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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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Thursday - April 01, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southeast
Topic: Turf
Title: Difficult lawn redo in Austin, TX area.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

In Oak Hill section of Austin and our 2 year old house had St Augustine dumped atop the raped soil. After the drought of 09 it is all dead. We have most of our large yard native but need grass around the drive and house. Estimate needs of 20 pallets. We had wanted to plant seed but between the major cost of dirt (we are on a hilly limestone slope) full of happy deer we worry we will waste way too much soil. Therefore I guess we have to go sod - Buffalo grass in the sunny areas and Zoysia in the shaded areas? How will they co-exist? Or can we do some sod and some seed? What will the deer, dirt, rains, etc do and how can we protect it? Every landscape person has a different idea. This is a $5000 project before labor so help appreciated :) Thanks.

ANSWER:

Adding good soil will help no matter how you decide to re-grass your landscape.  Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) is a good choice for sunny areas.  There is a How-to Article on our website discussing the establishment and maintenance of Buffalograss lawns.  However, we recommend a mix of native grasses to create a thicker turf and more natural meadow-like lawn.  Another How-to Article, Meadow Gardening discusses using a mixture of grasses and native forbs in a very naturalistic and ecologically sensible planting to replace exotic grass monocultures.

Your shady areas are not well-suited to native grass lawns, but native sedges such as Carex planostachys (cedar sedge) are nice-looking, native grass-like plants that can be found naturally growing in virtually any shaded spot in Central Texas.  Unforturnately, finding commercial sources is a problem.  Consider using shade-loving groundcovers as an alternative to turf.  Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy) and Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) are nice alternative.

Your landscape problem is a complex one.  In the end, you will probably find that employing the services of a reputable landscape professional, with whom you develop a relationship and in whom you trust, will be money well-spent.

 

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