis

 

 

 

 

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