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Tuesday - February 16, 2010

From: Rockport, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Buffalograss to replace non-native St. Augustine lawn in Rockport TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I currently have a St. Augustine lawn that is being overtaken by weeds. I would like to replace it with buffalo grass. How do I prepare my lawn in order to seed it with the buffalo grass and how tolerant is it to foot traffic? I have 4 children that will be playing in the yard. I also have a problem with live oak tree sprouts. I believe they are growing up from the roots of my trees. When we moved into our house three years ago we did not have any sprouts under the trees. Now they are not just at the base of the trees but spread out quite a distance from them and are growing very thickly. The local nursery told me to spray root inhibitor on them. It didn't really work. Is there a way to get rid of them and keep them from growing back? They are too hard to pull out and there are too many of them for that to be a feasible option.

ANSWER:

Last question first, here is an excerpt from a Mr. Smarty Plants previous answer to this same sort of problem:

"In Rockport, you most likely have either Quercus fusiformis (plateau oak) or Quercus virginiana (live oak) growing in your yard. If you read the webpages on these live oaks you will note they both recommend reproduction from freshly fallen acorns.

So, here are two possibilities for the origin of those sprouts. One is that they are sprouting from acorns dropped from the trees, possibly washed into flower beds or some other location by rainwater, etc. In that event, picking up every acorn when they are dropped will certainly prevent them from sprouting. It will also possibly cripple your back, but you can try raking them into piles and scooping them up. The other way oak trees sprout is by sprouting from roots. This is how mottes of live oaks form in the wild. If you have lawn grasses that you mow, that should keep the sprouts down, at least during mowing season. However, the most effective prevention is to cut off that sprout two to four inches below the soil level. Do not attempt to use any herbicide on these sprouts, as that could damage your existing tree.

All the sprouts not prevented by the first two suggestions are, sorry, going to have to be pulled out of the ground. If you get to them early enough, they're fairly easy to get out, but they do have a long taproot and definitely resist being pulled."

Now, on to the replacement of your St. Augustine lawn with native Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss), a project of which we certainly approve. Before we go any further, we want to issue a couple of warnings about depending totally on buffalograss. The first warning is that buffalograss is not shade tolerant. Very often, when St. Augustine is used as a lawn, it is because a good portion of the lawn is in shade, either from trees or structures. If that is the case, the buffalograss will not only not prosper, it might not even survive, and you will have spent a lot in resources to put it in there. The second caveat we have is that buffalograss will also have to be diligently prevented from weeds infesting it, especially early in the planting. As it thickens and matures, it will be more successful in resisting the weeds, but in the beginning, it will need some protection. Again, no herbicide, that would hurt the buffalograss at least as much as it did the weeds.

For the nuts and bolts of planting a buffalograss lawn, go to our "How-To" Article on Native Lawns-Buffalograss. It has all the information on ground preparation and care of the grass, once planted. Native American Seed has an excellent grass mix called Native Sun Turfgrass that you might consider. 

 

 

 

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